Strategy & Decision-making

Silo-busting & customization in the digital workplace

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in January 2011 ……


Silos are a reality in nearly all organizations. Seventy-five percent of the 440 organizations in the Global Intranet Trends survey say that their main silos are those represented by employee functions such as HR, communications and IT.

Silos are behind much of the difficulty in achieving a coherent digital workplace from an employee viewpoint. Different stakeholders have different sites and approaches; lack of overall coordination is not unusual.


Automated customization of the common entry point into the digital workplace (= the home page) correlates to fewer silos in the enterprise:

  • The “employee support silos” drops from 75% to 58% when half or more of the content on the common entry page is customized in an automated way.
  • The “collaborative space silos” drops from 43 % to 30 %.

Obviously, the question is: do the “less silo’ed” enterprises  also have more automated customization? Or does  customization somehow help breakdown the silos? My guess is the second. I’ll explain why.

Defining a customization strategy triggers new, difficult conversations

I have run workshops in many complex, multi-stakeholder organizations where the objective was to define a customization strategy for the entry page. The workshops are sometimes tough going because, in many cases, they trigger conversations between employee support functions that have never before worked together on a shared project.

Forcing stakeholders to apply “user logic” eases the conflicts of interest

Communication stakeholders will have different priorities than HR or business stakeholders when it comes to what they think is important for the home page. And vice versa. The way through the disagreements and conflicts of interest is to force a focus on the user. What is logical for the user? I’ve seen stakeholders’ mouths drop open in astonishment as they observe card-sorting exercises with users. (That’s always a lot of fun!)

Individual personalization, waiting for social media?

Interestingly, individual personalization also correlates with a drop in employee support silos, but increases for collaborative space silos to 47 %, slightly higher than the survey average.

Individual personalization needs more research in general. In spite of the general belief that people do not use it, the leaders enable it more than the others. 14 % enable it for half or more of the content compared to 8 % of the others.

My own take on this is that people will start using social media features to individualize their entry pages and overall digital workplace experience once social features are better integrated into intranets.

Geography still separates

Geographical silos are another ballpark all together. It appears that neither automated customization nor individual personalization can be correlated in a significant way.