MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Finding the Needle in a Haystack

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Have you ever been in a situation where you're pursuing a large opportunity and you need to tap a resource, any resource, that has won a similar deal or delivered a similar project?  How have you gone about finding those resources?  I know that in my former life at HP, I frequently saw sales and consulting leads trying to tap the collective knowledge at the company in order to succeed at an account.  It was like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack!




I was in a global role that allowed me visibility across all geographic regions.  I had knowledge of the different types of deals that were in process and if a consultant in Asia was seeking advice from a colleague he/she would call or email me to see if I could connect them with someone with relevant experience
Notice, I said CALL or EMAIL.  Yep, they picked up the phone or wrote an email asking for assistance.  Sometimes they just needed references.  Other times they wanted to understand the technology solution that had been proposed to a similar customer.  Other times they wanted to learn about the capabilities of our myriad of software partners.  Finding a relevant resource could take them hours, days and even weeks.  They and many others like them did not have access to solutions that allow them "broadcast" their needs to a general audience.

The bottom line, was that there was no centralized system that allowed them to easily find colleagues with experiences they could tap into.  They had a database of customer wins, but many times these databases were regional in nature and not visible across geographic boundaries.  Additionally, these systems might have reflected outdated information.

Why am I sharing these challenges?  It is the experience of having been the linchpin tying these geographically dispersed indivduals together that gave me the insight to recognize the value that social netorking platforms can bring to the enterprise.  Most companies have an internal directory that captures your basic details such as job role, organization, location and contact information.  Imagine that you can add incremental information such as knowlege of software systems and hardware platforms, previous roles, industry expertise, account relationships, special interests, personal interests.   Now imagine it is as easy to use as social networking platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook. 

When we implement social media behind the firewall, we open the door to a new kind of collaborative communication.  Now, employees have the ability to broadcast their question.  For example, a solution architect in Poland is pursuing an opportunity with a small broadcast company.  He knows that his company has provided solutions to other broadcasters and he has searched the company intranet for information.  However, he just can't find the information he needs.  He knows he just needs some guidance - perhaps a 30 minute phone call.  Using an internal social networking platform he could post his questions and the collective community would be able to start providing answers.  The community, by its very nature, provides answers, links, contacts.  And, this information is available to the next person with the similar question.

Think about your organization and how knowledge is shared.  I bet you have some kind of knowledge management program, formal (if you are a mediaum-large company) or informal (if you are a small business).  Are there inefficiencies?  Do you have a plan to tap into the collective knowledge resident within your employees?  Think about how social networking platforms can help you can improve collaboration, actively find and tap into resident knowledge and facilitate employee efficiency.

What's your perspective?