Monday, December 05, 2005

Knowledge coordination

From time to time I find myself looking for an answer to what may be called a “knowledge coordination question”. For example:
  • Does my company have a vector drawing tool?

  • Do we have a Java library which implements SFTP protocol?

  • Had anyone implemented already a JSP tag, which generates a date picker tied to our database?
Getting answers to these questions may be very tricky – that is, there are people in the company, who know answers (“Yes, we have a copy of Adobe Illustrator”), but finding them may be a royal pain. Quite often people just make couple of feeble attempts to find the right “expert”, and then make their own decision – buy another tool, get a new library, implement the tag themselves (this one was my sin!). The results are obvious: waste of money, waste of time and a whole zoo of libraries, tools and components in the company – a nightmare for support.

It may sound strange, but the most companies I’ve worked in didn’t address this problem in any way. So, the following are just my thoughts – or, my plan, since I am going to try and implement this solution.

A good solution for this problem is a centralized repository for different types of knowledge. Wiki seems to be a good platform for implementing “company-wide knowledge bank”. It is easy to create a separate page for each knowledge area, the most important being:
  • Existing software – to catalog the tools which are currently used by the company;

  • Libraries – to catalog currently used libraries;

  • Reusable components – to track different in-house developed components, which are intended for reuse.
Initially filling this database is an enormous endeavor; however, if everyone will just list his or her assets, the task will be much less intimidating. An incentive provided by the management can be a great help. Something like “The best knowledgebase contributor” monthly award might motivate people (especially if it will come with some prize) – but selling ideas to the management is, unfortunately, not what I’m good at…

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