Picking up the discussion from last Spring’s white paper on silos and organizational barriers to social media adoption, the following list represents the top five silos I’ve encountered in helping scores of organizations adapt (Image: Brick Wall by Zunami). This is not a scientific list, just one based on a single person’s experiences. Please feel free to add to the barriers you have encountered in the comments section.
First, the greatest barrier still remains industrial era organizational structures. In a networked economy, silos tend to resist the free flow of information across the organization and the enterprise’s extended network of stakeholders. Here some ways that resistance manifests itself:
1) CxO Suite - Without executive buy in, cross departmental issues tend to get stymied quickly. Increasingly, executives understand that they need to be engaged in social media, both for customer reasons and for internal morale and engagement. Yet, they seem to want to relegate it to a department or a young staffer, rather than looking at how organizations are using social to transform their businesses and nonprofits to meet the modern era.
As a result, when issues arise, executives seem not to care too much about changing policies so departments work together in a more fluid nature. By its very nature, social media will challenge organizations to collaborate in unthought of ways in a very rapid fashion.
2) PR/Public Affairs – Control, control, control. What a bloody nightmare. A business that was meant to build good relationships between people and instead evolved to controlling the message. Telling them what they want to hear or sticking to your three messages, not the truth, is a common practice.
Now faced with social media, PR practitioners represent the greatest barrier and source of muff-ups that I encounter in social media on a daily basis. Unlearning, untraining, and simply changing the entire business has been extraordinarily difficult for many practitioners. Agencies have a very hard time with this, because in order to be authentic the customer needs to actually communicate as opposed to the media relations representative. This undermines retainer models.
3) IT - Another industry dramatically impacted by social media is IT. A lot of things are faster, cheaper and more efficient now. Changes include integrating in a world of open APIs, evolving security structures to meet peer-to-peer activity, and rapidly evolving databases to allow for cross-pollination across department (sales and marketing/development to PR to customer service to…). It’s such a nightmare that many IT types find it easier to hide behind a policy and say no.
4) Sales and Marketing/Donor Development - This department likes social, so long as it turns into some hard ROI. Understandable, but social represents a relationship driven medium. It requires a balance of patience, and well integrated, soft calls-to-action in order to deliver ROI. Many financially driven managers do not have the patience for the organic nature of this process, and can create errors in an attempt to drive numbers.
5) Legal - Ironically, the group you think would be most difficult is the one that seems to be a lesser evil in the equation. While there are certainly implications to consider, overall, attorneys seem to get that it’s in the organization’s best interests to use social. Many are able to create policies and disclaimers that protect the organization while freeing it to participate. This gets thorny quickly once you get into highly regulated businesses and organizations.