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There was a time when the authority of knowledge was the encyclopedia. Any research project would begin with a visit to a library and then be followed up by an increasing focus on specialist books, journals and other publications. This is, however, no longer the case.

These days, even a dial-up Internet connection provides access to a vast sea of knowledge on-demand. A simple Google search on “Enterprise SOA” will yield links to SAP’s website, to the SDN Community Space, books on Amazon as well as about five million other links. The ease with which this now happens has transformed the way that we think about learning — for now, more than ever, we as business people, as developers and as consumers have come to expect learning to be at the tips of our fingers.

There has also been a profound shift in the way in which we view “expertise”. With Wikipedia, the free, collaborative, online encyclopedia, we have now realised that expertise is no longer the domain of someone else — that too is at the end of our fingertips — we are both the creators of knowledge and its seeker.

This fact has been recognised within the enterprise for some time. The last ten years has seen a growing respect for the importance and role of “subject matter experts” in the creation of organizational knowledge. This has been strengthened as we have also come to understand the impact that knowledge (and its transference) has on workplace performance — if we want our employees to improve their productivity we can’t just implement a system — we must also enable our workforce’s capability to efficiently use it.

Yet despite this knowledge, enterprises continue to struggle with understanding where and how to start unleashing employee performance.

This is where we can actually learn from Google and from Wikipedia. By empowering our organization’s business process owners, subject matter experts and even end users to capture, publish and share their knowledge, we can tap into the patterns of learning that are already occurring in the wider community. In particular, you should consider:

  • How you can leverage the process and business knowledge of your key users
  • The tools you use to capture this knowledge
  • The methods you use to publish, share and update this knowledge
  • The ease with which it can be delivered to your end users on-demand

Of course, the challenge then becomes one of managing the process, quality and currency of that knowledge. And while these are not insignificant challenges, they are not insurmountable — and the benefits of having relevant learning at your fingertips will have a positive impact on the system adoption and satisfaction levels across your organization. Give these questions some consideration as you plan your next implementation and you will be surprised at how effectively it impacts your overall ROI.

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