I can almost picture a Dilbert cartoon in my mind where the pointy-haired boss tells his employees that since the company has an enterprise social network everybody should quickly post everything they know.
Knowledge sharing is one of those elements that is often called out in discussions about what an social platform enables. And while there are plenty of examples amongst tibbr users of successful knowledge sharing, it is interesting to note how those outcomes were arrived at.
The conundrum is that knowledge sharing is an intermediate step. It sits between interactions and business benefits, without really being either. What we see is that interactions lead to knowledge sharing which in turn leads to business benefits. When Dilbert and crew leave the meeting with their new instructions they are likely to be uncertain about what exactly is required of them once they find themselves in front of the keyboard.
Instead, it is useful to look at what happens when relevant use cases play out on your enterprise social network. If you are using your social software to conduct exception management, every resolution of an exception contributes information about how different types of exceptions are dealt with. Activity in project management subjects yields insights into how your project methodology is used and how risks and issues are dealt with. Conversations about sales prospects surfaces people’s knowledge about issues faced by different industries.
The use cases you introduce depend on the objectives you have for using collaboration software, the industry you are in, organizational culture and a myriad of other factors. A few use cases apply to almost any organization and the one I want to highlight as an effective way to surface knowledge is Enterprise Q&A.
Enterprise Q&A, the process of asking questions and getting answers, is not new. It happens informally in conversation and it happens on email. Without a private social network, Enterprise Q&A is likely to be an inefficient and ineffective process.
Shortcomings of Enterprise Q&A
- Often, those with a question on hand don’t know who may have the answer.
- Sending an email to a group of people results in a flurry of email as everyone uses reply-all when the email is forwarded, follow-up questions are asked, answers provided from multiple sources, or phrases of politeness are exchanged.
- If an email thread produces a good answer, only the people in that email thread increase their knowledge.
- Since email is not a searchable resource, next time somebody has the same question, a duplicate request is sent to a similar, but different, group of people.
Without an enterprise social network only a few people get smarter, the organization as a whole doesn’t.
Enterprise Q&A with Enterprise Social Networking
- If you don’t know who may have the answer, you can post a question to a relevant subject.
- Somebody who doesn’t know the answer, but they “know who knows” can cross-post to another relevant subject or people.
- Experts can signal validation of answers with a simple ‘like’ gesture or build on previous replies.
- The thread stays available in the relevant subject context, and it is retrievable by searching.
5 Tips to Boost the Value of Enterprise Q&A
A few good practices serve to enhance the value and benefits from an Enterprise Q&A process.
- Always provide context. What are you trying to do? If you are working with a customer, who is it and which industry are they in? What have you already tried? Not only does this typically increase the value of the responses, it also makes it more likely that your question will receive attention because more background about the situation makes it more interesting.
- Signal your continued presence in the thread. ‘Like’ the replies as they come in to show that you are actively monitoring the thread and you value the input.
- If you are an expert who is monitoring the thread, add your own ‘like’ to a reply that reflects what you would have said. This lends that reply more weight without producing additional noise.
- Follow up postmortem. Circle back to the thread afterwards and add a reply describing the outcome. What did you try? How did it help? This is the best way of saying thank you to those who helped out and it makes the thread more valuable when it shows up in search results six months later.
- If you search for something and find a useful thread with an answer, add a reply if the information was useful or point out of the answer is obsolete (and why). This provides the next person who stumbles across the thread with a useful indication of the dependability of the information.