The idea of working across organizational boundaries within a company can be traced back to the late ‘80s and the vision of Jack Welch, then-CEO of General Electric. By breaking down what came to be known as company silo walls within a business, Welch predicted that businesses would be able to match the speed and technological innovation that would come in the 21st century.
Today, we are living in that reality, with organizations in all industries working to keep up with the speed of modern business. However, company silos are still very much present in the way many brands do business and the process of breaking these walls down and instigating effective reorganization can seem like an intimidating process to begin. According to a PwC Study, 55% of companies work in silos, with each function of a business deciding which areas of operation matter the most on their own.
The following four starting points can help your business begin the process of breaking down company silo walls in helpful, actionable ways. In doing so, your company can be improved through higher productivity, better internal collaboration, more effective marketing and a greater ability to reach company goals.
1. Cross-Departmental Communication
Effectively breaking down silo walls is often not a matter of completely restructuring how a business is organized, but improving the ties that bind every aspect of a company. Easy cross-department communication is a key aspect in overcoming the silo effect, both in how employees directly communicate information to one another and how data is shared within the organization. In simplifying and improving communication channels, a business can make the next two starting points easier to accomplish, as they often rely on effective communication.
However, your business may not even be fully aware of how well its employees are communicating with one another. According to a ClearCompany survey, only 18% of employees polled said that communication evaluations were part of their performance reviews, indicating that even though collaboration is seen as important, actual communication is rarely evaluated. Properly evaluate how your company is internally communicating through employee surveys and evaluations of your communication channels. Then, determine a strategy to improve communications, such as choosing new messaging software, encouraging cross-department meetings and empowering both managers and other employees to express their ideas to other team members they have not been in touch with previously.
2. Data Access
Having well-structured data is vital in being able to effectively interpret and use information in the ways a company needs, such as customer profiles leveraged in marketing or customer service records used to evaluate the quality of a product. However, the ways in which this information is stored can lead to siloing, such as customer service departments having sole access to service call recordings or social media departments being the only ones able to access data concerning the profiles of followers.
By sharing such data with other departments, new uses and greater value can be found that may have not been previously possible when information is kept within a single department. When brought together, companies have a greater possibility than ever to create a single customer view, which is a comprehensive profile of an individual consumer based on robust data. In order to do so, a company will need to pull information from many different sources in order to correctly determine a person’s interest, location, history, family connections, career and more, which enables improved marketing and customer service efforts.
3. Data Analysis
It’s not enough to only give access to data within a company, employees must be able to analyze it in order for it to be useful. Inaccessible data is affecting businesses across all industries and the amount will only grow in the coming years. IBM research indicates that as much as 80% of all data is dark and unstructured, meaning that businesses can neither read it nor use it within computing systems. With the amount of data being generated by people around the world increasing every year, IBM predicts that 93% of all data will be unstructured by the year 2020.
To counteract this trend, companies must ensure their back-end systems are properly gathering data from customer actions and that they are using modern analytics processes to accurately interpret trends and interests. Today, companies are using AI to parse unstructured data faster and more accurately than humans. In addition, real-time data analysis can be achieved in order to better understand target audience actions as they happen. This data can then be distributed throughout a company in order to empower any and all departments that may benefit from its insights.
4. Company-Wide Vision
It’s easy for departments to slowly become unaligned with each other and with the objectives of the company as a whole when an organization is not proactively creating and emphasizing a unified vision. The result of a fractured vision can mean vastly different strategies and ways of interacting with customers from department to department, such as an SEO department tailoring content to reach a vastly different audience than what is being targeted by social media. According to eConsultancy, 40% of the companies they polled in a customer experience survey say that different departments within their business have their own agendas concerning how to approach customer experience.
A successful company-wide vision not only has measurable goals, but also applies these goals to the unique duties and strategies of each department. By doing so, and ensuring that departments continue to pursue these goals, each department will be more naturally aligned with one another and more aware of how they can work together for the greater good of the company.
The Benefits of Breaking Down Silos
Companies who eliminate negative silo effects can experience the benefits of faster communication, improved usage of data, departments that work in sync with one another, helpful intra-company collaborations and a company vision that informs the actions of all departments. The result is less wasted time and finances as well as a more efficient process for reaching company goals.