The very core of knowledge management is harvesting the tacit and explicit knowledge within an enterprise to make business decisions. And, while the technology capturing the explicit component of that equation is mature, the same can’t be said for identifying the level of tacit knowledge within an organization and the individuals who hold it. However, Raging Knowledge, a South Norwalk, CT, firm founded in 1999, has developed unique KM software that it believes significantly advances the cause of true enterprise collaboration.
Raging Knowledge’s Web-based Global Network software (now in Version 3.2) allows users with a specific knowledge query to “bypass massive amounts of irrelevant information and go directly to the expert, or pools of experts, who can answer the question right off the top of their head,” according to Jeff Boley, the company’s chief marketing and knowledge officer. Global Network can also be installed inside an enterprises firewall.
At the heart of Global Network is the user-profiling system, which, though simply in format and takes less than 30 minutes to complete, consists of sophisticated, proprietary algorithms that allow drilling down to granular areas of employee expertise.
Raging Knowledge is currently targeting Global Networks to large IT organizations. Company President Drew Reilly cites an example of the software’s value in one such hypothetical 1,000-person organization. “Let’s say I have an NT question as it relates to Cisco routers and specific model numbers and other hardware,” he says. “Maybe there are some other keywords in the query. If I’m at a large organization that happens to specifically use those routers on NT, my question could match with 400 people within that organization.
“Our algorithm calculates and spiders deeper into the profile and into the question characteristics and it will say, ‘No, the question actually is more specifically geared to these Compaq servers and how they connect via TCP IP, let’s say, to this particular Cisco router, and this employee is working with a Web server that happens to be running NT 4.0 along with ASP active server page and he’s trying to do X, Y and Z.’
“Our software reaches deeper into those 400 people, because we want to find the best, say 10, 12, 15 people within that organization and alert them that, given their expertise, there’s a question they can answer.”
There are various mechanisms to submit the query, explains Reilly, “There can be a formatted inquiry, in which a formatted response could be returned immediately. If it’s more of a complicated issue, employees can start a threaded forum and begin asynchronous collaboration. And, if the profiles match, users can chat online and invite each other into collaborative chat sessions.
“The information is then saved, and people can see what’s been discussed. So, we provide both asynchronous and synchronous collaboration to user. All the inquiries that they’ve ever submitted and all the information that they’ve found best from those respondents can be held in their personal archive. It also travels to a universal archive,” Reilly explains.
Another key to Raging Knowledge’s approach is how all this integrates with the Global Networks management tools. By mandating that all employees build their profile, administrators can get an immediate inventory of the enterprise’s tacit knowledge--not what the résumé says and what looks good on paper, but what that employee can be called upon as an expert by his or her colleagues.
The administrator can view a pie chart that shows areas of strength or weakness. Reilly explains a company could discover it’s actually overpopulated with Microsoft systems engineers, for example. “You start taking a look at your organization in ways you couldn’t before because data wasn’t good enough.
“What problems are certain people having? Geographically, where are they? Who’s helping them? Who’s not helping them? Is it really just the fact that there’s bad technology in here? Do we lack training in that area or human resources?” The integration of the management tools arguably could be just as valuable to an organization as the system itself.
The management component also enables administrators to track employee participation and performance. Let’s say “Jack” is an expert in Java scripting and writing certain code. A lot of queries are sent out in his area of expertise, but for some he chooses not to respond much. That’s information the company may want to know.
Or, suggests Reilly, “He used to help out a lot, and now all of a sudden he doesn’t. Maybe he has a résumé out. Maybe Jack’s upset. So there’s a lot of things that can be derived from the information that the application spits back to management or administrators. We usually sell the application to those very people who hold the keys to the administrator tool--CIOs, CKOs, CTOs, etc.--people who would have the ability to use those tools and make some decisions from it. Before, they just didn’t have that data readily available.”