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What You Don't Know

Going forward, companies could use expertise location not just to figure out what they know, but what they don't know.

"Imagine a system that watches people to figure out where the gaps are and then augments people's knowledge," suggests Nate Root, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. For example, if ten questions are being asked per week about a new supply-chain tool, it may be time to host a training session. "You could tie the system to e-learning and other training initiatives," he adds.

Taking it a step further, companies could even use expertise management as a means to assemble powerhouse project groups to meet the needs of incoming RFPs. Although they haven't formally begun this process, Lockheed's Remy is already thinking along these lines. "If the TeamNet database is our supply for expertise, our demand is in our inbound RFPs," he says.

"I think it's invaluable, but it hasn't taken off the way I thought it would," says Gartner's Caldwell, one of several analysts who are underwhelmed by the slow adoption of ELS. Part of the reason for the slow deployment, aside from the aversion to all things KM, could be that it's still unclear exactly where expertise management systems fit into the IT architecture. Does expertise fall under human capital management, for example, or enterprise content management? Gotta adds that many companies don't yet understand the term expertise location. "It sounds like a people finder," he says.

If the jury is out on how the expertise location market will develop, progressive IT leaders such as Remy aren't waiting. "In our corporation, we have what we call defining moments," he says. "Those can be on the good side, like when you launch the Atlas V satellite and it's perfect the first time and parks the payload within 10 feet of where you wanted it. On the other side, when the shuttle disintegrates on the way down, and we were involved in servicing the shuttle, that's obviously the downside. So if you can learn something from someone else about some component or some aspect of a mission that lowers the probability of failure by one percent—or even one-tenth of one percent—how do you put a price on that?"

This article was originally published on 07-01-2004
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