— Marc D Anderson (@sympmarc) November 2, 2016
It seems to address the age-old knowledge management question “Who knows about…”, which has for years been talked about as either “Find the Expert” or “Expertise Locator”. In some ways, it’s been one of the holy grails of knowledge management.
Every organization has people in with with expertise which is unknown. A classic example was one I ran across at a client back in the mid-1990s. Yes, we’ve been talking about this for over two decades!
In the example (which is real, as best I can remember the details), there was a PhD scientist with extremely specific and strong skills in bovine biology. That was his job, and he was damned good at it. It also so happened that in a previous part of his career, he had been an explosives expert. Also very top notch, and of course for good.
At one point at the company, our PhD friend saw that his company had launched a product which was made of materials he knew extremely well from his explosives work. But the product wasn’t using those materials efficiently, so the margins were pretty bad.
No one knew about his off-kilter expertise, but it would have accelerated the product development and led to a better product.
Had there been a Who-Bot or expertise locator, when they started the project to develop the product, they could have asked “Who knows about explosives?” or “Who knows about using chemical xyz?” Because the PhD fellow was proud of his prior achievements, those facts would have been in his profile, and they would have immediately gotten a hit. Money saved, productivity gained.
We started using Microsoft Teams yesterday like many others. I really wanted to see what the Who-Bot looked like (even at Sympraxis with two people, we can test this stuff), but I couldn’t find it anywhere.
I asked the T-Bot – which is pre-loaded in Teams, “How do I add bots?'”
T-Bot suggested I head over to the bot gallery to look at my options, but I couldn’t find Who-Bot over there, either. T-Bot is really cool, though, and a great example of “bot-based help”. That’s a wave of the future, too.
I pinged a few contacts about how to enable Who-Bot, but so far no joy. I’ll update this post when I figure it out.
— Marc D Anderson (@sympmarc) November 3, 2016
Now, the flip side of this is that Who-Bot is only going to find what it can find. After all this time, we actually have pretty good ways to figure out what people know.
The most obvious one is what we put into our profiles in SharePoint or elsewhere. In other words, without good metadata about each of us, Who-Bot doesn’t have much to work with.
Luckily, we’re working with a great new company to help solve this problem. As I’m quoted on the Hyperfish Web site:
Hyperfish’s product and its Hyperbot (yup, there’s a bot chapter in this story, too) can help your organization essentially crowd-source improvements to your Active Directory data. It’s a fantastic product built by some very smart people. If you’re interested in it, let us know and we can give you a demo. At Sympraxis, we’re really excited to be working with Hyperfish: this is a set of problems that must be solved.
Hyperfish helps with what’s known in the KM world as explicit knowledge about your profile and skills. Explicit knowledge is known because we’ve taken the trouble to collect it, standardize it, vet it, etc. But there is another kind of knowledge known as tacit knowledge. We express our knowledge tacitly by what we work on or what we do or who we know. (KM purists may say I’m being liberal with my definitions here, but that’s the way I roll.)
Guess what? The Office Graph gets us access to some of that tacit knowledge. Based on the documents we author or view, the people we work with, etc., we can start to identify people with the knowledge we need as well.
The new People Card capabilities rolling out in Office 365 now help us to identify people with knowledge we’d never find otherwise. By seeing who is connected to or works around content and other people, we can identify the experts we need.
Since Who-Bot is tied into the Office Graph, I expect that we’ll get very interesting and deep, layered responses to our questions about “Who knows about…” in quite short order.
Now if I could only get the darned the Who-Bot turned on in our Sympraxis tenant!
UPDATE: I heard firm Bill Bliss at Microsoft (who owns the feature) directly and he said the WhoBot (his spelling, so it’s probably right!) is “…not done yet”. As noted by Jasper Siegmund in the. Moments, Bill also stated this on the recent Microsoft Teams AMA.