When knowledge management first emerged as a distinct discipline several years ago, the focus, at least among law firms, was on capturing and re-using documents. Now, at least anecdotally, it seems there is as much discussion of locating experts within one’s organization as there is on documents. And this is a good thing. Ultimately, it is often more useful to find an expert who can explain the context and point to documents rather than to find a document, which, standing alone is often hard to use.

The “expertise location management” product space is evolving and new options arising. I just came across an interesting product announcement from Entopia. According to a recent press release, the company has new software that helps identify experts: “By combining Entopia’s dynamic expertise location with its visualization techniques, Entopia’s latest application identifies the social networks within the enterprise related to a specific topic. These “people maps” instantly illustrate the subject matter experts, information bottlenecks and disconnected communities with an enterprise.” I have not had a chance to learn more, but it sounds interesting.

Knowledge managers in law firms should consider their expertise location strategy as well as their document strategy. Like any aspect of KM, expertise location is more about process than technology. But there are interesting technology options that can help automate the process. By way of example, two horizontal expertise location management products are Kamoon and Tacit and two legal- market specific product (though both have broader functionality) are LawPort and AdvanceKnowledge.