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Staff members’ digital identities underpin everything they do in today’s organisations. The ‘digital workplace’ is centred around staff profiles that show who staff are, what they are doing, their skills and expertise, and who they are connected to.
As the richness of interaction, communication and collaboration grows, so does the importance of the staff profile as a central hub. This leads to the following statement:
There must be only one staff profile in the digital workplace.
Unfortunately most organisations are some way off this simple vision, and the situation is potentially getting worse not better.
A legacy of confusion
As business systems have gone online within organisations, a profusion of separate staff profiles has often been created, such as:
- web-based staff directory as part of the corporate intranet
- separate staff profile within the HR system
- staff details within Outlook and Exchange
- additional staff profiles within e-learning systems, and other web-based tools
- staff profiles within earlier intranet tools, not yet turned off, such as Notes
- local staff listings and phone books within individual regions, offices and teams
While some of these systems are integrated behind the scenes, many are not. This results in outdated information, inconsistencies between systems, and confusion about where to go to get staff details.
The deployment of unifying elements, such as Active Directory or LDAP has helped, by coordinating information between systems, and eliminating some legacy directories.
The quality of information within the directories often remains a challenge, however, as discussed in the previous article Clean up your LDAP or Active Directory.
New tools, new identities
Many new collaboration and social tools are entering organisations, bringing valuable new capabilities and features. Unfortunately they are also creating yet more staff profiles:
Externally hosted collaboration tools, in many cases, expect staff to manually enter their user details. Some stand-alone collaboration environments contain their own staff profiles and details. These multiple profiles can present very different views of staff identity and activity, even when they use the same Active Directory back end.
The end result can be a staff profile on the intranet that contains basic details, another staff profile in the microblogging tool, and a third identity in team spaces.
The pace of adoption for new tools has only made this worse, bringing in new capabilities faster than they can be cleanly integrated into existing systems.
One staff profile to rule them all
The vision of the digital workplace will not be realised if this confusion is allowed to grow, and concrete steps must be taken to deliver a single over-arching staff profile across all systems and interactions.
There are three approaches organisations can take:
- Best approach: establish a single authoritative staff directory, potentially independent of any particular system, and require all tools to integrate directly with that.
- Next best: ensure all new tools allow details on user activities to be drawn out, enabling custom integration in a central staff directory.
- Minimum level: mandate that all new tools, whether in-house or hosted, connect seamlessly with Active Directory or LDAP.
There are already great examplars to follow when designing a single cohesive staff profile, as explored in the previous article Putting people at the centre: social staff directories.