Community of Practice Software

Dedicated Community of Practice Software can include Community Discussion forums and Q&A forums, Yellow Pages, community wikis, community knowledge bases and community blogs.

Discussion forums and Q&A forums are places on the Internet or an intranet where users can post messages for others to read, answer and comment on. Often the discussion is hosted on a website, while users interact through their email system. Various emails or posts are presented as "threads", with each thread being a single topic, and with the posts presented in chronological order.

Discussion forums are for open discussion within a learning community, with discussions often lasting for a long time, and frequently changing focus over time (known as "topic drift"). Q&A forums are specifically for answering questions. An employee can raise a question on a specific topic, and anyone in the community with knowledge or advice to share can answer. Some Q&A forums send the questions only to a group of experts (such as the "Ask Anglo system in AngloAmerican). Others send them to the whole community. Q&A forums are "ask the audience" technology. They can be a lifeline for individuals isolated from their community of practice

Discussion forums are valuable when practitioners around the company are addressing similar issues and wish to have a forum for testing ideas. Q&A forums are valuable when knowledge and experience are distributed around a global learning community, and where members of the community can help, teach or advise each other. They provide rapid access to knowledge and solutions.

A Yellow Pages system is an index of "who knows what" - a knowledge directory for the organisation. It enables you to find people to help you, and to help people find you. It is an easy way to locate anyone working in the business, based on their knowledge and expertise. The system allows you to create your own personal home page, including your contact details, your picture, your CV and links to other information - in fact, anything you want to say about yourself. Yellow Pages can link with information already held about you on other databases, such as the company email directory. Yellow Pages can also create membership lists for communities, and allow you to search for communities as well as individuals.

Communities of Practice can also use Collaboration Software, webinars, video conferences and telephone conferences. These technologies allow the Community of Practice to have virtual meetings and discussions, and to work on common knowledge products.

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