Faculty member's research addresses future needs of the workplace.

Tomorrow’s businesses likely will eschew the vertical structural models of today in favor of assembling teams of experts for time-limited, project-specific collaborations, said Irma Becerra-Fernández (PhD ’94), associate professor, Department of Decision Sciences and Information Systems in the College of Business Administration. In this new environment, how will businesses amass the human capital and expertise needed to meet their goals for productivity and efficiency?

In “Searching for Experts on the Web: A Review of Contemporary Expertise Locator Systems,” Becerra-Fernández discusses the potential for knowledge management systems (KMS) to help companies adapt to this reality. The paper—published in the Association of Computer Management’s Transactions on Internet Technology, a leading journal—details her development of two prototypes of such systems for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

“NASA asked me to design KMS that would identify experts within and outside their organization,” Becerra-Fernández said. “Similar systems existed but relied on individuals’ self-assessments of their capabilities. NASA needed something more reliable.”

She constructed the first Searchable Answer Generating Environment (SAGE), using a searchable, online database of researchers in Florida universities with sponsored research projects.

“Funded researchers undergo a peer-review process that objectively establishes their expertise in certain areas,” she said. “I could guarantee NASA that those the system identified had been validated.”

The second KMS she developed, Expert Seeker (ES), helps NASA pinpoint expertise across its centers, extracting information from NASA sources—employee performance evaluations, skills assessments, etc.—and combining it with data from employees’ web sites to produce updated profiles.

Expert locators can expedite businesses’ access to critical expertise.

Becerra-Fernández envisions myriad scenarios in which expert locators could aid organizations and companies: a car company compiling an auto design team or a professional organization searching the country for conference speakers, for example.

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