Overcoming silos in your teams

Overcoming silos in your teams

Adam Stirk

4 February 2022 - 6 min read

Digital TransformationSystems Integration
Overcoming silos in your teams

The term “silos” has become a notorious buzzword for describing the breakdown in communication across teams inside an organisation. A “silo mindset”, specifically, refers to a reluctance to exchange information between employees from other departments within the same company. 

Research shows that silos are both prevalent and detrimental to operations. According to research from Dimension Data, 54% of companies operate their customer experience activities in silos. 

Even more concerning is the fact that only 33% of customer experience professionals believe that they can effectively communicate and work across departments to improve this area. 

Crucially, companies cannot be agile whilst still operating in silos. Shared knowledge is a critical factor of agile teams, which means that no one person should become a single point of failure or knowledge.

So how do you overcome this burden? In this article, we’ll look at ways to prevent and resolve silos. By considering solutions in both management and technology, we’ll show how teams can overcome their silos and begin working toward achieving a successful digital transformation — together. 

Origins 

The existence of organisational silos is often rooted in outdated working processes. Executives and C-suite should share a team mentality that will allow them to lead teams in an open and inclusive manner. Failure to do so can lead to a breakdown in communication between teams and the emergence of silos. 

Research has shown that 57% of employees attest to having received ‘unclear’ instructions from their managers, whilst just under 70% of managers feel unable to communicate with employees, more generally. These findings confirm the uncomfortable truth that leaders and, indeed, employees are not the best at communicating in the workforce. 

Simply put, if leaders do not unite, neither will their employees. 

Prevention and Resolution 

Companies should, ideally, prevent silos from occurring as once the silo mindset has taken hold, it can be increasingly difficult to shake. Whether your goal is to prevent or overhaul silos, it's critical to commit to an initial examination of your current processes, technology, and culture. The results of this assessment will highlight any opportunities where digital initiatives could aid your transformation projects.

The analysis of current setups may reveal areas where improvements can be made or areas where there are potential 'quick wins' with high returns. On top of this, the results will also indicate areas where change may have to be dealt with differently. For example, A team with a weaker working culture may require more employee buy-in at the outset and more positive reinforcement to successfully roll out and use a new system.

An emphasis on common company goals and objectives is particularly important for ensuring unity across teams. Oftentimes, departments will realise that they not only have shared initiatives, but useful data that they can share to improve their day-to-day operations. 

Once again, leaders hold a great responsibility here. In a top-down approach, those with the power to influence organisational culture should emphasise the importance of collaboration to their employees with benefit-driven statements.

Technology as enabler 

If leaders are the initialisers when it comes to overcoming silos, then technology can be thought of as the enabler that allows teams to execute this cultural shift.

Workfront’s state of work report 2021 identifies the growing importance of technology in the UK workforce. 56% of employees see technology as “very important” for maintaining collaboration in their job, a figure that has significantly increased by 24% over the past year. 

To accommodate the collaborative needs of their employees, IT leaders should ensure that their teams have the necessary tools to share information and communicate effectively. Collaboration tools have been a necessity for organisations operating with a hybrid workforce over the past year, but these tools hold great potential beyond simply allowing employees to ‘keep in touch’. 

Project management software, for example, provides a space for teams to effectively collaborate. Features such as dashboards, workflows and calendars make data more accessible than ever. 

This holds true for both preventing and resolving any silos. By implementing collaboration tools into operations, teams are given great visibility, which is especially important when allowing team members to understand their role within a given project. 

And because this data can be updated in real time, everyone is on the same page when it comes to roles and responsibilities. Collaboration tools thus provide a perfect complement to a collaborative working culture, where they facilitate visible communications and iterative development. 

Integrated, not isolated 

Adopting an integrated approach is an essential means to unlocking open communications in teams and overthrowing silos for good. System integration is essentially a process of ‘tying up loose ends’ and connecting the otherwise disparate IT systems and applications. 

The capacity to view data, gain insights from it, and have a single source of truth is likely to give companies an edge over competitors who are burdened by silos. As always, this process of ‘creating a single source of truth’ should be as much a responsibility of the managers and leaders as it is the employees who are dealing with the technology. 

So long to Silos 

There are multiple solutions to overcoming silos. Independently focusing on one of these areas, be it culture, technology or integration, is likely to bring some success. However, the real benefits come when organisations implement change at a cultural and technical level. 

The execution of this solution should begin with effective and inclusive leadership, where insights are shared. Leading by example, IT leaders will ameliorate the bugbears of non communicative teams and encourage collaboration moving forward with projects.  

Collaboration and project management tools provide the platform on which effective teamwork can stand. The proactive use of these tools provides a myriad of benefits, including improved workflows, increased visibility and effective collaboration - in line with the requirements of digital transformation projects. 

Here is where companies begin to extract the real value of their data which, in essence, is the greatest advantage of breaking down organisational silos.

So if you want to go against the grain and secure that competitive advantage in the market, consider assessing your operations and saying “so long!” to silos, once and for all. 

Ebook Available

How to maximise the performance of your existing systems

Free download

Adam Stirk is Audacia's Operations Director and is responsible for all of the company's development teams, as well as the operational delivery of all ongoing and supported projects.