Finally, British businesses are moving beyond their reliance on legacy technologies. The digital revolution has moved so far, that sitting back is no longer an option: across the land, companies are investing in digital transformation, and because adoption and understanding throughout the workforce are crucial, HR departments are playing a central role. The new breed of digital worker must not be hemmed in by a lack of information.
David Barrett recently highlighted the HR steps required to ensure a seamless digital revolution within a large organisation: training leaders and staff; recruiting digitally knowledgeable talent and building a culture open to change and modern best practice are just as important as actually acquiring and installing technology. The overarching objective of modern digital practice is that it allows a bespoke, tailored approach by departments, workers and customers: this requires that everyone participates to make it work.
What is also needed is a healthy approach to information sharing, and many organisations face barriers to that. These barriers can be cultural, and they can also relate to the technology available.
Why we must share data
There is a growing realisation that the entire information ecosystem within an organisation has to support the greater demands of its internal and external customers. We know information is valuable, but its potential can only be released if it is available to all departments.
In today’s marketplace, the ability of a business to compete is effectively defined by the performance efficiency of knowledge processes and intellectual capital. Attracting and facilitating the right people and expertise makes all the difference, but however digitally capable, entrepreneurial and creative your staff are, they will only be able to operate within the parameters defined by the knowledge available to them.
Often, the vagaries of the knowledge economy mean that you don’t know what you need to know, until someone has used that information to improve a product, fine tune a service or deliver superior customer service performance. These are the actions that in today’s marketplace add up to success or failure – in any industry. Therefore, everything must be shared.
Open is safer than closed
Mention data security in the current climate and people immediately think of firewalls, European data regulations, and the need to protect personal information. But while it is certainly important that organisations treat data with respect and care, the technology is available to do this. Indeed, data is arguably far safer in a system that allows access but provides transparency into who is viewing what, than in an organisation where information sits forgotten within departments, in silos that a core function, such as HR, cannot monitor.
HR departments in particular, at the very heart of the organisation and responsible for the most sensitive personal data, face a nightmare scenario if information about employees cannot easily be accessed across the organisation, and instead is allowed to become fragmented and unreliable.
Therefore, information as well as access need to be safeguarded.
How to safeguard access to data
From a cultural point of view, leaders must acknowledge that digitisation alone will not enhance information flow, innovation and productivity unless there is a clear enterprise strategy to ensure information is made available and can be freely exchanged. Without this, data fragmentation is likely to accelerate, creating further challenges to aggregating, connecting and managing the flow of digital content.
Technologically, it is important to ensure that any IT acquired on a departmental level – as is now commonplace – be compatible with the systems put in place for sharing. One approach is to encourage departments to first seek a solution to any IT need they have from one of a family of trusted providers. This ’friends and family’ approach encourages supplier firms to work together on inter-operability and connectivity issues, and to adapt their own products, where necessary, to ensure a solution that is both bespoke and easily integrated into a wider corporate system.
However, even institutions that use this approach end up running hundreds of applications. It is essential to link those data repositories and ensure that they are accessible to all potential users, securely and with suitable oversight. This can be accomplished with an enterprise information hub: a unified information platform, which facilitates an end-to-end view of the organisation’s entire ecosystem.
Far from representing a security risk, such a hub is an important step towards meeting data obligations and safeguarding employee details, by allowing secure access to individuals with suitable permissions, on an enterprise-wide basis.
Such a system enables access to all data from any given point, to those with the prerequisite access rights. It therefore falls within the HR remit to constantly monitor and adapt those protocols, so that the twin goals of data security and data-driven service and innovation can be met.