Let’s say you need an internal expert on polymer filters. Typically the easiest way to discover the elusive expert is to do a web-technology search of your internal collaboration system to find someone, anyone, that may have created content or been labelled via their title as being associated with, polymer filters. But are you really finding what you are looking for?
Expertise involves working with and identifying the most mercurial of resources in any organization, people. Finding an expert isn’t about search, at least not search as defined in the post 90’s computing world, it’s about analytics and behavioral sciences. Experts and finding expertise is about discovery, looking at people via a variety of parameters and attributes to answer what is at least on the surface a simple question: “Whom in my organization is ready, willing, and able to serve as an expert to solve a business problem?”
IBM has spent the better part of seven years of research and active experimentation in creating software, an engine that can find the right person at the right time to solve the specific business challenge that awaits their expertise. IBM’s Expertise Engine can take a query such as, “I need an expert in polymer filters to be in Frankfurt on the 12th of August to meet with Acme customer on a sales opportunity”, and find the right person.
How, you might ask is this even possible? Well Expertise Engine can analyze many of your organizations systems including traditional collaboration systems such as instant messaging and email. It can analyze not only the data in these systems to assign weight and breadth of expertise but also monitor the behavior of experts. If an expert is asked three questions a week and answers them promptly but typically on the fourth question exhibits delay in response the Expertise Engine will absorb that specific expert’s ability to respond and throttle requests accordingly.
Behavior is important. Once the Expertise Engine determines that an individual is an expert in a specific field or fields and routes questions, groups, or other people to that expert, what happens next is just as important as the fundamental identification of expertise. Is the expert thanked after the interaction? Is the thanks made publically or privately? Does the interaction end with a single query or does it vault the expert and the group seeking expertise together into a social graph? Do others seek out that specific expert on that topic?
The Expertise Engine can also look at relationships. If someone is a well determined expert in basket weaving and regularly contacts two other individuals on the topic then the Expertise Engine will begin a determination of expertise of those two individuals in spite of the lack of data establishing them as experts in basket weaving.
So what can you do with an Expertise Engine? Well quite a lot actually. IBM’s Expertise Engine is a platform that we are actively building and selling clients for including Connections Social Q&A and Expertise Locator. With Social Q&A, a question from a user, whom may have no idea of what kind of expert to turn to, is routed to a series of experts, answered, and then the answer itself is curated for the next time a user asks a similar question so an answer is given without ever involving the highly valuable expert. Expertise Locator helps a user find an expert, now, based on the user knowing what kind of expert they need, just not how to find them.
Business Partners of IBM are looking to leverage the Expertise Engine for many diverse use cases. Imagine a project manager setting up a project and having the people they may need to bring the project to fruition already recommended. In learning, what if instead of taking a course, at random being able to simply tell the system I want to be more like one of your mentors, heroes, or colleagues; and have the system identify what makes that person an expert and tailor a program to achieve the enablement goals.
Expertise is truly an elusive find, but it certainly isn’t about search. It is a process of discovery of something that isn’t static but a dynamic fluid of relationships, knowledge, willingness, readiness, and ability. And the expert you may need today, might not be the expert you need tomorrow. While it sounds like science fiction, it isn’t. This technology is available today along with its associated applications from IBM Lab Services.
Jason Roy Gary
IBM Director - IBM Distinguished Engineer
CTO IBM Enterprise Social Solutions - Exec Apps and Assets Program
Asia Pacific Lab Services Business Leader - Senior Board Member OpenSocial Foundation
Jason is the thought leader behind the innovative IBM Apps and Assets portfolio. He is the executive technologist behind Expertise 360°, a suite of apps that helps discover Corporate Knowledge and uses analytics to identify sharing patterns to involve the right expert timely, for higher speed in action and greater competitivity.