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Internet Porosity

Throughout time information has 'leaked' out of organisations. In the form of gossip in social gatherings and conversations between representatives of vompanies and customers, suppliers and other exchanges content has been spread in this way too.

Today, the same thing happens but on a much grander scale. The same gossip is available in emails, Instant Messaging and web-mail discussion, SMS messages on a cell phone and social media interactions at work and at home. In addition, the pub gossip of yesteryear can also find its way online too. Porosity can be interpreted as a form of transparency.

Many organisations have sophisticated processes for monitoring email, Instant Messaging and other online transaction to help reduce the incidence of harmful porosity. But this is but one (and not very effective) form of control. There is a need for employee policies to be in place to make clear what is acceptable for use of email, Instant Messaging, Blogs and other electronic communication. These policies are not common and frequently, even when implemented, are not well articulated in organisations. Such advice and guidance is essential and is part of effective internal PR programmes.

Porosity is not always a bad thing and is seldom committed with evil intent.

Often it is incidental as when, in a long exchange between several people an email has some content better not said. It can be accidental as when a firewall is not as robust as it may be. It can come from frustration when corporate restrictions make communication too difficult and employees seek ways to enjoy unfettered (often business related) external communication.

A motivated, informed and alert workforce is the best and probably the only defence against unintentional porosity.

But porosity is not always bad.

Like transparency there are benefits. The authentic voice of organisations that flows through the corporate shell has tremendous impact outside and may be part of a managed process of making organisations more competitive.

As organisations become transparent and begin to interact with external online communities (for example by selling good and services online) they have to create systems to deal with the interactions such as taking money, responding to orders and shipping goods. This means that 'the Internet' is changing the organisation to meet the demands of the Internet. Processes are corporate intangible assets and so Internet interaction is changing the value of the organisation. Part of this process in a modern communication mix is in the use of social media which, to be the 'authentic' voice of an organisation will release in a more informal discourse more information than would be expected in the traditional rigid and controlled marketing style of information provision.

To create a rich experience for people online, organisations respond using email, blogs, podcasts and online telephony and other forms of direct and indirect interactions. Such interactions are a combination of technical and procedural responses and also include people involved in conversations with external constituencies.

The competitive advantage of this rich exchange is a powerful incentive but now the organisation is being changed by people and technologies that are of the Internet. A retailer with 10% of sales online is a radically different organisation to one with only a chain of shops.

As the interactions become more common, consumers (and others) invite the organisation to change, sometimes suggest how and, if thwarted, vote with their fingers. Here we see the Internet changing the organisation, forcing it to be ever more transparent and porous and it is acting as an agent of change.

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Page last modified on July 04, 2007, at 10:46 UTC