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The information silo break-down

If you've ever been around a farm, this is probably a familiar sight.

It's also the subject of today's Road to Social Knowledge Networks chapter. I like to call it the "silo mentality."

At this content management stage, companies have well-organized information repositories. But each repository is created by individual departments, and thus organized in very different ways.

They use various methods to name, save, sort and categorize documents. These methods vary so much that a worker from one department cannot navigate another department's system to find anything.

And more importantly, because they are organized by department, the silos do not address the common and pressing cross-organizational problems that workers need to solve on a daily basis.

While IT might believe the organization's content management is in good shape, users know they cannot get the information they need due to the organizational barriers. Some companies recognize this, and try to take measures to bridge the divides.

But often, the approach they take only exacerbates the problem. Here's how. Some organizations turn to social technologies to integrate departments and foster collaboration. They might bolt on a mix of tools such as social networks, blogs, and wikis onto their CMS. I refer to this as the "blog on the side" approach.

While the fundamental thinking is on target, the execution is not. When used in isolation, blogs and wikis worsen data management problems by creating additional silos of information that are not aligned with the core information repository.

Data on one topic is strewn about these sites. To find it, workers must search each site individually, a time-consuming process. If they can't find the related data or forget to search for it all together, they end up working with poorer quality information. And the silo mentality continues to rear its ugly head.

Key take-away: When traditional social media tools are added to a CMS environment, they create more silos, not less. The correct approach is a content-centric socialization of the knowledge repository.

Social knowledge networks are not about merely adding blogs and wikis to a CMS. They're about breaking down these silos and sharing what's inside. We'll explore it more next week!

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