Knowledge management professionals frequently consider the question of how best to identify and locate experts within a large law firm. The current issue of the McKinsey Quarterly has an article titled Do You Know Who Your Experts Are? (Appears in the 2003, #4 edition – subscription required to access.)
The article notes that finding experts in a large organization is difficult. The authors note that companies that carefully manage other assets such as inventory and cash are rather cavalier about how they manage expertise. This is changing: “a growing number of companies… have adopted more systematic approaches to both finding and leveraging expertise.”
The traditional approaches say the author – an expertise database or “mining” documents for pointers to expertise – can be replaced with new search technologies. “Achievements” of employees define their expertise. The authors say that using typical internal corporate sources, it is possible to find people with relevant achievements. They say that “internal databases can usually be assessed with considerable precision.” All it takes is the right search engine that can access and sift multiple data sources (such as HR, accounting, knowledge management, and recruiting databases).
This article is helpful in increasing corporate awareness of the need for expertise location. I fear, however, that it oversimplifies both the process and technology and makes some unsupported assertions (for example, the reliability of internal data sources). The article would have served readers better had it presented some case studies and some specific technology solutions working against real databases.
Many law firms have struggled with expertise location and few have found a perfect solution. KM professionals discuss the automated approaches suggested by this article, as well as purely manual approaches that rely on lawyer self-assessment of their own expertise.
Though the article does not mention it, I suspect the authors have in mind a product like ExpertSeek Services by Digital Self. Future posts will discuss in more detail approaches to capturing expertise. [Strategic Legal Technology]