The new generation of social networking and expertise location


Blogs, wikis, and other social software tools are rapidly gaining traction in the business sector. In particular, they are being applied to issues that were previously addressed with other tools and approaches. Last week executives from IBM Lotus, which arguably provided the first enterprise collaboration platform back in the early 1980s, stated that they see the future of collaboration in social networking tools. They are backing their view by embedding blogs and wikis into IBM’s systems and platforms. IBM, with 370,000 employeees, is a great case study in requiring effective collaboration tools. IBM is already one of the biggest users worldwide of instant messaging in its everyday business, and has allowed over 20,000 internal blogs to be set up by its workers. In organizations such as IBM, MIT, and many others, blogs are increasingly seen as the foundation for effective knowledge management. They provide defined spaces for immediate collaboration and information sharing on specific topics and projects, rather than intermediating people’s knowledge sharing through databases and documents.

Very interestingly, blogs and wikis are now being applied to “expertise location”, one of the lodestones of knowledge management in large organizations. In massive global firms (and even smaller ones), being able to identify who has the most relevant expertise in the organization to help on a particular issue is enormously valuable. Yet trying to populate corporate “yellow pages” with everyone’s resume is impossible to create and update in a way that truly reflects individual’s expertise. In the article, Morgan Stanley’s CIO is quoted as saying that its previous expertise location efforts “failed miserably”. The investment bank is now finding that blogs and wikis are far more effective than packaged systems at being able to find relevant expertise. What corporation are increasingly finding is that as blogs and other social software are implemented and become more linked together into a system, valuable business outcomes, some of them unpredicted, are emerging.

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