Establishing a Firmwide Q+A Program Using Synthesis

In this article you’ll learn…

5 Benefits of a Q+A Program
3 Key Roles in a Q+A Program
9 Steps to Roll Out a Q+A Program at Your Firm

“If you can teach people to help themselves you get an additive effect: they not only help each other; they grow themselves as experts. Essentially, you have little experts pop up left and right and they sort of grow on their own. Over time, you raise people up from basic competency towards expert level.” — Jack Chaffin, LMN Architects.

Four years ago LMN Architects hired Jack Chaffin to lead the firm’s transition from CAD-based MicroStation to Revit. They knew they had an expert to guide the process because he’d led similar transitions twice before. Jack’s expertise met such a critical need that after a short while, Jack found that “help desk issues were taking up an increasingly larger portion of [his] energy; taking focus away from other strategic activities” related to the transition.

When it comes to this problem, LMN is not alone. According to research published by Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant in HBR, “up to a third of value-added collaborations [in any organization] come from only 3% to 5% of employees.” As a result, often the people who are most in demand (those with the answers) are becoming increasingly over-taxed by the burden of responding to requests for their expertise. The really scary thing is that in most organizations leadership doesn’t even know who their top collaborators are. As many as 50% of an organization’s top collaborators can’t even be identified by the organization.

Enter a Q+A program. Increasingly, we’re seeing more and more firms successfully implement formal Q+A programs inside Synthesis to identify and activate subject matter experts. We’ve learned from firms like LMN, brainstormed what this looks like at previous Synthesis Workshops, and shared some successful programs through our Office Hours webinar series. In this article we’re going to share the benefits of a Q+A program along with some of the roles and steps necessary to roll one out in your firm.

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Introducing Synthesis Search Optimization

Search Optimization is featured in Synthesis 5.2, the latest release of our social intranet for architects and engineers. The goal of Search Optimization is to provide you with the insights and tools you need to realize best in class intranet search.

Analyze Underperforming Terms
Detailed Search Logs and Search Sessions will help you understand why certain search terms perform poorly and provide insights on how to improve them.

Provide the Right Content
Search Log analysis helps take the guesswork out of determining what content your users really want.

Fine Tune Your Search Engine
Best Bets and Synonyms allow you to immediately improve the relevance of your intranet’s search results.

Measure + Benchmark Performance
Search Scores, Testing, Key Stats, and Benchmarking allow you to evaluate your intranet’s search performance.

Are you ready to optimize your intranet’s search?
Synthesis 5.2 is now available. Contact us to get started.

Synthesis 5 Resource Center

Synthesis 5 was our biggest release ever—introducing a redesigned search, renovated profiles, and several enhancements to the stream. In addition, Synthesis 5 is based on SharePoint 2013, which also brings along several new features and enhancements. Because of all of these changes, we have created several resources to help your firm successfully upgrade to Synthesis 5. This article brings them all together in one place.

Webinar Recording :: What’s New in Synthesis 5 and SharePoint 2013

Susan Strom, Chad Parsons, and Christopher Parsons led this webinar on June 25th, 2015, which introduces both Synthesis 5 and SharePoint 2013 in detail.

New KA Support Articles

What’s New in Synthesis 5 – A detailed overview of new features and product enhancements in Synthesis 5.

Search Overview + Documentation – Detailed documentation of the new Search Engine we introduced in Synthesis 5. If you are wondering what data sources Synthesis searches or how Synthesis ranks content in search results, this is the article for you.

Search Operators – Synthesis Search contains common Search Operators for manipulating and narrowing down search results such as wildcards, exact terms, and Boolean operators like AND, NOT, and OR.

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Announcing the Synthesis Mobile Share Extension for iPhone

Our new Share Extension makes it easy to share photos and links on Synthesis Mobile from common iPhone apps like Camera and Safari.

This video provides step-by-step instructions for enabling the Share Extension as well as examples of using it to post a photo and share a link.

The Synthesis Mobile Share Extension is available in Synthesis Mobile 3.1 (the version currently in the App Store) and requires iOS 8.1 or higher.

Office Hours Recap :: February 2015

In addition to community and product news with Chris and Susan, Intranet Champions Zoe Sanderson and Whitney Welxer gave us a tour of Ballinger’s Synthesis Intranet, Bhive.

If you only have a few minutes, we recommend jumping to 1:50 for information about the upcoming AEC Knowledge Management Survey and 11:30 for the Intranet Tour.

