70% of digital transformations fail, and silos are a primary culprit for many organizations, which makes breaking down silos a vital pursuit. Silos occur when employees or entire departments lack the necessary means to access and share information with one another. They come in three forms:
- Departmental Silos: When each department relies on its own legacy system or specialized solution, and employees lack the tools necessary to communicate across departments.
- Data Silos: When a company’s data is separated into isolated repositories that are each independently controlled by one business unit. Access is often limited for the rest of the company, too.
- Technology Silos: When a company has a variety of technologies with their own monitoring processes that aren’t integrated to share information with each other.
These silos cause inefficiencies like:
- Inconsistent customer messaging
- Only certain departments have access to data that others may need
- Employees lack the tools to collaborate, especially across departments
- Departments are opting for short-term solutions or tools that solve only one problem
- Inability to scale
- Compromised data accuracy
- A high volume of manual tasks
- Duplicated work
- Misaligned goals between departments
- Rivalries between departments (and not friendly rivalries, either)
As these problems pile up, they chip away at your revenue, curb innovation, and crush your chances of building a sustainable digital culture. If your digital transformation plans don’t involve breaking down silos at every step, your efforts will stall and may even fail altogether. To put you on the path to digital transformation success, let’s dive into our guide to breaking down silos.
4 Ways You Can Defeat the Silos That Stall Digital Transformation
1. Effective Change Management
One of the biggest problems silos create is employees being disconnected from other departments’ challenges and goals. If employees can’t understand or relate to a problem your organization is facing, getting them to work together to solve it will be a hard sell. However, an effective change management plan can get employees on board to support your transformation. It can also unite employees under one shared overarching goal and encourage cross-departmental collaboration.
To create a change management plan that can accomplish this, your employees need to first have a clear vision of why your organization is pursuing digital transformation. If your organization is heavily siloed, employees in one department may not know about problems elsewhere in the organization, much less their gravity. That’s why you must specify the issues you’re trying to solve. Break down where they’re occurring in the organization and how they negatively impact various areas of operations and the broader workforce. If employees understand how a problem directly or indirectly affects them, they’ll be more willing to work together to solve it.
Then, since change can be scary, explain how you plan to solve these problems. Communicate the various stages of change, how it’ll impact various levels of the organization, and timeline estimations. Additionally, keep your employees updated on your digital transformation journey as it progresses – the good, bad, and the ugly. You may:
- Add a column to your monthly internal newsletter.
- Start a dedicated internal newsletter.
- Give updates during company-wide meetings.
- Create 3-5 minute “Digital Transformation Update” videos and email them to all employees weekly or biweekly. Here, you could feature the project lead or an executive sharing the latest successes, failures, and other news.
2. Celebrate Successes and Encourage Input
So, you’ve successfully convinced your workforce that digital transformation will improve their work lives and they’re raring to go. You’ve got their support for life, right? Not quite. Digital transformation is a long-term journey, and change fatigue is real. As a result, you need to prevent your employees from giving up on your initiative and reverting to old habits.
To achieve this, create tangible short-term and long-term goals corresponding to your transformation’s various stages. Ensure that employees understand what they need to do to support these initiatives. You can create visual markers showing your progress. And when these milestones are hit, celebrate by rewarding your employees!
And through it all, encourage regular feedback from your staff! This won’t just boost employee engagement and buy-in, their feedback might just prevent you from building a solution they won’t adopt. In addition to your digital transformation project updates, implement opportunities for employees to respond with feedback, like:
- Adding a Q&A segment to company-wide meetings using a question submission and voting mechanism.
- Create a dedicated email address for feedback submission.
- Lead 1-on-1 employee interviews or small group feedback sessions.
- Create surveys.
When you receive feedback, look for ways to apply it. Then, let your staff feel heard by thanking them for their input and explaining why it may or may not be viable. No one wants to feel like their ideas are going in one ear and out of the other. And in instances where an employee’s idea is implemented, share that success story with your broader organization. This way, you can motivate your employees to bring their ideas and concepts forward, strengthening your digital transformation and promoting a culture of innovation.
3. Choose Silo-Busting Tools
Siloed departments often solve their problems with limited-use technologies like point solutions. These tools may solve specific issues effectively. But every time you add to the pile, you risk causing new problems if your existing tools can’t collaborate or integrate. These disparate systems also lead to data silos, duplicated information, misinformation, inefficiency, and unhappy employees and customers.
To solve this issue, you must thoroughly evaluate all the tools and technologies in your organization and the data they hold. Be sure to gather representatives from across all departments of your organization, not just the IT team. Doing so will provide vital context and ensure that all voices are heard. As a team, you will need to assess:
- Are there any functionally redundant or obsolete tools in our organization?
- Do our current tools give us the necessary visibility to enable data-driven decisions?
- Are there any data and insights we can’t get with our current tool spread?
- Where are employees lacking access to the data they need?
- Can our current tools integrate and exchange information as needed?
- What are the key obstacles to collaboration?
- Can our employees currently communicate with each other effectively?
These conversation starters will help you identify silos and begin to develop a data strategy that enables:
- Continuous collaboration
- Full data visibility
- System integration to form a single source of truth
With a deeper understanding of what isn’t working and a robust data strategy, you’ll be better equipped to choose tools that support your digital transformation rather than stalling it.
4. Enable Better Collaboration Organization-Wide
If your departments can’t easily interact due to silos, communication bottlenecks often build up and employees become more change resistant. As we’ve explored, having the right technology plays a key role in eliminating these issues. But just because you put collaboration-friendly tools in front of your employees doesn’t mean they’ll instantly develop a collaborative culture.
An effective way to make your digital transformation a collaborative effort is to create a digital transformation Center of Excellence (CoE.) A CoE is a group of team members from throughout your organization that can offer their expertise to your transformation. In practice, CoEs meet regularly to manage your implementation roadmap, enablement strategy, and support model. It’s a win-win: your digital transformation plans benefit from insights representing diverse perspectives, and your employees learn from their peers across the organization.
But the collaboration shouldn’t stop with your core CoE team. To gain even further perspective, core members should invite their colleagues as guest contributors to meetings when they think their specialized knowledge may come in handy.
Additionally, members should plan to routinely report back to their teams with progress updates and ask for feedback they can bring back to the next CoE meeting. Exposing employees across every department to the behind-the-scenes happenings of your transformation will create consistent top-down messaging. And as employees share their feedback and innovative ideas, you can foster a positive team-building environment.
It’s also worth identifying opportunities to promote collaboration outside of your digital transformation planning. This could look like:
- Rethinking your departments’ goal-setting processes to set future objectives with other departments’ goals in mind.
- Encouraging department leaders to look for cross-departmental collaboration projects.
- Starting a knowledge share monthly webinar series where departments get a chance to show off their latest projects and achievements.
Sure, efforts like this aren’t directly tied to your digital transformation. But they will build connections and encourage innovative problem-solving that will ultimately strengthen your digital transformation efforts now and in the future.
Your Guide to People-Centered Change Management
Did you know that organizations that implement people-centered change management strategies are 14x more likely to achieve change success and enjoy a 29% reduction in the risk of change fatigue? Check out our guide to adopting a people-centered change management strategy.
Put Your Digital Transformation Back on the Fast Track to Success
Collaboration is essential to create value for your customers and remain competitive. As a result, your digital transformation must make room for collaboration by breaking down silos. Identifying and breaking down silos will let your organization meet your goals, create happier employees, boost efficiency, and problem-solve smarter. Without these silos holding you back, you can set your organization up for a digital-ready future.
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