Overcoming silos through online collaboration
the situation
A key growth strategy for this professional services firm was to gain more "share of wallet" through increased cross-selling. This required not only that employees knew what products other lines of business were offering, but that they felt motivated to recommend and refer their clients to other parts of the organization. Long-entrenched silos - as well as a culture that emphasized individual over team performance - were barriers to achieving this. Adjustments to the compensation and performance management programs and the use of inter-departmental presentations helped. But more was needed.
the opportunity
Real cooperation and collaboration between functions required more than knowledge and even financial rewards. It required relationships - where employees knew and understood their colleagues working in other areas of the business. I proposed an online collaboration program, with a focus both on enabling project-based work but also an emphasis on more inter-personal issues where people could truly get to know their colleagues. A robust and dynamic people directory within this platform - one that identified personal interests, office location, physical and online presence, areas of expertise, educational pursuits and the like - would introduce every employee to the entire organization, as a person and not just as a name, phone number, and email address.
The Result
After building a business case and then securing buy-in, I conducted an RFP for a platform. I created a small team to help implement the platform and then support it through marketing, training, help desk services, troubleshooting, and community management support. Taking a crawl-walk-run approach - starting with a pilot and then first creating communities that focused on softer personal interests rather than business processes - we launched the platform, including fully integrating it with the Intranet, analytics, single sign-on, and the people directory database, in six months.​​

Within its first half-year of operations, employees created over 120 communities, most of them created to support the execution projects and to enable cross-functional work. Overall engagement rose. Cross-selling increased. The new matrix structure functioned more smoothly. And most of all, the hierarchical legacy culture gave way to one where employees reported feeling more empowered. When a link on the homepage to the CEO's blog sat next to that of a specialist, a manager, and a director, employees could actually see the flattening of the organization and believed for the first time that ideas and abilities rather than seniority were what now truly mattered.

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