Trends in technology, society, and work converge to create enormous opportunity for businesses to become more effective, efficient, transparent and agile. But navigating the challenges that these emerging trends present demands a willingness to embrace change and a fundamentally different approach to how business gets done.
Technological advances have given us countless new tools to produce content, but they come with specific challenges in the form of information overload. Filter failure is the inability to intelligently manage and reuse this volume of content in a meaningful way, on both a human and a systems level. Individuals are unable to synthesize and understand the vast amounts of information being generated by an organization.
* Tidal Wave Of Data: The problem used to be getting enough information; now it’s being able to make sense of it all. Data comes from shipping pickups and deliveries, factory floor machines, employee logins and logouts, and business travel patterns, not to mention the millions of conversations that happen daily across voice and text channels both real time and asynchronously. As businesses realize that almost all activity and interaction can yield meaningful data, the flow of information overwhelms analysts who try to glean business insight.
* More Noise Than Signal: User-generated content alone already presents too much data for traditional communication approaches to handle – and social media tools are still far from mainstream adoption. At first glance, this level of chatter seems like a good thing, but parsing signal from noise is proving a daunting challenge. For example, spend any time scouring Twitter posts regarding notable brands and it becomes immediately apparent how difficult it can be to find the needle in the haystack of noise.
* Deriving Meaning From Social Activity: Any number of quantitative and qualitative measurements can be applied to social activity in an attempt to intuit meaning and value. But unless these measurements are tied to specific business goals, business will be unable to articulate the success derived from social initiatives. As a result, connections remain fragmented and unoptimized for the current operating environment.
Isolation Vs. Integration
Modern organizations have always struggled to manage internal silos. When pools of knowledge and business processes develop in isolation, the entire organization suffers. As these organizations become more complex and adapt to emerging trends from within and without, sharing and managing knowledge across the business becomes increasingly difficult. Isolation presents concrete challenges to growing, dynamic businesses:
* Disparate Solutions: As organizations apply band-aid technology solutions to address symptoms rather than root causes, they move away from developing a scalable overarching platform that can support the business as it grows. These fragmented solutions grow apart and are expensive to maintain in aggregate. Customer Relationship Management tools have helped companies collect information to better target promotional messaging. Knowledge Management tools have helped organizations better share and aggregate institutional knowledge. But as these systems evolve in isolation, not only do they miss the chance to solve existing problems, they create new ones as well.
* Interactions Aren’t Interconnected: Brands broadcast one-way messaging at consumers through marketing campaigns, while feedback from customers is then handled by customer service, where it often fails to cycle back to relevant departments to create change. Siloed organizations mean that these channels of dialog never become a meaningful discussion in an interconnected ecosystem, just disconnected streams.
* Work Happens Through Handoffs: Despite the revolutionary changes happening to the nature of how we work, an outdated assembly-line approach to production still persists. Modern technologies like workflow systems merely attempt to optimize repeatable processes, rather than applying fresh insight or changing the nature of production itself. People and knowledge are connected in segments instead of as a cohesive, collaborative workforce.
Silos isolate work and information within organizations, creating lots of new, varied and often repetitive processes and pieces of data. Most businesses operate as fragmented ecosystems, where data is captured but held from those who need it, limiting what goals can be accomplished.
New trends, no matter how revolutionary, must still overcome the limitations of the past before becoming fully adopted. In organizations, legacy systems and platforms, cultural elements, and governance requirements all work to limit the willingness to experiment and innovate.
* Information Should Empower: Increased openness and better communication can empower employees of an organization and directly improve results, but managers still fight to retain control. When replicated across a business, this develops into an organizational inertia that can stymie growth.
* The IT / Marketing Disconnect: IT controls the technology infrastructure used to deploy and manage organizational information. Marketing manages the external communications that rely on said infrastructure. Yet these two organizations are often forced to compete for headcount and resources, reducing the ability and willingness to collaborate and improve processes.
* “Us” Vs. “Them.” Competitive strategy drives businesses to hunker down behind the physical walls of an office and the virtual walls of a brand. Customers are seen as “targets” whose participation is limited to handing over money. Competitors are seen as “enemies.” Suppliers are viewed as “necessary evils.” This approach to business may produce short-term results, but at the expense of true collaboration and long-term results – everyone benefits when these relationships are viewed as an ecosystem of related collaborators rather than competing interests.
In order to meet these looming challenges, businesses need to fully understand the legacy structures in place within an organization and determine how to leverage these structures while implementing new processes to improve results.