Creating an environment for fluid information transfer requires overcoming the fragmentation of information systems.
Your internal applications, tools and systems silo information. Unfortunately for many organizations, this information technology fragmentation is compensated by an overload of meetings and messages. There are better ways to solve information transfer.
To develop internal communication that strengthens information transfer, start by asking these questions:
- What systems are each team using to communicate?
- How do people communicate horizontally across multiple teams?
- Where does information get stored?
- How do employees search for information?
If the answers to these questions generate a list of applications, then your organization has a fragmentation problem. Fragmentation means information is getting siloed inside multiple systems. This is hard to avoid because often a certain team needs a specific tool (for instance the sales team needs a CRM or the customer support team needs a helpdesk).
After assessing your organization’s systems, try to map how they are networked to understand how information flows.
For decades, email sat at the center of internal communication. Email inboxes were complimented by announcement feeds (think SharePoint) and information flowed fairly well even across large organizations with the exception of version control. Everyone saved information locally or on a single server. This made it hard to collaborate because of version control. The advent of the cloud dramatically improved work collaboration. Version control was solved as multiple people could work on the same document and see the other’s changes in real-time. File and document management was reinvented as systems like DropBox ushered in the era of cloud storage. People could now email a link to the cloud file instead of attaching the file. As video conferencing and instant messaging have rocketed in usage, one might assume we are working in the golden age of efficient internal communication. Think again.
No one gets trained how to share information. Everyone learns through osmosis — an unconscious knowledge transfer where one person develops habits based on the behavior of others. This pertains to actions like composing an email and how to transfer a file. Bad habits related to sharing a file is an example of where modern internal communication breaks down.
Imagine a colleague with the habit of dragging a cloud-based file into an application like Slack or Microsoft Teams. They think they are doing a service by providing the file to their colleague. The mistake here is that this person should share the link to the cloud file management system where the file resides. By sharing the actual file, there is now a version control issue. When there’s several colleagues in the organization performing this habit, you will have file versions sitting in messaging systems, email systems, ticketing systems (like project management tools) and all sorts of places, plus of course the one place it should live all along: the file management system. When the next colleague needs to find this file, depending where they begin their search who knows which version they will discover. After frustration builds through the wasted search efforts, colleagues begin messaging each other asking where the latest file sits. The messaging noise further frustrates more colleagues.
Now a vicious cycle undermines productivity. Worse, the morale of the entire organization suffers. This is one way work culture crumbles. Ineffective information transfer develops distraction, wasted effort and eventually apathy.
The solution for fragmentation systems wrecking internal communication and information transfer is not to eliminate the systems each team depends on. Rather focus on what’s critical is to bridge the systems so that information transfers efficiently and effectively. And this does not mean your organization needs more meetings.
Consider four systems that connect your information:
- Use one centralized internal messaging system (like Slack or Microsoft Teams) and equip this system with messaging etiquette training and automation through 3rd party application integrations.
- Leverage a cloud-based file management system (like DropBox, Box, Google Drive or OneDrive) with file management etiquette training.
- Add an information transfer system that sits on top of any other system (like GetCommit) to enable employees to capture important information into shared, cloud-based repositories. These types of systems solve the issue of siloed information stuck inside fragmented tools.
- Find a meta search tool that scans for information and files across your applications (like Command E). If you have ever tried to search for something inside Slack or Google Drive, then you will appreciate what an improved search experience can do for your teams.
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