Monday, February 19, 2007

Where do you find an answer to your burning questions?

I occasionally pay some interest in the ideas that social-media websites come up with - sometimes they are plain useful, other times I just wonder who on earth thought up the idea.

Anyway, one I almost missed was LinkedIn Answers. This is a way of asking people in your network a question and getting responses that may or may not be useful. Questions range from:
How can a one-person, Milwaukee-based business increase visibility?

Can you ever take someone seriously who maintains that barbeque should be a pig in a pit instead of brisket on a grill? And shouldn't a barbeque sauce be sweet and tangy, not just some hot sauce thrown into shredded pork on Wonder Bread?

Not being qualified to answer either of these questions, you'll not see an answer from me. But the concept interested me from the point of view of finding answers to your burning questions in a business setting.

How do you find out information at work when you don't really know who to ask? In an office, typically you'll shout over to the guy or girl in the next cubicle, often not for the answer, but if they know who to ask. Your personal network has just been expanded, often getting you a new point of contact. When you work from a home office this type of informal network sharing is more indirect and IM or a quick email is essential for quick questions like this to the virtual 'next cubicle'.

I'm sure that collaborative knowledge management applications provide 'expert groups' that can be leveraged. Even outside of KM, it would seem that any employee could all benefit from central FAQ and Q&A resources, backed up by a healthy dose of search capabilities. And in business processes and case management? Providing strong mechanisms for sharing knowledge and decision making information should help ensure faster ramp up times for new employees and more consistent decisions. But the challenge is knowing who is qualified to provide that advice and to get it without absorbing huge amounts of those experts' time.

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Roeland Loggen said...

Interesting point.

During execution of tasks in a process, questions can of course occur. It would be nice if BPM suites would provide some type of KM, from FAQ access, to a question-forum or even a discussion board. Even nicer would it be, if those answers and discussions can be saved with the task (compliance!) and reused/found later (he, I am doing the same task for another process/customer, and am stuck too...)
I am not seeing much of this type of functionality in BPM-suites, but I might miss the overview.

An interesting product I've seen once, that your article reminded me about, was Askme.
That product allowed people to create their own page (name, what knowledge area's can I answer questions in), and to ask questions to groups of people in a certain knowledge area. Very handy.

Roeland Loggen

Phil Ayres said...

Hi Roeland,

I agree with you that this is important functionality for some business use cases.

The case management product I manage has discussions and can track them alongside the BPM activities, documents and ad-hoc tasks. It needs some fair amount of 'configuration' to provide these types of 'expert Q&A forums' rather than just freeform discussion, so its an area that I may focus some effort on to simplify in the future.

By the way, I've subscribed to your blog. Looks good!