Technology: The Communication Enabler

Written by Christopher Hunter on January 23, 2018

We talk a lot about collaboration these days. We all want to reap the benefits of what company cross-pollination has to offer. But, how can we build authentic collaboration within our workplace and beyond? How do we go from identifying uncommunicative, silo culture as a general problem, to tackling it within our organizational spaces?

As a systems developer for 10+ years, a manager for about a year, and yes, a huge techy, I have firmly come to believe in the importance of technology for assisting in building bridges and opening communications between people. Communication is the golden ticket to fixing a siloed culture, improving connections, and fostering transparency across an organization. The skills of an IT department or IT consultant can play a crucial role.

One primary example of how problems manifest between silos is when different departments use overlapping and incompatible technologies while still expecting them to work together. Often, departments go out and find a technology that will fix their issue without consulting an IT professional, because IT staff are shut out from the on-goings of the rest of the organization. Also, a lot of technology nowadays needs no IT to set up and only takes a few minutes to be up and running. People want results now, not after the couple of days it takes IT to look it over. An old-school mentality like this ignores the fact that IT is the backbone of your organization in a world where everything requires or connects back to technology. IT departments need to know the entire picture, from top to bottom and back so that they can offer support.

I would highly suggest taking this even further, and say that someone from IT should be part of your leadership team - whether they are a developer, manager or consultant. Leadership teams need someone to bridge the business-IT gap and keep up with the startling advances being made every day. The business understanding IT and IT understanding the business is probably the most significant silo issue that today’s organizations face. I truly believe that the organizations that can remove this silo are the ones that will succeed and prosper in this fast-changing world.

IT has the power to drive widespread cultural change. A culture committed to cross-departmental connection and empowerment can harness this. An IT professional can see a project coming down the line and notice how it might fit together with something in the works elsewhere in the association. We can drop hints to bring silos together. IT departments can be the perfect place to start for this kind of internal networking, because an IT project is very rarely devoted to only one silo.

How this sharing model is executed on a wider level brings us full circle back to the communication issue. Remember, there is no cookie-cutter model for success. Allow people to communicate in the way they want to, because it all comes back to your association’s unique culture and vision as it plays out for each individual. If people don’t like the communication methods you’ve chosen, then they won’t use them.

Define what communication means to you and how you like to communicate. Now do the same for the organization. For some people, an email thread might be enough, while others will prefer face to face interactions. Some people filter their communications better when they have a little more time and can review what they’ve typed (I can say first hand) rather than being required to respond on the spot. Find out people’s preferences, then offer up the tools to facilitate this method of connection. Technology can be instrumental in physical and virtual workplaces, especially applications like Slack, Yammer, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Facebook for Work. These online platforms come cheap and provide user-friendly communication platforms.

Having platforms like these that everyone can tap into comes in handy when information needs to be distributed widely throughout every department. For example, after a board meeting, when decisions have been made and changes are in the works, everyone should be given relevant updates promptly to avoid leaks of misinformation or people being left behind. One collective internal documentation and announcement system keeps everyone on the same page and prevents siloed knowledge-hoarding.

An environment that encourages collaboration and communication can reap many benefits from the all-seeing eye of IT – if the organizational structure lets it.