I’m old enough to remember having an “employee suggestion box” where people could place ideas or management feedback, either anonymously or by name, and have them reviewed by management — and possibly discussed during a future staff meeting. In more recent years, we used SharePoint lists to track questions and ideas, and provide a place where people could leave comments or modify priorities. In some cases, even those lists became too restrictive. Some teams used wikis to capture this information, but for my purposes, that method was a bit too wide open, and not an ideal format for capturing and leveraging the collective inte3lligence of the organization.
Within the last decade, we began to see the rise of Q&A tools in relation to help desks, self-service knowledge bases, and a one-stop shop for all things support-related.
The basic Q&A model is fairly straight-forward: it provides an easy-to-use community platform where people can share ideas and ask questions, and users can then respond. The community can then “like” or “up vote” each response, which enables others to find the answers that the community agrees are the best answers. Managers can “seed” a conversation by asking the questions, or the community can drive the content.
Beyond this basic model, Q&A can also be an effective method for capturing the collective wisdom of your employees, allowing people to add folksonomy (user-generated taxonomy) and tags to the question and comments, which in turn generates more contextual search results. Capturing corporate knowledge and delivering it in an effective way to the rest of the organization can be as difficult task. There’s a reason why organizations with massive content databases hire dedicated search and taxonomy experts: search is hard.
Each company has its own policies and procedures, modes of operating, content taxonomies, and technology capability. Some of these things can be applied to content and knowledge as it is captured and stored in an automated way — but much of it needs to be applied manually, by the users who hold the proprietary knowledge. A Q&A site can provide an interactive and user-friendly method for capturing this proprietary knowledge, empowering employees to ask questions, share knowledge, and learn from their peers.
But it’s not just for the masses. The format also enables managers to securely and privately share insights and experiences with their fellow managers inside restricted communities. Additionally, it allows managers to offer public channels for feedback (everyone can see who asks the questions and who replies) as well as private channels (all responses are anonymous), as some employees may be hesitant to participate or share honest responses in the open. Q&A may result in more candid, thought-provoking questions. Overall, it encourages dialogue.
Whether encouraging discussion — such as a debate over product features, or plans for an office move — a Q&A tool can help you aggregate questions, and keep the conversation on track. Collaboration is most effective when everyone is participating, and the Q&A model may be an effective tool for encouraging participation at all levels in your organization.
At Beezy, we are very interested in anything that improves enterprise collaboration, and we are constantly expanding the collaborative capability of SharePoint and Office 365 to deliver an improved user experience. To find out more about Beezy and how we extend and enhance SharePoint, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org