Interesting blog post: When they leave, what goes with them discussing lost value when an employee leaves the organisation, and how knowledge locked up in email becomes inaccessible without context, even if it doesn’t get deleted. (Robert Scoble comments in his exit interview on how he left behind 1.5Gb of email that will likely be deleted and lost.) The author highlights the hidden cost of lost organisational knowledge and how collaborative tools can provide a more accessible location for storing and sharing expertise long after the original source has left. This has been one of the useful side effects from deploying Microsoft’s Windows SharePoint Services technology (a free add-on to Windows Server 2003 that provides collaboration sites for storing and sharing information). When Microsoft describes how SharePoint has proliferated through the intranet, with over 40,000 sites created, most I.T. managers react in horror at the thought of managing such a viral technology. But its not all bad news. Making it easy for individuals to set up their own sites encourages people to upload useful information that was previously tucked away on private hard drives or hard-to-find network shares. When I left Microsoft, I left behind a couple of SharePoint sites containing all my recent presentations given to customers, other useful material and links to related resources. Because Microsoft had a system in place that requires every site has at least two administrators – the owner plus a back-up – those sites remained accessible after I had gone.

And, as always, there is a non-technology solution for retaining (some) knowledge when its owner leaves the organisation – mentoring, harder to see and measure but easier to spread (given the right culture, never underestimate that particular challenge). Knowledge is inherently difficult to document because of the very context that creates it, but skills and expertise can be passed on person-to-person, enabling others to build their own knowledge pool. When Scoble left behind 1.5Gb of email at Microsoft, I’d question just how much unique value resided in that information store. Scoble’s legacy lives on in those he worked and communicated with – they will continue to grow and improve Channel 9 and blogging. The bigger cost to Microsoft is the lost value from losing such a well-connected and passionate blogger – Scoble may have shared his expertise but that doesn’t necessarily make him easy to replace. Accessing and understanding his email won’t solve that particular problem

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