Following significant IT investment over the last decade, HR professionals are increasingly grappling with the challenge of breaking down the information and organisational silos that have emerged. Contributor Bob Dunn, Associate Vice President, APAC and EMEA – Hyland.
With individual parts of the business often pursuing a strategy of ’best of breed’ functional systems, technology islands have been allowed to emerge, with the focus on collaboration between departments often playing a secondary role.
Now, digital transformation is forcing businesses to rethink their strategies, not just in IT, but across the entire organisation, to create a more collaborative approach. Effectively, there is a growing realisation that the entire information ecosystem has to support the greater demands of its internal and external customers.
Whereas ten years ago the primary cause for disjointed IT was the existence of outdated legacy systems, now it is the advent of hosted independently-sourced solutions that is driving compartmentalisation across the IT landscape. With the funding sometimes coming out of operational, rather than capital, expenditure, departmental heads have empowered themselves to take the matter of updating their processes and software into their own hands.
This narrow-minded piecemeal approach will return to haunt organisations across most sectors in the years to come if the issue is not addressed on a company-wide basis. HR departments in particular, at the very heart of the organisation, face a nightmare scenario if information about employees cannot easily be accessed across the organisation.
With regulation on both data and employment increasing, significant risks loom for those unable to access reliable, up-to-date facts, as and when they need them. If employee data is stored separately by each department that uses it, the numerous versions that a company possesses can gradually digress. At the very least, such a situation is highly inefficient from a business perspective and an obstacle to good employee relations. It also represents a security risk.
Therefore, as digital transformation is helping businesses to address individual operational problems, the time has come to reassess the approach and ensure that the entire information ecosystem is supporting the greater demands of internal and external customers. Executive leadership must acknowledge that digitisation alone will not enhance information flow, innovation and productivity, unless there is a clear enterprise strategy to ensure information is made available and can be freely interchanged. Without this, content fragmentation is likely to accelerate, creating further challenges to aggregating, connecting and managing the flow of digital content.
One approach is to encourage departments to first seek a solution to any IT need they have from one of a family of trusted providers. In this scenario, it is crucial to work with partners who are committed to ensuring the best for your company: suppliers should be happy to recommend a friend from the trusted business family, where they feel that their rival can provide a more suitable product.
This ’friends and family’ approach encourages supplier firms to work together on inter-operability and connectivity issues, and to adapt their own products, where necessary, to ensure a solution that is both bespoke and easily integrated into a wider corporate system. With such an approach, the momentum is towards further integration, not divergence, as each new application is added.
However, even with such practices, institutions of any size can end up running hundreds of applications. It is essential to link those data repositories and ensure that they are accessible to all potential users, with as much ease as possible. This can be accomplished with an enterprise information hub: a unified information platform, which facilitates an end-to-end view of the organisation’s entire ecosystem.
An enterprise information hub can effectively aggregate, connect and manage the flow of digital content including structured and unstructured data such as presentations, spreadsheets, and social media data formats: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn; audio and video files, photos, CVs; training records, health information, surveys and progress updates; all can be held securely in a way that is accessible across the organisation’s entire business ecosystem.
Far from representing a security risk, such a hub is an important step towards meeting data obligations and safeguarding employee details by allowing secure access to individuals with suitable permissions, on an enterprise-wide basis.
Solutions promoting IT integration and divergence – and the adoption of an enterprise hub in particular – will have to be agreed at board level. However, even in C-suites that include a chief technology officer, this is an area in which HR must play a leading role. It is too important for the organisation and its employees not to.