There is always more that we can learn, as both a business and as individuals, and we always relish the opportunity to not only educate ourselves, but also others, about the positive effects that technology can have on your organisation.
When StreetHR approached us to take part in HR GIG 7, and to talk about the impact that technology can have on communication silos in business, we were more than happy to put together some thoughts and take part.
Here’s what we talked about.
What are silos in business?
Before we can really talk about how technology can help with silos, we need to talk about silos themselves and the myth that silos happen only to companies that aren’t technologically advanced.
First of all, silos happen when communication in an organisation breaks down. This could be between departments, between people, or between machines, but regardless of the reason, the outcome is the same: at a time when communication is crucial, it can fail and lead the business down a path where productivity and profits suffer.
There’s a misconception that silos happen only because companies don’t invest in the right technology. This is false for a number of reasons: the number of companies that haven’t invested in some sort of technology grows smaller every day, there are thousands of programs created to aid businesses to work faster and communicate more effectively, and the onboarding process for those technologies is often very intense.
The problem comes from the technology itself not being prepared to interface with other similar technologies.
With continuous advances in technology, as leaders what practices can we onboard to reduce silos in our respective organisations?
Before we address the practices that can be followed in breaking down silos, I think it is very important to first understand how technology silos are created in organisations. This is not always intentional, but rather because the technical needs of organisations are addressed at different stages.
For example, consider that retailer X has a physical and online presence, but its eCommerce capabilities were developed through a separate effort to its store network and supply chain solutions. As these systems have not been integrated correctly, or they have been implemented at different times, they stand as silos within business operations, leading to a disconnect in an environment that needs fluid integration.
The result is that stock volumes are not in sync between their stock management system and their eCommerce site, impacting their customer experience and leading to lost sales opportunities.
Another crippling result of siloed solutions is the inability to access data for performance management and analytical reporting across these solutions. The data is fragmented and limited in richness to successfully produce accurate and meaningful reports. Often you will hear the Sales and Marketing team say ‘we are flying blind’, not having insights into customer behaviour and buying patterns, that allow them to guide production, procurement, and marketing efforts.
To overcome these daily challenges, the most prominent mistake organisations make is to throw manpower at it: for example, using their procurement team to manually copy and update stock levels across these solutions, or the finance team to collate data into spreadsheets across departments for weekly management reporting, redirecting their focus from their main functions. The often-unquantifiable cost of this approach is overlooked, and most organisations don’t consider the opportunity cost, impact on their employees, or fully understand the number of mistakes made.
It stifles the organisation’s growth potential from being a lean operation with smart offerings to it being a reactive organisation.
How can we avoid these technological silos?
Make sure you integrate your solutions in the way you want to run your business.
The objective of breaking these silos is for an organisation to improve working relationships with customers and partners and internally:
- Improve work culture
- Increase productivity and efficiency
- Set the organisation up to scale
- Making performance insight available
- Drive cost efficiency
From a legacy point of view, not all is lost, and integrating existing solutions is a possibility and can help organisations maximise their existing IT investments. These digital integration projects can be approached by identifying the biggest challenges facing organisations and understanding which processes can be automated while considering the capabilities of the system.
This presents an ideal opportunity for organisations to rethink their strategy, knowing that limited functionality could be enhanced to truly support the organisation’s growth strategy.
Another key outcome of these digital integration projects, when done correctly, is the setting up of a shared data platform that can form the basis of a fully-fledged data warehouse, which in time will break down the silos in information sharing across departments through business intelligence. In many cases, early adopters of data warehousing will use the insight from their own data to identify the areas of concern in the organisation and apply a calculated decision on where to improve their systems.
If organisations find that their ageing applications dramatically hinder their agility and cost too much to maintain, then perhaps it’s time to take the leap and invest in a modular architecture that will allow for greater flexibility and scalability. These solutions are built with integration in mind and come with standard APIs that you can leverage to connect with. This should be a standard requirement when implementing a new solution.
In your opinion, are organisations with robust technological systems more advanced in dealing with silos?
Every organisation is at a different level of digital maturity and faces its own daily challenges. For organisations that understand the importance of integration and data accessibility, it will be easier to address the next challenge because the foundations have been laid.
For those that have not yet addressed this fundamental challenge, it’s never too late, the sooner you talk to your technology provider and prioritise it, the better. After all, you do not want to be left behind but rather set up your organisation to be agile and flexible for future growth.
How does business intelligence help with breaking down silos?
Business intelligence helps you make data-driven decisions, and a big part of business intelligence is making sure that you have the information you need. When we implement technical solutions, we sometimes have to implement two or three to achieve everything we want to with the program. If you manage to integrate the programmes with each other, it solves a big problem for your business: that of collecting updated data from multiple points.
Business intelligence is using that software to help generate insights that will lead to better decisions overall. Therefore, you need your technology to update and communicate over several departments.
All technology can be made to communicate with each other. As a business intelligence and integration company, we know how frustrating it is to keep several programs in sync, let alone to collect data – and we’ve also seen the benefits of programs communicating across a whole organisation.
If you’re looking to improve your business intelligence practice, set up a data warehouse, or create a connection between your disparate programs, we’re happy to help you figure out the way forward for your business.