Enterprise Q&A for Knowledge Management
Quora and Stack Overflow are the two most popular Q&A websites. People ask questions and get answers. More importantly, the questions and answers become a repository of knowledge for millions of people.
But what about people in the enterprise space who cannot post their work-related questions on a public site? Is it worthwhile to add Enterprise Questions and Answers to the list of collaboration tools?
Our take is that every team should have a knowledge management system for their team members to capture and share knowledge. And questions and answers should be a key component of it.
Explicit and Tacit Knowledge
Generally speaking, there are two types of knowledge - explicit and tacit. Explicit knowledge is easier to capture through documentation. Most companies have a lot of content in applications such as wikis, Intranets, document management tools, etc.
But tacit knowledge, the "know-how" that your employees possess, is much harder to manage. Tacit knowledge is personal, context-specific and constantly evolving. It is difficult to document and share. Examples of tacit knowledge include hands-on skills, special know-how, and employee experience. Q&A is the most effective way to capture and share tacit knowledge, which has been proven by Quora and Stack Overflow.
Using document management tools such as a wiki to manage tacit knowledge is highly ineffective.
Documentation is very time-consuming to create. But finding information for a specific issue in the sea of documents is virtually impossible. Furthermore, in today’s fast-changing world, documents go outdated really really quickly. So even if you find the information, you cannot trust it because it may not be relevant any more. (See Document Management vs. Knowledge Management for more discussion on this topic)
Some organizations use mailing lists to ask questions and provide answers.
It is quick and requires no extra setup. But the issues with it are quite obvious. The knowledge is deeply buried in all the email threads. It is not organized, searchable and reusable. Using software tools puts institutional knowledge in a common place where all team members can access from anywhere, at any time.
A forum may look like a Q&A board but there is a key difference - forums are made for discussions.
It is designed for people to express their opinions rather than capture knowledge. The content from different users is organized as a chronological list. There is no clear indication which post has the correct information. You have to read through lengthy posts to find what you are looking for. On the other hand, a well-designed Q&A supports features such as accepted answers and a voting system, making finding the right information a breeze.
AllAnswered is a comprehensive knowledge management system that is designed to capture and share both explicit and tacit knowledge in the most effective way. It uses what is called Micro-documents which include Q&As, blogs, articles, ideas, and polls etc. So each post is a bite-sized information that is highly targeted and easy to find.
Check out the Q&A board for FEniCS, an open source project, on AllAnswered and see how engaged the community is.