IT: Breaking Business Unit Barriers with Collaboration Tools?

From OpenSF

In a late-2007 management audit of San Francisco’s technology department, the City’s budget analyst recommended that the City’s tech oversight body, the Committee on Information Technology (COIT), “create communications tools for information technology managers to communicate more effectively with each other.” The report also directed a similar recommendation to the technology department: “Establish sharing channels for information technology and other department staff so that project ideas, success stories, and challenges are shared within and across departments.”

During the audit process, COIT implemented a public website and parallel intranet site with information about its meetings and key initiatives, including a fairly robust document trove. E-mail lists also connect IT managers and stakeholders in various programs. However, San Francisco, like many large governments and corporations, still faces significant hurdles in breaking down information and organizational silos and generating participation and buy in across departments and budget cycles for major initiatives. A largely decentralized IT structure across more than 50 business units makes strategic planning and multi-departmental projects especially challenging.

Many cities and governments – including San Francisco – have seen great success in public-facing social media, and I’ve heard many success stories of agencies using internal social and collaboration tools for improving their workflows. However, I’m interested in learning more about how governments and enterprises have succeeded (or failed) in efforts to break down barriers between business units. I’ve examined tools like wikis, Ning groups, Newsgator/Sharepoint, and Yammer. If you are using any of these – or other tools – for breaking down organizational barriers and effectively working between departments, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

What are the cultural barriers and how have you addressed them? Did you run a pilot, or go full bore? Please share your war stories.

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