Chief Un-Silo Officer – please stand up!

By Poul Hebsgaard posted 07-01-2010 15:02



I “borrowed” this headline from a twitter entry by Sameer Patel (Sameer Patel (@SameerPatel) 6/29/10 3:11 PM - When you locate the organizations Chief Un-Silo Officer, please let me know #e20 #CIO.).

Sameer is being a bit cynical maybe but it captures the essence of many of the discussions I have had, since the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston earlier this month, centered around two questions:

  • Will E20 solutions continue to evolve as mainly stand-alone solutions or become an integrated part of the business process toolset knowledge workers use to get their work done?
  • Will Enterprise 2.0 change corporate culture or reinvent the silos?

I think the answers to both questions are a resounding YES!

We will continue to see stand-alone solutions but I am convinced E20 solutions will be dominated by the solutions that provide transparent social media functionality in the context of business processes. Integration will be king!

People will adopt E20 solutions because it will help them in their work performance and resist adoption if the E20 solutions are seen as separate tasks divorced from their work processes.

Without a process context for knowledge sharing I think we will see what many refer to as the 90%-9%-1% rule: 90% will be passive consumers of information, 9% will be fence sitters and contribute on occasion when it is to their benefit and 1% will be frequent contributors of content.

Bertran Duperrin raises (and answers) the question “Are employees content producers? NO!”. He points out:

  • “People emit and share information out of necessity, not because they have a container to fill.”
  • “Employees are not and should not be content producers. They are people with a job to do and, even if communication is a part of everybody’s job, it should happen because of a given context and the added value of communicating, not because there are spaces to fill.”

Nick Milton is describing issues concerning failed knowledge management:

“In knowledge management, we could talk about "lost knowledge incidents" (LKIs). This is where the knowledge is or was once available to the organization, but failed to reach the person who needed to act upon it. Unfortunately a lost knowledge incident is far less visible than a lost time incident. An LTI is visible because a person is not available for work. An LKI is only visible when a mistake is repeated or a capability lost. Probably the majority of LKIs go undetected.

So how does an LKI happen?

  • It can happen when somebody has knowledge, but doesn't want to pass it on. This is a cultural failure.
  • It can happen when somebody has knowledge, but has no mechanism to pass it on. This is a failure of the KM framework (and by Knowledge Management framework, I mean the combination of people, process, technology and governance).
  • It can happen when somebody has knowledge and has passed it on, but that knowledge cannot be found. This is also a failure of the framework.
  • It can happen when somebody needs knowledge, and has the mechanism to find it, but doesn't know that they should look. This I would suggest is also a failure of the framework, because there should be processes for knowledge seeking built into activity.
  • It can happen when somebody needs knowledge, and has the mechanism to find it, but they don't want to look for it or don't want to consider it. This is a cultural failure, often known as "not invented here".”

This leads me to what I have observed about the lack of effective knowledge sharing between corporate silos.

For the last 20+ years we have seen a steady improvement in the quality of legacy systems like ERP, CRM and HR systems. These systems manage structured information.

For a consulting firm that includes these aspects of project execution: timesheet, expense reports, project budgets, work-in-progress, resource scheduling, skills matrix, billing, receivables, payables, general ledger, revenue recognition, etc... The corporate entities (“silos”) of Practice Group, Accounting, Legal, Sales and Marketing, HR, PMO Office are all involved in monitoring and approving elements of this structured process along a timeline.

Project scope management is most often where the wheels come off.

The project scope attempts to define the product or service to be delivered to the client and is part of a legal contract. However, rarely is the scope description so precise that it cannot be subject to interpretation and will most often change as the project progresses. Even with contractual milestones, deadlines, steering committee and review boards meetings, project scope changes often fall through the cracks.

Often a project leader lets a scope change slip through because he/she wants to be buddies with the client, or it is used as a bargaining chip to win an argument about a delivery item being disputed by the client, or any of a number of other reasons.

Changes to the project scope affect project timeline, resource allocation as well as cost and should result in an addendum to the contract reflecting the new situation.

This will involve many of the “corporate silos”: Legal, Accounting, Sales (commission!), PMO office, Practice group(s), possibly HR and others.

Enterprise 2.0 solutions integrated with existing legacy systems can play a big role in facilitating a more transparent informal collaboration between these corporate silos to achieve better business results!

#CRM #KM #E20 #BPM #ERP #Gov20 #HR #Enterprise20 #ERM #CIO #compliance #privacy