Strategy & Decision-making

To technology strategists: how to blend enterprise + business + people?

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in August 2010 ……


The digital workplace (or intranet in some cases) has 3 perspectives:

  • the enterprise,
  • the business,
  • and the individual person.

When I work with global organizations to help them define the business objectives of the intranet, we do it from these 3 angles. The problem is when we push each dimension to its logical conclusion, we end up with a technology dilemma.

What tool or combination of tools can support all 3 dimensions?

Software solutions tend to favor one dimension more than the others. Each dimension has its own fundamental logic.

This post talks about how the traditional CMS favors the enterprise, collaborative software the business angle, and social networking the individual person. This raises fundamental questions about the entry point for the individual user and the governance for the intranet.

The traditional CMS favors the enterprise.

Authorized content publishers are designated throughout the enterprise and trained to use the publishing tool. Even when the publishing approach is highly decentralized, there is a limited number of people who do it.

People are authorized to publish in specific places on the intranet, and must follow enterprise guidelines and CMS tool restrictions/requirements (such as meta data, format, etc.). The org chart of content publishers looks like the pyramid org chart of the enterprise.

In theory, users’ “starting point” is the enterprise home page, which they often click through without really seeing!

Collaborative software favors the business angle.

How many times have we heard stories where business goes straight to IT to provide a solution for their teams. The global intranet team never even hears about it. It is usually discovered (read “uncovered”) when an enterprise intranet project starts.

Why did business go straight to IT? Because the intranet team was either too distant (physically or mentally) or had other things to do (such as managing content publishing on the CMS!).

People’s “starting point” is their own team page, and they rarely or never see what’s published on the enterprise intranet home page.

Social networking software favors the individual person.

The first thing you do is set up your personal page.  You can then connect to others, build your network, join other networks. These solutions are often promoted loudly and strongly by evangelists inside the organization, believers in individual choice, personalization to an extreme.

Individuals are is their own starting points. They then click out to what is relevant to them. Or they may follow or subscribe to what they find useful.

The organization trying to meet all three needs is faced with mixed situations.

  1. The user entry points are different. This impacts what and how content is pushed, pulled, customized, commoditized.
  2. The governance required for each is different. This impacts ownership, quality standards, life cycle requirements.

How do you get the right balance?

All three perspectives are essential. The challenge is how to balance them against each other when selecting software solutions.
My question to technology strategies:

  • How do you bring these complementary but frequently conflicting perspectives together in a way that makes sense for the users?

Food for thought:

Tony Byrne, founder of RealStory Group (previously CMS Watch) ) wrote a low key but hard-hitting post: When infrastructure vendors use niche products for Enterprise 2.0

So, what is your experience? Have you found ways to meet the needs of all three dimensions?