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Abstract

The idea that KM can help people in large, often widely geographically dispersed organizations find out who has subject matter expertise or who knows how and where to get at important know-how is intrinsically appealing to knowledge managers. After all, helping people access the knowledge they need is fundamentally what KM is all about. Early approaches to expertise location and management (ELM) typically built skills repositories, but these have not been successful in accomplishing these objectives. As a result, expertise location and management is now on the steep downward slope of the KM "hype cycle" in most organizations. This paper explores the question of whether ELM is an idea that is evolving and maturing and which will ultimately deliver on its promised value, or whether organizations should simply give up on the idea as being not worth the effort. To explore this issue in more detail and to better understand how organizations are conceptualizing and implementing this specific KM initiative, the authors convened a focus group of practicing KM managers from a variety of organizations. This paper first situates the topic of expertise location -- where it fits in with other KM issues and also how our understanding of this topic has evolved over time. It next describes some of the benefits and challenges of ELM. Following this, it explores several different approaches to these types of initiatives. From these, we derive a number of principles for effective ELM implementations. Finally, we present some practical advice for managers who are considering using ELM in their organizations. The paper concludes that ELM has the potential to be a "killer app" for KM, but only if it can be focused and designed effectively to appropriately integrate technology with human facilitation.

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