Hurricanes are hell on knowledge management. Take it from Giora Hadar, a knowledge architect at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).\n\nThese powerful, swirling storms can wipe out navigational aids, air traffic control equipment and radar dishes that ensure \n\nthe safety of commercial and private aircraft in the U.S. They can also sever communications and keep critical information \n\nfrom flowing between FAA workers on the ground and those based in D.C. and elsewhere. In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita \n\ndid all this and one thing more: They spurred the FAA to start developing social networking tools to address communication and knowledge management challenges even during extreme circumstances, such as \n\na Category 5 storm.\n\nAt the FAA, hurricanes and other disasters raise a fundamental and urgent knowledge management question: Who's available to \n\nget things up and running again? "We need to reach our people to find out, Are they OK?" says Hadar, who supports the FAA's \n\ndisaster recovery efforts. "We also need to know where they are and if they are available to participate in the recovery."\nOnce everyone is accounted for, the agency needs to figure out which disaster recov\u00adery specialists will do what, and who \n\ntheir counterparts are at other federal, state and local agencies. The specialists themselves have to track their e-mails and \n\ninstant messages, voice mails, the documents to bring equipment back online and what they spend.\n\nIt's a perfect situation for taking social computing tools\u2014such \n\nas online social networks and group communications tools like wikis and keyword tagging\u2014and putting them to work as a \n\nform of knowledge management.\n\nThe Challenge of Knowledge Management\n\nThose dealing with knowledge management (KM) have always faced the challenge of getting information out of people's heads and \n\ninto a database. Social computing tools seem like a good way to help, since they encourage people to share their knowledge \n\nwith others, and that expertise can be easily captured.\n\nIn fact, social computing represents a third wave for KM: the set of tools and processes companies use to create, track and \n\nshare intellectual assets, says Patti Anklam, an independent consultant who is focused on KM and social networking. Anklam \n\nsays the first wave involved digitizing and tracking documents using tools like content management systems. When it became \n\nclear that it was too hard to share those documents, companies adopted collaboration tools. With social networks, companies \n\nare extending knowledge management to make it easier to connect employees and information.\n\n"A framework for knowledge management consists of understanding what you need to have in place so that people can connect and \n\nshare with each other, and then...connect to people outside of their own current, small personal networks," Anklam says.\n\nSocial networking tools have been used mostly by consumers but are now emerging in corporate environments. A 2007 survey by \n\nIDC (a sister company to CIO's publisher) found that almost 40 percent of very large companies\u2014those with more than \n\n10,000 employees\u2014were using business or social networking tools, more than 30 percent were using online communities and \n\njust under 20 percent were using social bookmarking tools. Smaller companies were less aggressive in using the tools but were \n\nalso adopting them.\n\nNot So Fast\nCIOs need to strike a balance in adopting social networking\nSocial networks are so easy and intuitive to use that practically anyone can jump in and \n\nget started. Just ask Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby. "My 80-year-old mother is on Facebook," \n\nshe says.\n\nThis ease of use epitomizes social networking's potential for companies that want to tap \n\nthe knowledge of their workers. It also highlights a challenge for CIOs: the perception \n\nthat IT isn't moving fast enough to adopt these applications within the business.\n\nCisco is already moving down this path. It is developing a companywide social computing \n\nplatform aimed at greasing the idea process and capturing institutional knowledge by \n\nstrengthening existing networks and making it easier to adopt new ones. There's Directory \n\n3.0, its internal Facebook, with employee listings designed to identify an employee's \n\narea of expertise to enable collaboration. It has Ciscopedia, an internal document site, \n\nand C-Vision, its version of YouTube. And it has the Idea Zone, a wiki for people to post \n\nand discuss potential business ideas.