In a recent post to the Fast Forward Blog, Paula Thornton (@rotkapchen) made the perceptive observation that because IT departments have a horizontal reach through organizations (unlike other departments that are vertical in nature) IT is a logical place for enterprise-wide technology initiatives like Enterprise 2.0 to begin:
“IT is one of the few organizations,” Paula writes, “that takes on the battle to find common threads across organizations to weave the horizontal lines of the tapestry that holds the business together.”
Yet Paula points out that having Enterprise 2.0 initiatives begin in IT, because of that department’s wide reach, is, nonetheless, fraught with difficulty because of a clash between how IT typically works and the looser, more organic, ad hoc approaches that help make Enterprise 2.0 work. The culture of IT is a technology culture, the culture of Enterprise 2.0 is a people-centric culture and they can find themselves at odds with one another.
To my mind, the way through this challenge is to forge a partnership between IT and the other department within companies that has a similar enterprise-wide horizontal reach: Human Resources.
Support for this idea comes from research presented by Mike Gotta of The Burton Group at this years Enterprise 2.0 Conference. In his presentation titled “Field Research Study — Social Networking in the Enterprise”, Mike pointed out that his research reveals that in organizations where HR is seen as strategic, Enterprise 2.0 initiatives tend to succeed. In organizations where HR is seen as merely administrative, they tend to struggle or fail.
Why is that? Probably for more reasons than I can articulate in this blog post, but I think certainly one reason is that Enterprise 2.0 initiatives must be fully integrated into the company’s strategic goals to succeed — they can’t be add-ons or afterthoughts. Because HR can be a driving force behind human development strategies within the company and because Enterprise 2.0 is about using technology to connect people and allow them to maximize their potential in pursuit of the company’s goals, there seems to be a natural synergy here: HR can drive the effort to integrate Enterprise 2.0 technologies into the human development strategies of the company and, as a result, contribute significantly to the successful adoption of Enterpise 2.0 tools and to a positive ROI.
In short, then, it is critical for the successful adoption of Enterprise 2.0 that both IT and HR be brought in as strategic partners at the beginning of the planning phases, not relegated to tactical and administrative order takers at the end of the process. Give HR some authority to spell out the human development goals that can be accelerated by the introduction of Enterprise 2.0 tools and by the organic, ad hoc use and development necessary to make them succeed; give IT some authority to help architect the technical solutions that support those goals without undermining the security and stability that IT rightfully sees as its responsibility to ensure.
HR can play a strategic role and influence the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 tools by integrating them into these company initiatives:
- Employee engagement
- Talent management
- Professional development
- Relationship on-boarding (connecting people to expert communities and to senior employees)
- Mitigation of Generation Y issues
- Mitigation of retirement and knowledge loss issues
All of this is easily said, but how easily can it be done? In your experience are IT and HR departments ready to fulfill this more strategic role? Are companies ready to allow them this kind of role?