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Outdoors retailer is tapping into its most important source of knowledge: employees
A large U.S. retailer of outdoor gear and clothing was struggling several years ago with how to efficiently deliver the vast amounts of information it had within the enterprise to employees and new hires.
“We had tons of information that we could offer to our users, and no easy mechanism to help them find the right information at the right time,” explains a company spokeswoman who works as an IT systems engineer.
So the retailer -- who asked to remain anonymous for this article -- turned to Moxie Software, whose Knowledgebase knowledge management platform helps customers get a handle on the vast amounts of data in the enterprise.
But with the emergence of social media and collaboration tools, the retailer realized it had other knowledge resources to tap into and leverage – its 12,000 employees spread across 120 stores, two distribution centers and corporate headquarters.
“Classic knowledge management or control documentation publishing assumes that you have people whose job it is to sit there and turn out information, when we really all know lots of stuff that we could contribute,” the retailer’s spokeswoman says. “A lot of it for us is just trying to figure out how to get more people offering information to share.”
It’s a challenge many enterprises are mulling: How to harness the social media revolution in a way that both empowers employees and enhances the business. One obvious solution is to give employees the kind of tools they are familiar with to do their jobs better.
“We’re exploring how you do that kind of collaborative knowledge sharing,” the retailer’s spokeswoman says. “You check your Facebook page three or four times a day and you might update something, so can we turn this process into you visit the IT page and see a couple of things and say, ‘I can add something to that’?”
The retailer is in the process of implementing Moxie’s Social Knowledgebase, a new product that enables the company’s knowledge management platform to capture, analyze and redistribute data from internal collaboration between employees as well as data from external communities.
Social and collaborative data can be quite valuable for all kinds of employees in search of information needed to do their jobs, but perhaps especially so for customer-facing workers in the retail industry who often are deluged with questions and problems regarding a wide range of products, many of which are new or otherwise unfamiliar to them. Social tools are a way for retail workers to quickly access crowd-sourced answers to customer queries, which can make the difference between a sale and a walk-away.
Beyond fostering communication and collaboration and keeping an ear to the ground regarding customer sentiment and potential problems, enterprise social tools such as Moxie’s allow organizations to learn more about their employees – what they know, which colleagues they communicate with most frequently, etc. This kind of information can lead to organizational and structural changes that can make an enterprise more efficient. And, perhaps, keep the IT folks up at night (at least for a while).
“How social features are going to really play in the enterprise is a pretty challenging question for internal IT departments to answer because an internal IT department is generally about control and security,” says the retailer’s spokeswoman. “We’re used to a different world where the stuff is ours, the apps are ours, the rules are ours, so we have better control over what’s going on.
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