\n\nDespite these initiatives, Jacoby says IT is still perceived by business users as not \n\nmoving fast enough to leverage social networks because they already use them personally. \n\n"People ask me all the time, 'Can't I just go to an ASP and create a community?'" She \n\nsays they cite both the speed and the low cost of doing so.?But Jacoby says that CIOs \n\nneed to consider issues of privacy, data security and the ability to scale across a \n\nglobal organization. It's no good, she says, if 15 different business units develop 15 \n\ndifferent online communities "that can't talk to each other."\n\nStill, Jacoby says social networking has led IT to change how it works with Cisco's \n\nbusiness units to develop social computing tools and set usage rules."That's a real \n\ncultural change for IT organizations, and that's way more challenging long-term than the \n\ntechnology," says Jacoby.\t \n\n -M.F.\nWhat's driving interest in the market? Social networking tools show clear potential for improving collaboration and sharing \n\ndifferent types of knowledge within organizations. And employees typically are familiar with them. In fact, 25 percent of \n\ncompanies say that workers are already using social networking tools for work, though only 10 percent actually offer such \n\ntools, according to CIO's 2008 "Consumer Technology Survey." But of those who do offer the tools, 30 percent do it to improve \n\nKM.\n\nLike the FAA, many of these companies are in the early stages of figuring out how best to use social networking tools for KM. \n\nIn part, that's because "knowledge management is a business process, not a market," says Mark Levitt, an analyst at IDC. \n\n"There are a lot of processes that are tied up in knowledge management, and no single product can enable it."\n\nSocial Tools Await First Test\n\nThe FAA started thinking about how to use social networking tools in 2000, when Alan Stensland, its Eastern Service Area \n\nemergency coordinator, saw Lotus QuickPlace, a team collaboration platform, and Lotus Sametime, an instant messaging tool, at \n\na trade show. After the 2005 hurricane season, Stensland's desire for better ways to connect his disaster recovery \n\nspecialists only increased. So the FAA, a heavy IBM user, became a beta tester for what would become Lotus Connections, which \n\nincludes social computing tools like Profiles (a directory of people and their expertise), Communities, Blogs, the tagging \n\ntool Dogear, and Activities (a dashboard). It also upgraded from QuickPlace to Quickr and moved to IBM's Websphere Portal.\n\nThe FAA's disaster recovery response leverages the use of these tools, which run through the Activities dashboard. Its 200 or \n\nso disaster recovery specialists invite people to join their networks via Profiles, and use Activities as a kind of \n\nelectronic project bin: Voice mails, documents and their electronic receipts for a project will go into it, making it easy to \n\ntrack and share with other agencies, easing the hassle of post-disaster spending audits.\n\nThat's the hope. The last two hurricane seasons were mild, and no other major disasters have struck since the new tools were \n\ntested and put in place. But this summer's hurricane season is expected to be a bad one. If it is, the FAA believes it is \n\nready to respond faster and more effectively than ever before.\n\nBusiness Acceleration\n\nSocial networking tools should bring faster response time to all facets of business, says Rebecca Jacoby, senior vice \n\npresident and CIO at Cisco Systems. Cisco is building a social computing platform (see "Not So Fast," Page 44) because "this \n\nis the first technology in 10 years that as a set, if utilized properly, lets you accelerate your business."\n\nJacoby says that Cisco sees the types of knowledge sharing these tools permit as "overarching" for business in the global \n\nera. "I can bring people from locations all over the world or different functions to participate in solving a problem or \n\ncreating an innovation that allows the company to have growth," she says.\n\nA case in point: the Idea Zone, an internal wiki where Cisco staff can post and comment on business ideas. Since it was \n\nstarted in June 2006, more than 600 ideas have been posted and vetted, and four new business units have been started.\nKnowledge from the Outside\nThe Web makes it possible to build markets around many things, including knowledge for \n\nhire. In a sense, that's what sites like Elance and Innocentive offer: expertise that \n\ncompanies bid on to expand their own knowledge. Then there are expert networks like that \n\nof Gerson Lehrman Group. GLG's knowledge marketplace connects customers to subject matter \n\nexperts who can consult in person or over the phone, depending on the customer's \n\npreference. It's a broader, more consulting-oriented tool than Innocentive, which \n\nconnects companies to scientific researchers with specific knowledge.