Companies, by their very nature, require multiple individuals working together toward a common goal. But all too often, as organizations become larger, the more resource-wasting redundancy rears its head. This eventually produces a negative ripple effect throughout the organization, delivering a sobering blow to the business’s bottom line, but more importantly the customer and employee experience.
Redundancy often manifests as a doubling of employee efforts and the duplication of tools used, wasting money and time. One common cause of redundancy is that individual employees, business units or systems are operating in silos, meaning they cannot or do not interact with one another to work towards a common goal. Typically, businesses don’t even realize these silos exist until it’s too late, as they’ve slowly been built up over time due to a lack of alignment and set of core processes.
Despite their gradual nature, silos pose a real threat to the health of any organization.
Silos undermine success
Beyond the obvious waste silos produce, there also tends to be a decline in productivity and output that results from communication breakdowns, internal systems and applications not talking to one another, and duplication of efforts or data inputs.
This is commonly seen with customer data, for instance, where the sales team may have its own set of customer insights, separate from the customer success team. This information lives in disparate systems that don’t talk to one another, which results in duplicate research, a broken customer experience and missed opportunities to potentially expand business with that customer. If the two departments were operating from an interoperable system or one system, they would have a more complete picture of the customer and could work as one team to improve efficiencies and the overall experience.
Silos are also common among engineering and support teams. Nearly every software company has likely gone through the painstaking experience of the engineering team rolling out a new feature without communicating the changes to the support or marketing team resulting in an influx of support tickets and customer complaints.
Speaking of the experience, operational silos can also have adverse effects on a company’s culture and employee morale. This is because silos often breed office politics and frustrations that manifest from a lack of centralized information or shared processes and systems that ultimately support progress towards a shared goal.
Why silos exist
When organizations lack a centralized system like a customer relationship management (CRM) tool built to specifically match the unique workflows of its stakeholders, typically individuals or entire departments will seek outside tools to get their jobs done. The result is a tangled web of various applications used across the company, none of which talk to one another.
Ultimately, however, silos tend to start at the top and trickle down. Leadership must create a culture of collaboration and work towards creating one team that is rallied around a shared vision, purpose and set of goals. This culture then must be supported by solid core processes, systems and interoperable technology. The goal is one team working from one system.
Breaking down existing silos
Now that you know the causes of operational silos, the question is, how do you break down the walls and eradicate them? Here are five steps:
1. Start at the top
First and foremost, there’s a cultural shift that needs to occur. Collaboration and transparency must be baked into your value system. Your team needs to understand how company-wide collaboration supports the company’s big vision and deeper purpose of the organization. When employees understand the “why,” businesses are more likely to achieve long-term success. In addition to embracing this culture, the leadership team also must instill a strong set of core processes and put a plan in place to uphold them.
2. Build a solid technology foundation
There is also an element of digital transformation that has to happen and that starts with technology that supports the various workflows of all of the organization’s stakeholders. While no singular technology will be able to meet the needs of every stakeholder group, it must support APIs and be able to “talk to” other applications and derive meaning from various data inputs, otherwise silos will continue to exist. When the system is built to match the workflows of your various teams or business units, it also helps ensure company-wide adoption.
3. Implement a business operating system and management model
In the process of breaking down silos, and preventing them from cropping back up, you can’t leave anything to question. At MST Solutions, we follow the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) management model –– which encompasses our core processes –– to bring structure to our communications and operations. It guides how meetings are conducted, defines the chain of communication, unearths potential issues, and aligns everyone on a shared set of near and long-term goals. We couple this model with technology –– an internal operating system –– to help maintain and automate it. Because let’s face it –– as humans we’re bound to forget to communicate crucial bits of information to the right teams from time to time. The right technology safeguards against those breakdowns.
4. Create a central source of truth
Implementing software like a CRM will allow all of a company’s data to be centralized in a hub accessible across all business units. Salesforce, for instance, can take data from the sales, customer success, marketing and social media teams, and derive meaning from that data to dial-in outreach efforts and improve the customer experience. Or it can automate the flow of data between departments to improve efficiencies.
5. Have a plan to manage change
Keep in mind, no one is inherently excited about change. It’s not enough to implement a new system and think the work is done. There has to be a plan in place for not only introducing this new breed of culture and rolling out the new technology, but also advocating for it. Having internal advocates to help champion these changes will go a long way, but you’ll also need to have training materials and support at the ready so that hurdles don’t become triggers for new silos.
Silos are a barrier to a business achieving its potential. The right management model and core processes underpinned by the right technology will put it on the path of efficient communication and collaboration. Check out MST Solutions on AppExchange today.
Ken Costello is the Chief Operating Officer of MST Solutions where he strategically guides the company’s customer acquisition, engagement, and retention strategies.
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