Sound strange? Just think about it, and perhaps consider your own experience. Let’s say you are an engineer or product developer for a mid-sized company. Say the company has been around for 30 years, creates complex products requiring QA testing and perhaps regulatory compliance. At the same time, the company has grown to 10,000 people with 3,000 engineers split among seven different offices in three countries.
You’ve been with the company for three years, working in the headquarters campus where there are close to 1,000 engineers. Perhaps you know 100 people with whom you’ve worked on projects during the past three years. Say you know another 100 people by reputation, but you’re not entirely sure of all of their projects (past and present). That leaves 2800 engineers you don’t know, and you have no idea what they‘ve done, or even what they are working on right now. Sure, you may have SharePoint profiles, but that doesn’t help you understand expertise, projects worked, or interests, because it is not created from each engineer’s actual, ongoing work and interactions.
Is it any wonder that, in a recent Coveo survey of 120 executives, just 13 percent said employees can effectively tap into the collective knowledge of their organizations?
That’s just one side of the knowledge coin, because knowledge requires people + information. Where is the data that your organization has created over the past 30 years, how do you access it, create compliance reports, gather information about the best possible components for the products you are designing? Your company has grown through acquisition. How do you access information from multiple prior businesses? Scientists have run tests, QA specialists have painstakingly reviewed plans and products, customers have made comments and continue to do so, sometimes in communities and via social media such as Twitter.
All of this data exists somewhere. It may be in far-flung offices on servers, or in your PLM system, the intranet, an issue tracking database, on desktops, in emails, shared drives, your ERP, the list is kind of endless. Now factor in the cloud and social media.
Is this a “big data” problem? Or is this a challenge associated with the accelerating fragmentation of fast-growing, unstructured data and the locations in which it exists? This is a challenge which may be solved, and elegantly so, by indexing content that is in all of these systems—in the cloud, behind the firewall, and in social media; mashing it, enriching it, and instantly assembling it to meet the immediate needs of our engineer, by knowing our engineer’s role, projects and challenges. Sort of a personal mash-up to help you do your job, better, faster, and with greater results. It includes who knows what about topics you care about. It allows you to build on past work rather than recreating it. Know who knows what—that you care about. That is insight.
If you are an engineer or working in a product development role, we’d like to hear about your knowledge and expertise access experience. Are you able to leverage your company’s collective knowledge? Or are you among the 87 percent who cannot? We’re running a poll to find out. Please join the conversation by completing the survey, and check back in two weeks to see the results. We will also tweet the results—so follow us to see them. Or, join the conversation by commenting about your knowledge challenges in the comments section below.