Social Computing: The Business Value of Collective Intelligence
Originally published June 22, 2010
In the age of Facebook, blogs and YouTube, information is no longer created exclusively by “trusted” sources. Rather, content is created by anyone with access to the Internet. It is the sharing of these thoughts, experiences and knowledge that defines social computing. Social computing provides the forum by which people can communicate their experiences and thoughts. It further enables others to locate and engage with each other for a mutually beneficial exchange of information. For example, Facebook allows you to search for people that you know or have something in common with, such as work or school. Once located, adding that person as a friend allows you to interact and receive updates from them. These people make up your social network of trusted or knowledgeable acquaintances, with whom you want to communicate, exchange information or follow their activities.
DefineDefining an expert depends upon each organization’s composition such as industry, geography and size. As the methodology is executed, expertise should be defined according to the following areas:
CaptureOften, organizations have systems in place that manage dimensions of a person’s expertise. Capturing other elements of expertise might require more creative ways. As a person advances through an organization, their tenure and roles would typically be maintained within an HR system. This should be extracted and included within the expert store. Additionally, when a person is involved in something where clear vocabulary is not defined, these terms should be added and this activity should then be associated.
Capturing knowledge contributions and relevance also requires a social shift within most organizations. This involves employees producing content such as documents, blogs or wikis that relate their experiences and talents to their entire organization. This could be as simple as sharing a financial predictive model that you are familiar with in order to prepare future employees who will perform the same task. The next critical step is to gather feedback from individuals, providing ratings or reviews depicting how helpful the spreadsheet has made their job. These exchanges are populated into the expert store and will provide results when “predictive model” is searched, allowing you to contact that person.
Store/IntegrateData from expertise systems of record, content publication and ratings should be centrally stored and integrated for each “expert” according to organizational definitions. This is one of the most technically challenging aspects of this type of effort. In the same way that business intelligence is only as good as your data, this “expert locator” is only effective if the data is integrated into a single repository.
ManageMaintenance is critical to the continuity of the system. Once defined, if the system does not grow to reflect new business dynamics or accommodate the fluctuation of staffing, then any searches become based upon stagnant, static data, undermining any potential business value.
LocateBy entering keywords, based upon the vocabulary, the experts meeting the criteria are returned. Along the way, an organization can tune relevancy by assigning greater weight to an attribute to make the results more accurate based on the top criteria for each search.
ActionFinding the expertise is nothing without the ability to collaborate with the expert or group of experts. Like Facebook or Twitter, collaboration platforms can enable people to tag this person as a colleague or even create a group from the top results. And, with an integrated collaboration platform, companies can enable immediate interactions through email, phone or instant messaging. With “presence” technologies, people can connect immediately, or if someone is unavailable, they can select someone else that is in the same time zone and free.
SummarySocial computing adds value to an organization in several ways. By encouraging employees to create, consume and offer feedback on content, an organization ensures that knowledge stored within one employee’s head is now documented and available to others who need it.
The entire organization’s information is now available to help identify critical information about the organization to ensure optimal execution of business processes or resolution of business problems. When a common vocabulary is established and made readily available to the company, communication dramatically improves and prior confusion is eliminated. New employees are effective sooner because they can connect with experts within an organization as defined by this common vocabulary. And, when issues arise, people know who to contact and when to contact them. Ultimately, collaboration can have a positive impact on the bottom line and foster a “collective intelligence” within the organization to solve business issues more effectively.
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