WikiOrgCharts uses crowdsourcing to create agency org charts

Wednesday - 11/9/2011, 6:42pm EST

Farhan Memon, CEO, WikiOrgCharts Social Radius

Download mp3

By Michael O'Connell
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

An old-time plan and a new-media technology are uniting to make your life easier, whether you're inside an agency or working outside government and trying to find the right person inside government.

WikiOrgCharts is a working database of all the relevant contacts in an agency, represented through a chart that helps users visualize who exactly they should be talking to.

"Nobody knows what the entire elephant looks like ... but if we pool our knowledge together we can start to look at the whole," said Farhan Memon, CEO of WikiOrgCharts, in an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose.

The idea for WikiOrgCharts originated when a co-worker of Memon's at America Online put up an organizational chart at a meeting describing who he was in contact with at ATT.

"I thought to myself, that's really useful information and it would be interesting to know how we can update these people collaboratively, how we can share this information, not with the person who created the org chart, but with everybody in the organization," Memon said.

With that idea brewing in his head, Memon had a fortuitous meeting with Aneesh Chopra, the federal chief technical officer, who was speaking at the CTIA 2009 conference.

"I came up to him afterwards and said 'You know, I'm working on this idea called WikiOrgCharts,'" Memon said. "And before I could even finish, he said 'We need one of those.'"

Chopra described how the Executive Office didn't have a centralized org chart of every agency because each agency used its own technology to create its own org chart. Some agencies used pdfs, while others used Visio.

"If you created something like this it would be really useful," Chopra said, explaining the President's office had an open data policy, and he could provide Memon with data about federal employees who didn't work in classified areas. Memon took that data and created org charts for the Executive Office.

WikiOrgCharts.com's database contains the names, titles and, in most cases, the e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of 1.2 million federal employees. "These aren't U.S. postal workers and they aren't people who work in the national security apparatus of our country," Memon said.

By visiting the website's federal government area, anyone can look up information about the top tier of an agency. Federal employees who are interested in adding their name and information to an agency org chart can do so once they've registered on the website. "The community or the crowd can together start building the org chart of a particular agency," Memon said.

In the past, publishers like Bloomberg and Carroll have compiled similar org charts, which they've sold at a premium. Now, through WikiOrgCharts, that same information is being crowd-sourced and made available for free.

"We're not proposing that we will be able to create a completely, 100-percent accurate manifestation of an agency's org chart," Memon said. "But, we think that we can come very close as more and more people start to join WikiOrgCharts and start to put their contacts and their knowledge into our database."