Here's Why Companies Should Really Be Busting Down Silos
If your organization works in silos (which is likely, as 68 percent of business admit to doing so), then you’ve probably heard at least one of the following: “Silo-busting is essential”; “Silos are really damaging”; “You must find a way to break down the barriers in your organization!” But often, these statements come without explanation or evidence.
So let’s explore the pros and cons of silos to answer the question: Should we really be busting silos?
The Pros of Silos
In the spirit of balance, there can be some positives to organizational silos. They can give teams a clear and concise focus on one specific goal or activity. A siloed group is likely to be unaffected by the work of those teams around them, creating a hyper-focused environment.
Not only this, but they can promote agility to some extent. When we talk of agile working, it includes autonomous teams that are responsible for their objectives and success. Siloed teams can achieve this, they have full visibility of their unit and workload, which leads to autonomy in the way they work.
The Cons of Silos
That’s about as optimistic as it gets for silos. Whereas, when we consider the cons, we can create a pretty long and gloomy list.
There’s the problem of duplication. Not only in work, effort, and resources but costs too. When working in silos, typically teams are unaware of other projects in the organization. So each group will look to procure their own systems and create their own processes, sometimes resulting in double, if not triple, the costs than if we worked together.
This lack of cohesion then affects the experience of our employees and users, who have to access fragmented services. Ultimately, this devalues our image. Our offering looks and feels unprofessional—so, basically, silos affect our organisations severely from top to bottom.
Driving the Silo-Busting Phenomena
So far, the evidence points to yes, silos are worth busting. But before we solidify our answer, let’s explore why we’re actually talking about silo busting.
It’s no longer enough to simply offer a single product or service to our user base, their expectations have matured. For example, when buying a new mobile phone, we are looking for it to be connected to all the products, services, and applications we want to use. It’s no use to us if we can’t download WhatsApp or Gmail or Instagram; we require it to communicate with them all. We’re looking for that connected experience in the palm of our hands.
And the same is true for every service and product. Our users don’t want to have to make decisions and invest in several different things to satisfy their needs. They’re looking for one space where they have access to a range of services.
Put silos behind the delivery of these services and we’re bringing fragmentation and decision making into the picture: two things our users are desperate to avoid. And that’s why, with the demands of our customer base developing, we’re seeing more emphasis on busting organisational silos.
The Silo-Less Impact
Quick recap: Most organizations are working in silos—it’s an evidence-based fact. There are more cons than pros to silos. And if we want to satisfy our users, we need to connect ourselves to connect our services. But what would it look like to be silo-less?
You’ll improve the quality of your services. First and foremost, if you’re able to break down the silos within your organization the quality of services you are able to deliver will grow and develop.
To put it into context, working in silos is like cooking a meal with one hand tied behind your back, or playing a game of football with only your weaker foot. Yes, you can still make something tasty and kick the ball, but you’ll be at a significant disadvantage.
Silos essentially stop you from working optimally. Whereas, if all departments and teams in an organization collaborate effectively, you’ll enable optimal working.
You’ll save costs. The next element is saving costs: financial and time. Using an enterprise service management (ESM) system is a great tool for bridging the silos in organizations. Why? Because it allows all departments to work together in a single place, providing collaboration opportunities at our fingertips.
And when asked to explain the value of ESM, 57 percent of business leaders said it would save them between 11 percent and 30 percent of their annual costs! After all, they’re investing in the big picture, not just one part of it with a limited view of what’s going on.
Unified procurement saves us money, but it also saves us time. If your entire company is working together, they’re not having to reinvent the wheel when it comes to processes and systems. Departments are sharing the skills, knowledge, and ways they operate, so teams won’t waste time duplicating work.
You'll be investing in the long term. Working without silos would look like groups communicating with one another across an organization, a business that truly sees and understands its bigger picture, teams recognising that they have a part to play outside of their core role, and an organizational culture built on a foundation of sharing knowledge, skills, and expertise.
Silo busting isn’t a short-term fix, it’s an investment in the long-term future of your company. It’s finding a way to work most effectively and provide the optimal service possible to your customer base.
The truth is if somebody has told you any one of these statements (“Silo busting is essential!”; “Silos are really damaging!”; “You must find a way to break down the barriers in your organisation!”), they were right.
Silos are singlehandedly causing friction within our businesses and building a barrier between us and what our customer base expects of us: a unified service or product which is easy to access.
So, yes, we really should be busting silos.
Sumit De is head of UK consultancy at TOPdesk and an expert in digital transformation. He has worked with service organizations all over the world to improve their service management processes and strategies. Sumit has worked at TOPdesk, a global IT service management company with 16 offices worldwide and more than 750 global employees, for more than nine years.