Collaboration, silos, and digital success
The dominant role of collaboration in digital transformation success has been recognized for some time now. More recently, the complexity of the type of collaboration that is needed for successful digital transformation has received increasing attention.
Perhaps it’s time to recognize that silos are arguably the single most important barrier to collaboration. Not just departmental silos. Not just data silos. Not just technology silos. But all three!
Departmental silos have received most attention. As organizations persist in structuring in a classic hierarchy along departmental or functional groups, each department is motivated to focus on its core duties and functions to the exclusion of others. This leads to individual departments— and even individual managers—viewing resources protectively and hoarding data, rather than sharing and collaborating.
Silos suck. Departmental silos suck the energy out of the company that’s needed for digital success. Data silos represent an equally significant barrier to success with digital transformation. Data silos are a byproduct of departments guarding their data such that no one has the big picture. It’s now being recognized that data silos are a serious business problem. Customer experience data in one place, security data in another, performance data in yet another, etc. Breaking down data silos enables more effective decision-making and increased likelihood of success with digital.
As if departmental silos and data silos were not enough of an impediment to collaboration and digital success, the widespread impact of technology silos has accelerated as the number of digital tools has mushroomed. Vendors are likely to promote the use of their own product – at times to the exclusion of others. Social, mobile, cloud, robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, analytics and big data – the list goes on for CIO’s and it’s just as daunting for marketers.
Here are a few key tactics for organizations wishing to mitigate the adverse impact of departmental, data and technology silos.
- Focus on viewing the business from the outside-in and build a common vision. The widespread communication and understanding of company goals—and how each department supports them – is essential in the fight against silos. Seeing the business from the customer’s point of view demands collaboration.
- Embrace transparency. Emphasize the merits of open and honest communication, both top-down and bottom-up.
- Make widespread us of cross-functional teams. Take an end to end process focus and insist that every project look at the needs of each department touched by the process. Recall Jan Carlzon’s conviction that “If you're not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.”
- Promote companywide analytics. Don’t allow departments to hoard data. Insist that resources and information be shared across departments and teams. Don’t settle for just volume and cost metrics, integrate quality and timeliness.
- Do not allow software vendors to push just their own product – to the exclusion of other complementary technologies. Insist on combining technologies for optimum impact. For example, consider combinations of process mining, robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Departmental silos are bad for business. They stand in the way of the type of collaboration needed to create value for customers. Data silos and technology silos also stand in the way of digital business success. Forward thinking organizations will recognize the importance of breaking down these silos.