How social media adds value to your company's knowledgebase

Five ways to extract maximum cost benefits from your social knowledge network

Inmagic –

New social technologies are transforming the way people share information and network. The skyrocketing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn is challenging corporate managers to look at how the benefits of social media can be applied to the enterprise. They're wrestling with how best to use these tools and achieve the promises of greater collaboration and organizational effectiveness.

However, the perceived cost and cultural adjustments for such implementations has many managers turning away from social technology. How can managers make room in an already tight budget for new, untested, or unproven social technologies? How can they ensure employees will use it effectively? The fact is, not all social technologies are appropriate for the enterprise. But for some applications--for instance, knowledge management--there's a strong case for social technology.

Becoming "social" doesn't equate to setting up a Facebook page and tweeting corporate data on Twitter. But it does mean moving to a new two-way (Web 2.0) paradigm regarding enterprise knowledge management, where information can be strengthened and acted upon by the organization. Empowering the broader organization to contribute to its knowledgebase, and putting tools in place to ensure knowledge is properly vetted and managed are the keys to creating a true Social Knowledge Network (SKN).

As with traditional knowledge management systems, SKNs also collect and organize most data--documents, presentations, photos, videos, audio recordings, etc. This information forms the basis of an organization's core knowledgebase.

The difference is, SKNs take it one step further by adding social tools--such as blogs, wikis, online ratings, discussions, and social tags--to tap the collective wisdom of the corporate community. SKNs provide a way to unleash this wisdom so employees can share knowledge, and update and enrich core content. This creates a dynamic, living knowledgebase, where employees can access reliable information and enhance the value of the knowledgebase.

Perhaps the best part is, compared to traditional knowledge management systems, an SKN avoids the need for business process re-engineering because it uses Web 2.0 concepts to gather and capture knowledge. An SKN also has security features that enable control over what, when, and how contributions are made. This avoids the information veracity problems that are typical in traditional social media.

Getting the most value from social knowledge networks

When planning your SKN, it's crucial the initiative not be viewed just as a social networking project--because it's not. It's based on enterprise knowledge management principles. Here are five recommendations for extracting maximum cost benefits from your SKN.

Put your knowledge professional at the center. Any SKN should have a librarian, or knowledge or information professional, at the backbone of the knowledgebase. People in these roles are naturally suited to control who is permitted to contribute, and what and how they may contribute. They "feed and weed," or source reliable, relevant knowledge (both vetted and social), while weeding out outdated, irrelevant, and incomplete information. They organize and categorize this information to make it easy for the corporate community to find and use it.

Integrate with existing enterprise platforms. Organizations are looking for synergies between infrastructure technology and solutions focused on solving specific business problems, without large development costs. By integrating your SKN with enterprise platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint, you extract more value from your IT investment. Some SKNs provide sophisticated social, search, security, and library workflow capabilities not found in SharePoint. This lets organizations create internal, secure knowledge communities around enterprise content, while providing increased value to the bottom line.

Have an information strategy. Identify the organization's strategy to collect, organize, and publish content. For instance, here's how the workflow in an SKN might play out at a pharmaceutical company's research and development library:

1. An update to a medical journal is available. 2. The knowledge professional logs the entry, and vets and categorizes it. 3. A scientist accesses the updated journal and reads a relevant article. 4. The scientist rates it and adds comments, noting other relevant internal research to augment and substantiate the findings. 5. The repository now contains the original information, and social information that enhances its relevance and adds value.

Consolidate information silos. Most companies have many information silos scattered across departments. Content is contained in multiple systems and might be disorganized and unmanaged. This can make it difficult and time-consuming for employees to find what they're looking for. SKNs, however, can be used to consolidate data from existing content management systems into one, organized knowledgebase. This provides employees one place to find information, speeding and easing information discovery.

Preserve knowledge assets. As people retire or work remotely, there is an increased need to capture their knowledge while they're at your organization. SKNs can be used as the central organizing element to collect and share information. Also, by providing immediate access to this knowledge, SKNs help increase productivity and efficiency. Employees can focus their time on their own core competencies and the business objective at hand, rather than wasting time searching for and validating information.

SKNs by their very nature are more strategic. By creating a centralized knowledgebase where vetted and tacit knowledge is combined, organizations can better derive value from their most strategic assets: people and information. Successful SKNs produce measurable productivity benefits and create environments that not only manage and retain crucial knowledge capital, but also spawn collaboration and innovation necessary for success.

Phil Green is the Chief Technology Officer at Inmagic and blogger at http://blog.inmagic.com. For more information, visit www.Inmagic.com.

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