February 2015 Topics

1:15 Introducing the AEC Knowledge Management Survey

3:55 KA Connect: Registration and Program Information for KA Connect 2015

5:45 KA Advance: Questions from the KA Advance LinkedIn Group

8:20 Synthesis 5 Update

11:30 Intranet Tour: Bhive at Ballinger

17:55 What do the Interiors Community Managers do on a daily basis? What makes them Community Managers and not just community members?

26:15 How did you come up with the Idea Center Community?

27:35 What’s next? What will you be working on in the next few months with Bhive?

29:20 What do you focus on in 1:1 training sessions?

Next Office Hours on March 26

Registration is now open for the next KA Advance Office Hours on March 26th at 11 AM PST.

Behind the Scenes: How DLR Group Drove a Professional Development Grant Program Using Synthesis

DLR Group PDG Winners

The culture of knowledge sharing at DLR Group goes back over a decade. In fact, it was 2006 when the firm launched its most high profile peer-to-peer network — DLR University (DLRU). Hosted at the IslandWood center on Bainbridge Island, just outside Seattle, DLRU brings together the firm’s senior leaders with rising stars and younger staff for three days of face-to-face knowledge sharing, learning and team-building.

I had the pleasure of experiencing DLRU first hand in August of 2012. The theme of that event was Technology + Innovation. I was asked to share my thoughts on the state of technology-driven knowledge sharing and introduce the firm to our concept of The Connected Practice. In addition to speaking, I stayed for the entire event and I was able to participate in the social activities which make DLRU work — small breakout sessions, walks in the woods, communal meals, and small group report outs.

From the moment I stepped foot on IslandWood, it was obvious to me that DLRU was about connecting the firm across offices and disciplines long before we started using the term Connected Practice. Over the years, DLRU has served as an incubator of sorts for a wide range of innovative ideas and has become a “sought after ticket” for individuals across the firm. To date, over 350 people have participated in DLRU.

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Office Hours Recap :: August 2014

Office Hours is 30 minutes of news, announcements, and Q+A with Susan and Chris.

If you only have a few minutes, I’d recommend checking out questions from the KA Advance LinkedIn group at the 6:50 mark and the Synthesis Mobile 3 demo at the 12:20 mark.

August 2014 Topics

0:40 KA Connect News + Highlights

4:50 KA Advance News + Highlights (Questions from the LinkedIn group @ 6:50)

9:45 KA Support News + Highlights

10:45 Synthesis Product Update (Synthesis Mobile 3 demo @ 12:20)

15:35 Are Synthesis analytics coming?

16:55 Will documents appear in the Synthesis Mobile activity stream?

19:10 What makes for a great Community Champion?

23:20 How do Synthesis clients use their project communities?

27:45 What is your advice on breaking through the lulls of activity with an online community?

Next Office Hours on September 25th

Registration is now open for the next KA Advance Office Hours on September 25th at 11 PST.

Save the Date: Fall 2014 Synthesis Workshops

Synthesis Workshops combine short presentations and roundtable discussions.

Our clients share innovative digital and analog approaches to connecting their practices. We share sneak previews of new technology from the lab.

Synthesis Workshops are free of charge and limited to active clients of Knowledge Architecture.


Milwaukee Skyline Milwaukee
October 16, 2014
9am – 5pm
@Eppstein Uhen Architects
New York Skyline New York
November 11, 2014
9am – 5pm
@Steelcase New York
Seattle Skyline Seattle
December 4, 2014
9am – 5pm
@LMN Architects

Synthesis 4.5 Upgrade Resources

This is the recording from today’s “Synthesis 4.5 Overview” client webinar. The webinar is about 30 minutes long and includes a demo of Synthesis 4.5 as well as a Q+A session about this release and beyond.

In addition to the webinar, we have produced the following resources to assist you with your Synthesis 4.5 upgrade:

We’re looking forward to getting all of you upgraded to Synthesis 4.5. Please feel free to send any questions or comments to

Synthesis just got faster.

On November 8th, we’ll be shipping Synthesis 4.4, the latest version of our social intranet for architects and engineers.

If you are currently running Synthesis 4, you’ll be upgraded automatically.

What’s new?

1) Faster Community and Profile Pages

In limited availability testing of Synthesis 4.4, community and profile pages loaded an average of twice as fast as version 4.3.

2) Improved synchronization with Vision, OpenAsset, and Newforma

Prior to Synthesis 4.4, we synchronized with Vision, OpenAsset, and Newforma on a nightly basis. Starting November 4th, Synthesis will synchronize every five minutes.

Yeah, we’re pretty excited about it too.


We’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at