\n\nGLG says sales hit about $220 million in 2007. (Editor's note: This story was updated on July 7, 2008, to correct information in the previous sentence. Read the correction.) It has a network of 175,000 \n\nconsultants, and between 20,000 and 30,000 business leaders, all of whom have worked in \n\nsenior management for companies with more than $100 million in revenue. Users of the \n\nservice can tag the expert or documents, rate the person and add notes. The average call \n\nlasts about 40 minutes and costs about $300. Companies can subscribe to the service.\n\n"We've taken knowledge management outside our own four walls," \nsays Jonathan Glick, \n\nGLG's director of research operations. "It makes knowledge management an asset."\t\n\n-M.F.\nA Better Way to Collaborate\n\nAlso exploring social networking is Flowserve, an industrial manufacturer of pumps, valves and mechanical seals. Flowserve's \n\nCIO, Linda Jojo, felt the company needed a better way to capture institutional knowledge and communicate it to employees \n\nacross its far-flung offices: Flowserve does business in more than 55 countries, and IT has people in a dozen of them.\n\n"We want to create more relationships within IT," she says. "So if you're in Brazil and you're running into a problem with \n\nOracle databases, you can find the people within Flowserve who might help you." Jojo felt that a social networking \n\napplication like Facebook could act as a virtual employee water cooler but she had reservations about its privacy and \n\nsecurity.\n\nSo Flowserve built an internal version of Facebook and launched it in December 2007. The project was spearheaded by two \n\nbusiness analysts\u2014recent college graduates who Jojo asked to design something to bring employees together. It took them \n\na few weeks, working part-time, to get the tool ready. Despite no formal announcement, interest in the tool has been \n\nbuilding. \n\nAbout 150 of the 250 IT staff members have signed up and are using the wiki, blogs and other tools built into it. Jojo says \n\nit's too soon to say what impact it's had on the organization. But in a year or so, "I would hope to be telling you that this \n\nis a tool that we as an IT organization can't live without and it becomes an essential part of how we support the greater \n\nFlowserve organization," says Jojo.\n\nWhile Flowserve built its own application, IDC's Levitt says companies have plenty of social computing tools to use, many \n\ndesigned to work with their current software. Vendors including IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Novell and Oracle are adding these \n\ntools to their products. The trend began several years ago, but only now are companies starting to become comfortable with \n\nthe idea.\n\n"The average worker two years ago had never been in [an electronic workspace]," Levitt says. Now, thanks to instant messaging \n\nand social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, most businesspeople are familiar with online communities.\n\nBut while users may feel comfortable, businesses remain uneasy. Levitt notes that tools like Facebook lack the security and \n\nprivacy that corporations demand. He thinks products like Lotus Connections, which combine a number of social networking \n\ntools into familiar software and make them easier to adopt, will become more common.\n\nA Perfect Solution?\n\nSocial computing would seem to solve some of the challenges posed by KM. But these tools come with their own set of issues for the CIO.\n\nWorkers can set up their own social networks outside the company's IT infrastructure, creating privacy and data security \n\nissues. Companies will be less able to control communications enabled through social computing, both internally and \n\nexternally. And there will still be a learning curve for workers used to communicating in specific ways.\n\nWainhouse Research analyst David Dines says user issues will be the hardest challenge for CIOs in companies that are adopting \n\nsocial networking tools. "What CIOs need to ask themselves is, How are people actually using the wiki?" he says. "What kind \n\nof employee structures and policies do we have in place to encourage the proper use of these tools?"\n\nStill, analysts are optimistic about the marriage of social computing and KM. Dines says that in 2007, enterprise sales of \n\ntools like Liveworld, SocialText and Mzinga, which offer ways to build customer and internal communities, and wikis, \n\nrespectively, reached $200 million. IDC, meanwhile, projects that social networking will be a $1.3 billion market by 2012.\n\nWhat seems clear is that social networking tools are poised to help businesses cut through the maelstrom of information and \n\nimprove how workers share knowledge. Dines says these tools will streamline how workers research projects, form teams and \n\nshare knowledge. His prediction: "Pretty soon you'll see people say LinkedIn and Facebook are interesting, but look at what \n\nwe've got internally."