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Winning Intranet Strategies: Structured Content and Data Silos

Those of us in the business of building corporate intranets have long battled against people’s tendencies to work in isolation or “silos”. Our goal is to create intranet and collaboration sites where people work in an open and transparent manner, and information is accessible, enabling better decision-making and productivity. Many intranet and collaboration tools such as Wikis, Enterprise Social, and Blogs, support this working approach.

While I still support working transparently and breaking down barriers to communication, this style of working has also resulted in a huge increase in the amount of content that organizations are producing.

Not all data is equal

More data and content can be good, however not all data is created equal. The newly found ease of content creation has led to an enterprise-scale episode of the show “Hoarders”. Look beyond the pristine lobbies of most organizations, and you are likely to see piles of documents and data collecting digital cobwebs. All this content presents some unique challenges:

  1. Data (or content) is duplicated in too many places, there is no single source of truth
  2. Data (or content) is difficult to search or locate
  3. It is difficult or impossible to determine if content is reliable

Do these sound familiar? Then your organization is likely not realizing the full value of your content and data. Here is the impact on your end users:

  • Everyday user: more noise, it is harder to locate the correct content when needed
  • Knowledge manager: more hay to dig through to find the needle in the haystack, in the form of best practices and insights
  • System administrator: more infrastructure, management, and governance requirements

In order to realize the full potential of your content and data, we need to carefully analyze it, understand trends, extract best practices, and socialize organizational knowledge in a structured and logical way.

Protect your content with data silos

In the past, we’ve viewed silos negatively. They meant groups working apart, with little knowledge of what the other was doing. This led to wasted effort and, in some cases, toxic work cultures. But it is time to rethink how we view silos. A physical silo is a tool used to store and protect valuable goods in isolation. Think about the farmer who uses a silo to store his wheat crop. They spend hours separating the wheat from the chaff, discarding what has no value and storing the final product in a silo, until it can be used or brought to market.

Achieve balance with data silos

It is possible to achieve a balance between breaking down organizational silos while benefiting from creating data silos. By adopting what I have termed “SAFE” data habits, you can fully realize the value of open and transparent work styles and collaboration. SAFE stands for Store, Analyze, Frame and Expose. Here is the breakdown of this important acronym:

  • Store – Provide tools and infrastructure that allow your users to store data and collaborate effectively. Platforms and data storage are becoming easier to deploy as a result of more companies moving to cloud based platforms such as Office 365. Store, classify, and properly govern data. Allow useless data to expire and elevate useful data. This Brings us to our next element:
  • Analyze – Data for data’s sake is not a winning strategy, since data alone provides no insights. Systematically review data, extract valuable knowledge, formalize and share it with the rest of the organization. Do not assume that knowledge will spread organically throughout your company. Your employees are wasting time wading through data, attempting to make sense of the chaos. Once you have separated your digital wheat (knowledge) from the chaff (noise), it is time to move to the next step:
  • Frame – Organize data in logical structures that provides business context through categorization and tagging. This elevates valuable data above the noise, proclaiming it officially sanctioned knowledge, best practice, and worth sharing. Now get the data to the people:
  • Expose – Make the data accessible and easy to find for end users by delivering content through portal platforms such as SharePoint Online. Choose platforms that allow you to produce information hierarchies and enable user’s ability to effectively search. This official content is set apart (silo’d) and easily distinguishable from less relevant data.

Realize the potential of your intranet data

Organizations that adopt these practices can expect:

  • Users to find the answers they seek
  • A culture that recognizes and fosters expertise
  • Communities with active and focused collaboration
  • An increase in data-driven decision-making

At Perficient, we build solutions that work within your company culture to deliver measurable results. Our experts have a deep understanding of Office 365 and the digital workplace. We provide consulting services and products that enable your workforce to achieve more. Our award winning Microsoft practice is widely recognized as one of the top in the business. Our Rise intranet service delivers a modern experience for SharePoint Online out of the box. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help your organization practice SAFE data habits.

You can learn more about portal best practices by downloading our recently published guide, “Trends in Intranet Modernization” by clicking here or by filling out the form below.

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