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Horizontal Integration and the Role of Internal Business Networks

Horizontal Integration

Recently, I was reading an interesting HBR blog post by Sohrab Vossoughi on the value of horizontal integration within companies.

The concept of horizontal integration as a common practice across the most successful, customer-focused companies is an interesting one.

According to Vossoughi, “for a leader trying to ensure customers value their experience, three things are essential to the organization:

  1. a passionately articulated purpose (“to make money” is not sufficient);
  2. a crystal-clear understanding of who all of this work is being done for; and
  3. people tasked to be integrators, to foster human connections and champion the organization’s purpose”

I’m interested to see if you agree with this hypothesis.

Personally, the first two bullets are a bit of motherhood and apple pie.  Not sure that anyone would disagree with the fact that you have to have a clear vision and a clear understanding of your customer to succeed.  The third bullet is of particular interest, however.  The role of employees as integrators – working across the organization to bring the best results for customers – is likely not prevalent in most companies today.  The issue I see is that most organizations are not set-up to facilitate that type of collaboration across functions within an organization.  That is where I see the role of internal business networks.

I’d be interested to understand from Vossoughi whether the companies he’s referenced as leaders in this space, Amazon, Virgin and Apple have formal internal networks set up within their organizations.  Another company that comes to mind as exemplifying Vossoughi’s point that I know does leverage internal networks is Zappos.  In CFO Research’s study Collaborate to Win, a Zappos executive references the importance of both internal and external networks to deliver the ultimate customer experience.

As social technologies enable companies to create formal networks I would imagine that more and more companies will be able to move employees toward becoming integrators.  The catch, however, is that companies must also develop a culture that truly enables and rewards employees for this type of behavior.  I imagine that Amazon, Virgin and Apple have done that.  Has your company?

About the author
Rachel Spasser
Rachel Spasser

Rachel is responsible for the design and execution of Ariba’s demand generation and demand management programs. Executive marketing roles with IBM, KnowledgeStorm Inc., Integrated Broadband services, and Cox Search LLC, a division of Cox Enterpr... Read More >>>


Jeff Rosensweg

2012-12-21 09:07:58 Reply


keep sharing your excellent ideas. I enjoy your perspective — you clearly have a nice blen of talent and experience.
Professor Jeff Rosensweig

    Rachel Spasser

    2012-12-21 13:02:56 Reply

    Rachel Spasser

    Thanks Jeff. Appreciate you participating in the blog. Would love to share with you some of the real impacts we have seen due to business networks in the far reaching parts of the globe – I assume you are still focused on global business strategy/issues.

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