Business operations stuck in silos are the biggest braking factor on company growth, according to research done by Industry Week. A survey done by the American Management Association showed that 83% of respondents thought silos existed in their organizations, and that 97% considered this phenomenon to be negative. This silo syndrome can have an impact inside and outside an enterprise: customers experience disjointed contacts and information flows from the same firm and come to the inevitable conclusion that they are dealing with a poorly organized business. However, if companies recognize the problem, IT automation software that bridges the silos may be a first operational step to overcoming it.
Where Does Silo Syndrome Come From?
The origins of the silo syndrome are often in command and control style organizations, where departments have grown up with a turf war mentality, instead of constructive collaboration. Information and decisions move up and down, but not laterally. A marketing silo develops, as does an engineering silo and a manufacturing silo, for example. Decision-making quality suffers and so does operational efficiency, as silo operations breed duplicated and redundant resources as well.
Changing Silo Thinking for Systems Thinking
A few changes in business perspective can do a lot to transform silo thinking into something more positive
- ‘I own this area’ can be changed from a narrow focus on ownership and responsibility, to a broader viewpoint that also includes openness to input from others.
- ‘It’s not my job’ also tends towards a silo mentality through too literal an interpretation of a job description. Team goals and company goals need to be brought forward to balance the approach to any individual job.
- ‘Knowledge is power’ is a particularly tricky POV to change, because in a limiting way, it’s true. Rewarding knowledge sharing, for example, by making this an accelerator for career progression, is one way to tackle this internally.
Changing Operationally to Reap Benefits
The healthcare insurance sector is currently putting accountable care organizations in place in a bid to get healthcare payers out of their silos and become more patient-centric. The underlying concept is that not only should patient satisfaction increase, but the collaborative, value-based structure should also lead to cost savings in the industry through more efficient use of resources.
In Brazil, the Ministry of Economy and Finance was already convinced of the utility of being able to pull together data from different sources and reporting systems. The next step was to put in place an IT automation software solution to allow its Treasury Bureau Analysts rapid and reliable data extraction for daily report creation saving hundreds of hours per week.
IT Support for Breaking Free of the Silo Syndrome
Data held in different silos needs to be available to the company as a whole. IT automation software can provide simple ways (forms of IT application ‘wrappers’) for authorized personnel to access different IT systems and databases, without the need to master specific or archaic systems. Using such automation software over an enterprise service bus is a useful model that promotes shared data access, while avoiding the brute force shared data approach that plagued earlier information architectures such as those used for COBOL-centric operations.
While IT automation software can be a practical and effective step to facilitating data access and reducing the silo syndrome, enterprises still need to continue with practical organizational steps to break down internal barriers. Getting rid of useless formality and hierarchy is one step; providing physical spaces for employee collaboration, using common systems and processes and implementing cross-functional mentoring are also recommended.