The advances in IT experienced in the corporate world over the last twenty years have transformed the workplace: workflows have been streamlined, workers made more productive and routine tasks have been automated – but this has left a legacy of disjointed technology that must now be addressed. And to succeed, the HR team has a key role to play.

Most corporations introduced technology upgrades on a piecemeal basis. This means that, while individual departments or work areas often have the best possible technology for their specific needs, gulfs have grown between the various systems used within an organisation.

For a core function like HR, this situation is already causing serious problems. They face a major challenge if information about employees cannot easily be accessed across the organisation, or is replicated and altered beyond the control of HR specialists.

The existence of IT or data ’silos’ where information cannot be accessed centrally also impacts efficiency, regulatory compliance and employee management. It is therefore crucial that bridges be built to break the isolation of those departments which are running their own systems without sharing information – or using content that cannot easily be transferred and used by core departments and senior management.

As digital transformation is forcing businesses to rethink not just their IT strategies, but their entire business model, the time is ripe to develop a more collaborative approach across departments. Effectively, the entire information ecosystem must support the greater demands of an organisation’s internal and external customers.

Although all management functions stand to benefit from this approach, HR is in a prime position to build and own this drive for collaboration. Indeed, a central HR information store can become the go-to hub for management: a single reliable source of data that is the lifeblood of good decision-making.

The first step is to acknowledge that digitisation alone will not enhance information flow, innovation or productivity unless there is a clear enterprise strategy to ensure information is made available and can be freely interchanged. Without this, content fragmentation is likely to accelerate as businesses transform to meet the demands of a digital age.

This change of approach must be implemented in the face of considerable pressures to modernise and upgrade at a departmental level. But the challenges of aggregating, connecting and managing the flow of digital content in the next generation of systems, should these also be installed piecemeal, will be considerably greater.

What is needed is an enterprise-wide information strategy for nurturing a collaborative culture that will help to break down data silos, while supporting the functional needs of individual departments. Such a strategy must involve suppliers, and tackle the compatibility issues associated with using multiple IT providers while retaining the benefits of a vibrant supplier market.

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. In this scenario, it is crucial to work with partners who are committed to ensuring the best for your company: suppliers should be happy to recommend a friend from the trusted business family, where they feel that their rival can provide a more suitable product.

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. With such an approach, the momentum is towards further integration, not divergence, as each new application is added.

Within that ‘family’, compatibility can be ensured with an enterprise information hub: a unified information platform that is accessible to all according to permissions and facilitates an end-to-end view of the organisation’s entire ecosystem. This will also be essential in order to ensure all legacy systems across departments can be brought into the central system and play their part in a management model reliant on this new collaborative approach.

An enterprise information hub can effectively aggregate, connect and manage the flow of digital content including structured and unstructured data such as presentations, spreadsheets, and social media data formats: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn; audio and video files, photos, CVs; training records, health information, surveys and progress updates; all can be held securely in a way that is accessible across the organisation’s entire business ecosystem.

There is an argument that the C-suite should take responsibility for this hub, to avoid inter-departmental issues. However, this is both wasteful and unrealistic given that a department already exists that traditionally aggregates workflow and employee information. Therefore, even in companies which have a Chief Information Officer, the HR Director is well positioned to lead on IT collaboration and must take responsibility for ensuring that data on staff in particular is available, manageable and correct.

Bob Dunn is associate vice president, APAC and EMEA, of Hyland.