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Digital Maturity Insight

Breaking down the silos that 
are barriers to transformation

by Redweb, 24 June 2020

Read Time: 5 minutes

Siloed projects or departments are not new phenomena and most marketers will have battled with the challenges at some point in their career. It is not a pleasant experience and the underlying cause boils down to a lack of coordination, communication and incentive or imperative to change.

If an orchestra comprised of talented individual musicians had no conductor, they wouldn’t perform at their best. Similarly, when a company with great functional teams isn’t well-orchestrated, silos form.

And the bigger the organisation, the bigger the silo effect. In fact an IDC report found that:

Seventy percent of siloed digital transformation initiatives will ultimately fail due to insufficient collaboration, integration, sourcing or project management.

As you prepare your organisation for digital growth, you will want to break down these traditional silos alongside improving the digital skills of your employees as you begin creating a digital first culture.

How to know if your business has a silo mentality

It is often the case that organisations end up siloed without even realising it. Different functions of the business are unaware of each other’s objectives or how they are setting about trying to achieve them.

Individual employees are often incentivised to hit targets within their silo without consideration for other teams, departments and often the wider business.

There are four traits of a siloed mentality that will show up if your culture is plagued with teams taking one step forward, only for the business to take two steps back.

1. The customer experience is inconsistent

If departments, goals and frontline teams are siloed, then different information, service and values will be delivered to customers at the touch points across the business. This leads to confused and apathetic customers and an unclear brand message.

2. No employee loyalty to the brand

If colleagues routinely flout company procedures or you hear the “It’s not my job” remark, then these are clear indicators that employees don’t feel connected to the business. The likely outcome is that the individual will be focusing on short-term goals that favour their silo.

3. Ideas and initiatives are unable to scale

If it is commonplace for new changes and ideas to fail, even if they have been successful within one team or departments, then silos are usually at the root of the problem.

4. Internal groups compete with each other

When people are split into separate groups it can often breed a ‘them and us’ mindset. This internal rivalry can turn toxic and destroy the flow of communication between departments.

This lack of information sharing between groups is often the biggest indicator that your business has a silo mentality.

How to remove the silos from

your business Improving the digital literacy of your business won’t solve this issue alone, but if you can align thinking, and introduce digital tools to improve the sharing of information and ideas, then it becomes the glue that keeps units together.

There are four areas of focus that are key to breaking down a silo mentality.

As you begin to introduce a digital culture you will have a more receptive audience, who recognises and embraces the benefits of new tools and ways of sharing information for the benefit of the entire business.

1. Creating a new coordinating team

Leaders and individuals within the business who have shown an aptitude for spotting opportunities, promoting change and finding and fixing potential bottlenecks should be empowered to work together. This pan-organisational group can then help to remove the barriers that impede the customer experience, as well as those that limit the organisational transformation.

2. Improving the flow of information

Breaking down silos is not about removing departments or bringing them together under a single umbrella, but about removing the friction points that cause conflict and hinder the flow of information. To promote open communication between teams and departments, silo walls need to be broken down. This then allows all business-relevant information to be shared across the whole company.

3. Aligning objectives

Employees who work in silos will only focus on their department’s goals, which stunts the growth of the business. Departmental and individual goals must be adjusted so that they fit in with the wider company’s aims and objectives.

4. Making decisions as a group

Department decisions tend to be made on the micro level, with little to no input from other departments. However, when decision-making is split across all relevant departments, the flow of communication opens and objectives are more likely to be aligned with the overall needs of the business.

Summary

Siloed projects or departments cannot be overcome by sheer force of will. It requires buy-in from the executive through investment in people, culture and technology to break down the silo mentality and adequately train and transform departmental mindsets.

Breaking down and rebuilding the structure of an organisation is not an easy thing to achieve, but a business which has all its departments working towards the same goal is unstoppable.

In the last article, we discuss instilling a positive digital culture that is ready for change, helping you move from a digitised to a truly digital business.


Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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