As a collaboration solution provider, we naturally work with clients who want to improve their internal collaborations. While the solutions they seek differ, the internal challenges they face have many similarities, so much so that we can safely assume that most companies larger than a certain size face those challenges. In a nutshell, internal collaborations do not work in most companies.
We live in a world of constant specialization. Workers often do not know exactly what their immediate colleagues are doing, let alone people from other departments. Cross-team projects are an organizational challenge, and many useful collaborations do not even get to the idea stage. Since everyone works in silos, innovation remains contained and narrow sighted.
Working in silos is the main collaboration issue
We face constant information overflow, but internal information is mostly siloed. A worker can usually ask around for information that is relevant to his or her team or local department, but it is difficult to find information beyond that. Often, it is much easier to find cutting-edge research on the internet than it is to find an updated internal organization chart.
Furthermore, many collaboration software tools are used at the team or department levels throughout the company, which means that instead of employees working better together, they work more and more apart. While information used to be siloed only within business operations tools (ERPs, CRMs, and such), interactions are now also siloed in company ESNs, team project management tools, chats, etc. There are so many tools in which information and collaboration could happen that it ends up not happening anywhere. Serious Insights published an in-depth report on the subject of broken collaboration precisely describing this idea.
Since everyone agrees on the importance of collaboration for business success in the 21st century, the question becomes “How can we fix it?”
Improve internal collaboration with a new-generation intranet
In our opinion, the answer is to build a successful intranet. That sounds deceptively simple and a lot like old news. Intranets have been around for years now without solving collaboration issues (obviously). That is where the vocabulary is deceptive. Like every other software solution, intranets have evolved from top-down corporate communication websites for employees to employee-centered digital workplaces.
A new-generation intranet can be a hub for information, people, and technology. In one place, employees can search and access the company’s knowledge base and retrieve personal information that is relevant to them. They can search for people and interact with them. They benefit from a unified notification stream from all their applications that they can access from a single entry point. They have at their disposal a rich set of collaboration features to get things done. Basically, instead of deciding where to go for each task, information search, and use case, everyone goes to one place.
In practice, achieving the total integration of all tools and systems into the company intranet is a costly project that rarely gets completed. The good news is that you do not need to include everything to get results. Usually, you only need a limited number of critical applications and information sources to feed into your intranet.
There is a chicken-and-egg phenomenon going on here. The key to intranet usefulness lies in the number of people who use it for work. If the intranet is yet another siloed tool that employees need to go to, it will quickly be forgotten. For the platform to bring value to employees, it needs to contain enough information and applications to be of interest. On the other hand, no amount of technological prowess will help if you under-invest in training and change management. Since budgets are always limited, it is a question of balance.
Many companies are increasingly investing in intranet renewals. If you want to improve your collaborations, do not ignore these critical integrations. They can really make a difference.