Expertise Profiles – How Links to Contributions Changed the Dynamics at IBM

Gia shares some of the findings from IBM about how the inclusion of links to contributions in internal systems changed the dynamics in the use of expertise profiles:

Seekers are always searching for an expert in something. They love extensive profiling systems, because it enables them to locate people who they think are experts in a particular topic. Once they locate them, they email, instant message, or call that person for assistance.

Contributors hate filling out profiling systems. Why? Because it means yet another email, IM, or phone call, asking for their expertise. And if they are a true expert, their collaborative plate is already overflowing. They ask, “What’s in it for me? What benefit do I get from completing an extensive profile? All I see is just more people wanting my already-spoken-for time and energy.”

The result? The real experts never fill out their profiles, never keep them updated.

What we’ve found at IBM (Note: there is no definitive research supporting the following, only anecdotal evidence):

After almost 10 years of from-the-executives, repetitive, consistent pressure, only 60% of all IBM profiles are kept updated. (Note that Lotus Connections Profiles is the productized version of IBM BluePages, which has been around since 1998.) And that’s even with an automated email sent out every 3 months to remind people to update their profiles, plus a visual progress bar indicating how complete or incomplete a user’s profile is, plus people’s first-line managers constantly reminding them to update their profile.

This top-down-only approach doesn’t cut it. A bottom-up (or, bottoms-up, if you’re drinking), grassroots approach must accompany it in order to achieve success.

Once we gave Contributors the choice about how to share their knowledge and experience, we found that they were more likely to contribute using these social options, since they realized that the result would be fewer emails, IMs and phone calls asking for their basic expertise.

“Read my blog.”… “Check out my bookmarks.”… “Look at my activity templates.”… “Read my community forum.”

… became the new ‘RTFM‘, if you will.

Now, once Seekers find an expert via Profiles, they are able to consume some of their knowledge and expertise without disrupting them. The nature of the remaining email/IM/phone requests from Seekers were about their deeper experience, their knowledge that will always remain tacit.

In effect, Contributors sharing their more ‘basic’ expertise online enabled Seekers to accelerate whatever collaboration they further required from Contributors.

My Comments
1. Note the key dynamic – the pre-externalized knowledge in “the system” becomes the first port of call for a ‘seeker,’ not the expert themselves.

2. In a recent consulting engagement, I recommended against deploying an expertise profile system for a number of reasons – including the small size of the organization. However, in alignment with Gia’s point, I said that expertise could be discover by using search to find “pre-externalized” knowledge in particular systems.

One Comment on “Expertise Profiles – How Links to Contributions Changed the Dynamics at IBM

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