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From Intranet to Net-Work: The Rise of the Digital Bridge Builder

As an intranet professional, your career is about collaboration: Of systems and processes, not just people. The web is a network and those who thrive on the web network, connect and collaborate. It’s the same with the intra-net, where the lines are increasingly blurred between what is "internal" and what is "external." 

Organization and system silos will seriously hinder our ability to be collaborative, productive and innovative. In 2013, CFO.com published a study which had asked finance professionals to comment on the following statement. “The financial data provided by operating units and subsidiaries at my company is highly accurate, requiring little correction or manual intervention.” For those whose organizations had separate systems linked by manual processes, only 26 percent agreed. For those with well integrated systems, 82 percent agreed.

The culture of silos will hurt all data and information. It will lead to duplication, confusion, inaccuracy, slowness, incomplete information. It will become a significant drain on resources as employees waste their time navigating through many systems with different interfaces.

In this year’s World Cup, Portugal had Ronaldo, Argentina had Messi, Brazil had Neymar, Uruguay had Suarez, while Germany had a team. Organizations often excel at creating teams that work well within individual silos but perform poorly when it comes to creating effective cross-silo teams.

Systems are often an even bigger problem. Search within most organizations is truly terrible. The "main" search engine only indexes a fraction of organizational content, while there are often multiple other search engines dotted around the silos. Search needs to be managed across silos on an organization-wide basis.

It’s not practical to think that organizational silos will disappear. Technology silo systems will not disappear either. The magical single system that brings everything together is rarely a practical solution either.

In fact, we don’t need single systems if we can create a common interface and a common language. To do this you need to be a bridge builder and you will need to build two types of bridges.

Firstly, you need to link up the silos in a logical and intuitive way. The silos can still exist underneath, but on the surface customers need a common, easy-to-use interface. On the network, the interface (look and feel) is the system, the interface is the organization. The interface has no particular place. It exists in the network and connects the employee wherever they need to do work, whether in the office, on the road, or at home. It doesn’t need to belong to one software system or technology.

Secondly, you need to build bridges between people from different silos. Your most important work here will be to convince management to create shared metric objectives across silos, and a shared language for how you organize things. (A common information architecture.)

Right now, performance measurement occurs almost exclusively within organizational silos. Once we build the bridges between silos we must reward those who work across these bridges. That’s the final piece of the jigsaw to get the Net-Work truly humming.

It is doable. It is more than doable. It is essential. And you can be a key driver of this essential change. 

About the Author

Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book is titled The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.

 
 
 
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