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By Renwick Congdon

RISMEDIA, Oct. 15, 2007-Empowered by today’s technologies, agents work from home, their cars, Starbucks… anywhere but the office. The benefits gained by this flexibility are obvious to most: efficiency, flexibility, and reduced expenses. What may not be as obvious is what is lost: access to knowledge.

For years, the water cooler, coffee pot, and lunch table pulled double duty by providing the opportunity for ad hoc meetings where questions were asked, answers given and topics discussed. The sharing of information within a group or company is often referred to as “tribal knowledge.” By de-centralizing the workplace tribal knowledge, and with it one of the most effective methods for continuing education, is lost.

How do you resurrect the sharing of tribal knowledge without losing the efficiency, flexibility and cost savings of a de-centralized office? By developing a company-wide knowledge-sharing strategy.

That’s what Xerox Corporation did when it realized that the on-site solutions created by engineers in its 24,000-member customer service unit couldn’t be efficiently shared among the engineers and the support staff. The company was investigating ways to improve customer service and discovered that service engineers sometimes faced equipment problems that could not be solved through the usual support channels. That knowledge stopgap prompted Xerox to investigate the most logical way for engineers to share with the entire service community. Now, 14,000 of its service technicians and support center representatives share tips for fixing office equipment. Those technicians make approximately one million service calls per month to maintain printers, copiers, networks and other aspects of customer operations.

As we all know, real estate is much, much more complex than office equipment and, therefore, can experience even greater benefits from the implementation of a sound knowledge-sharing strategy. The impact of a system that allows agents to post questions, respond to questions, discuss topics, and even argue over best practices cannot be overstated. When properly deployed, this system-a fundamental part of a knowledge-sharing strategy-will deliver more information across a broader audience than any office meeting, sales rally, or mentoring program could ever hope for. And most importantly, a good system acts as a repository of information that grows with time, becoming more valuable with each post. RE

Renwick Congdon is the president and CEO of Imprev.

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