In the always dynamic world of Microsoft Dynamics AX, even a Gold Partner like Sopris Systems can get caught up in jargon that all but guarantees words like “innovation” and “interoperability” will obscure as much truth as they reveal.

That dynamic was brought home to us on the way home from Chicago as we mulled the Builtworlds Unboxed conference where Sopris Systems Executive Vice President Matt Pfohl (pictured at left) chaired a panel on Digital Transformation in Design Build World for the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) space. (See the complete video here.)

Rather than becoming enamored of the ubiquitous jargon, James Walsh— SVP/CIO U.S., Central & South America, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff—used the panel to put the people back into enterprise planning.

“Innovation lives in people,” Walsh said—and the challenge is to “find it, celebrate it, and make it scale.”

‘Community of Communities’

In reality, Walsh said, the enterprise exists as a “communities of communities” or a “network of networks”—a reality that “exists beyond HR [human resources] or project or functional organization like sales.”

Within this community context, Walsh sees the challenge as “scaling knowledge from human interactions.”

We agree—and we’ve thinking about it ever since.

Instead of wondering why one department can innovate and another can’t, we should be thinking about our internal communities and things that bring people together that have nothing to do with hardware, software, and global telecommunications networks. To unlock the riddle of the enterprise, we have to figure out how groups of people connect with other groups of people within our organizations.

How does that happen? Mutual interest is no doubt a big driver, but beyond that is time spent to understand and to develop empathy for other cogs in the corporation beyond our own. It requires an organizational mindset that not only sees the enterprise as a living, breathing whole, but one that embraces the competing and complementary agendas generated by people.

Rather than ask: “Why doesn’t IT talk to sales?”—perhaps we should be spending time within the enterprise understanding the communities of sales and IT. What makes them tick? What makes them different?

And that very important question: How can everyone all work together?

Social Enterprise

At the end of the panel, Sopris EVP Pfohl took a question asking how to break down the silos. He suggested to start with a corporate social network, like Yammer, institute lean governance, and then let it go. Pfohl predicted organizations will be amazed at the communities that form and the collaboration that ensues.

Once we understand different communities, we can mobilize those communities, just as neighboring towns can share a bike path for the benefit of all. Social enterprise can become a building block to help transition your business from an organization of silos to a community based on collaboration.