Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Intentional management 20: building a larger shared information commons 1

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 28, 2015

This is my 20th installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-19.)

I focused in Part 19 of this series on the roles that communications and information sharing have to play in any successful business merger or acquisition. And I primarily focused on the need for effective merging of networked information sharing capabilities and business intranets in particular there.

I then stated at the end of that series installment that I would continue my discussion of intranets and particularly of web 2.0 based interactive intranets here, examining some of the key issues that go into:

• Building a larger shared information commons,
• And better facilitating people from what had been one side of an acquisition or from one side of a merger, in finding people with needed skills and experience
• And from both the other side of this business joining, and from their own side of this as well.
• And I added that I would discuss that complex of issues from a human resources availability perspective and from a management perspective, and in terms of developing what amounts to an in-house consultant placement capability for matching personnel and their skills, with needs they can effectively address, but without causing avoidable harm to the business processes and task completion efforts that these personnel would normally be focusing on in their more day-to-day work.
• And with that, I stated that I would introduce and at least begin to discuss contextual management.

The above five point list covers way too much ground to address in any one posting so I will begin it here and continue it in a next installment after this. And I start this posting’s discussion with the concept of the information commons, and particularly as this type of shared resource is shaped by an interactive online, social media driven context.

An information commons is often thought of as a shared resource for producing, organizing, conserving and preserving information, and often in a variety of forms. These are all valid and even essential elements of such an enterprise, but for purposes of this discussion I would focus at least here on one other defining element. An information commons, and certainly an interactive online one, is also a resource for validating information held as to its accuracy and completeness and for its current relevancy. Validation in this wider sense is a multifaceted endeavor and in an information commons context it becomes an organizational community-wide, shared responsibility.

• An interactive intranet is, or at least can be an online information commons that is jointly maintained for its content by both the owning business, and by its co-contributing and participating employees and managers.

On the business side this is a general resource that can serve as a repository for sharing business vetted information, current versions of forms and other documents that would be needed in conducting work process. And from this business perspective it would also house more specialized and even access-restricted information resources as well that the various functional areas of that business and their leadership would see as being of importance and relevance. And at the same time this type of resource, from an owning business perspective, can be used to help everyone at that organization to identify outdated and obsolete forms and other documents so they can better keep their work performance aligned with and supportive of current business practices.

On an individual employee and manager level this same type of resource can also allow and support a tremendously wide range of more individual and small group oriented business conversation too, where for example small work groups, and even ones with geographically distant members can share draft documents and online chat. And if this intranet supports online business social networking as well as supporting cloud based document and online chat and messaging capabilities, it can also support skills and experience information sharing, and work availability sharing too. This means managers being able to find the people they need in-house and even if they are primarily working in a completely different area of the business. It means managers and non-managerial employees can find the people they need to find in order to gain the information and insight they need to do their jobs, and even when their work would cross over into that of other parts of their business. This means employees being able to work in their primary work teams and with their direct supervising manager, but with at least a potential created for them to contribute to other business efforts as well, at least on an approved per-task basis. And cutting ahead in this discussion, that is where in-house consulting enters this picture, and both for finding potential in-house consultants that would be able to offer significant value, and for helping people who would like that type of work assignment to be able to find it.

• If this applies within a single, large and perhaps widely geographically dispersed business – which it does, it applies with even greater impact when businesses combine, and whether through mergers or acquisitions.

Let’s examine that through the lens of a particular working context where effective information sharing would be crucial. And for this example it does not matter whether the two businesses that come together do so through merger or acquisition processes: only that they do. And I refer to them here as A-corp and B-corp.

• A-corp and B-corp join into a single larger business for a variety of reasons but one of them is that they have complementary strengths and weaknesses, with each offering the other a suite of resources that would help fill gaps where the other is less effective and less competitively capable.
• This holds at the overall business level for the value that could be developed from merging capital assets, proprietary business intelligence and other overall business resources. And it also holds for the merging of workforces where each has areas of strength in depth for skills and experience expertise, where the other has traditionally been weaker.
• And that personnel-level arena: one of the key areas where combining these businesses can lead to greater overall combined strength and real synergy, is what I address here.
• The people of the A-corp side to this business joining do not in general know, or know about anyone individually from the B-corp side of it, with the possible exception of what ever they might have read or seen in the news about the senior management of these two businesses, as they entered into this agreement.
• But if they are to make effective use of this combining of staffing and of skills and experience held, they need to be able to find people from what to them has been the terra incognita of what was that completely separate business. And they have to be able to accomplish this smoothly and efficiently in the face of the fact that both of these now joined businesses always used, and had only known very different systems of processes for finding and working with fellow employees than each other. And any efforts to find right-fit employees would have to be done across what had been more than just simple lines on a table of organization. And there would be barriers in the newly combined table of organization, and even just within single now-combined departments. Different processes have been followed on each side with different paperwork and different reporting and approvals processes and with different oversight processes that are carried out by different people too – who the people from the other side of this business joining do not know either.
• Basically, I am setting up a scenario in which a very wide range of resources of the type that an interactive intranet might hold, would have to be visible and coordinated across what was the A-corp/B-corp dividing line. Obviously this means building a combined social networking capability where people can post on this intranet about who they are and what they do and can do. This just as obviously means provision of shared new larger company-wide document sharing and other interactive capabilities, and tools for assembling online groups, and for vetting them were approval would be needed. But this also means developing this new larger intranet with a goal of identifying and reconciling disconnects as for example arise where people from different sides to this new larger company follow different processes and use different forms, for accomplishing what are at least ostensibly the exact same things.
• And with that, I return to the top of this discussion of the information commons, and to my highlighting the sharing of information and validating information held as to its accuracy and completeness and its current relevancy.
• Employee profiles and other information that would help people from throughout this now combined larger business to find the experience and expertise they need and in-house, in order to complete larger complex but even vitally important tasks, are part of this. And on the information validation side, consider those online and paper printed forms, and I will add the processes that they are intended to service.
• Making a merger or acquisition work is largely a matter of knowing what to allow to remain locally distinctive for each of what had been A-corp and B-corp, and what has to be reconciled and combined under a commonly adhered to standard and approach. An effective interactive online information commons can be one of the most effective and powerful tools for both identifying points of difference and of friction from that, and for helping to determine which of these two approaches would make the most sense for the now combined business as a whole.
• And this type of information commons is not a static use-once resource for this type of business process and resource alignment. It can and should be used dynamically as the balance of “keep as is and distinctive”, and “combine and reconcile into a company-wide standard” is certain to change, and both from pressures coming from within the combined business and from pressures coming from its larger marketplace and industry contexts.

I have at least started discussing the first three points of my to-address list at the top of this posting and have partly touched upon the fourth of them as well, and particularly with regard to in-house consulting. I will continue this posting’s discussion in a next installment, focusing on the last of those points and going into greater detail where I have only begun addressing them here:

• Analyzing the first three points of my to-address list (above), and their consequences and implications from a human resources availability perspective and from a management perspective,
• And in terms of developing what amounts to an in-house consultant placement capability for matching personnel and their skills with needs they can effectively address, but without causing avoidable harm to the business processes and task completion efforts that these personnel would normally be focusing on in their more day-to-day work.
• And at least beginning to discuss contextual management.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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