Working at SRI International, which develops a wide variety of advanced technology for defense and other applications, I was able to find subject-matter experts on just about any topic, from computer-aided software engineering to sound-canceling walls to fuel cells. I found the experts either by walking around the hallways of the huge facility where I worked or asking co-workers how to find the right person to answer a specific question.But how do you find a subject-matter expert if you work at a geographically distributed company or if you\u2019re self-employed?One of the more interesting ways to accomplish this is through the integration of presence technology, such as that in an IM application, with an enterprise directory. For example, let\u2019s say a corporate directory contains all of the usual information about employees, such as name, contact information, the access allowed to corporate systems, and so forth.However, that directory could also be populated with information about the specific expertise and experience of each employee, in a sort of freeform database.If the directory contained information about which employees had dealt with each client\u2019s employees, say, you could query the directory through your IM client to find the information you needed. For example, if you received a voicemail from Sally Smith at XYZ Company, you could query the directory and find people that were available right now that had dealt with Sally Smith in the past. They might be able to impart valuable information about their past dealings with her, her views on your company, what subjects to avoid, and other valuable intelligence that it might take you several meetings with her to find out on your own.There are a few systems that offer this type of capability now, but it is largely underutilized in most enterprises.The advantages are clear. The technology provides an access medium to time-sensitive intelligence that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain in a timely manner, particularly if people with this information aren\u2019t in the cubicle next to yours. For those organizations that have already deployed an IM system and an enterprise directory, the integration of these systems could provide valuable synergy between expensive parts of the corporate infrastructure. For those organizations that believe that all IM is good for is for employees to set up lunch appointments or check on their kids after school, this type of system provides justification for the deployment of instant messaging.