Thoughts on Breaking Down Silos

By | November 8, 2012

Silos are complicated. No single silo fits all.

On his blog, author Greg Lowe talks identifies four types of silos — regulatory, business unit/hierarchical, interest-focused, and project-focused. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lowe makes the excellent point that silos often are in place for good reason. And yet, “…decisions get made that are good for the silo, but may be bad for others or the company.”

First lesson, then: What leadership really wants is not silo abolition, but rather silos that are transparent and permeable.

But wait, there’s more.
Lowe’s four silos are all institutional silos. Silos hide themselves in other clothing, too. For example, social media silos require special treatment or eradication or, at least, inspection. For more on this silo,  download Nancy Pekala’s article on “Smashing the Social Media Silo:A Ten-Step Action Plan.” Or see what a social media digital manager like Wildfire has to offer.

And that’s not all.
Guarav Dhillon, CEO of SnapLogic, tackles the BIG DAWG in his blogHow to Eradicate Data Silos, saying, “I propose that the most important technique we can embrace in our quest to eradicate data silos is the containerization of data.” (Am I losing you yet?). Not to worry, just remember that, if you want to run an agile business, you must expect that you’ll be changing your SaaS systems (software-as-a-service or cloud service) much more frequently than you ever changed on-premise systems … [in other words] you should expect to replace business apps as often as you replace your household gadgets.” (I did lose you, didn’t I?)

If you’re still with me, know that Data Doghouse deals with the Scourge of Data Silos, too. “Each wave typically advances BI (business intelligence) in some way, but does not really create the breakaway promised; truly pervasive BI remains the Holy Grail. What is almost guaranteed with each new wave, however, is yet another data silo added to the many that already typically litter an enterprise landscape … The bottom-line is that business people need data and analytics from across the enterprise and not just from a new shiny BI silo. But for this to happen, the BI team has to stop the madness by not creating yet another silo and legacy application. Can you say “no” to the data silo?” (Honestly, I’m not sure I can say no. This silo thing is 50 shades of dominant).

Beyond saying that they exist, we’re not even going to talk about search engine optimization silos. And yet, if you must, be our guest in visiting this blog, which appears to tell us how to build silos. Yes, I’m just as dismayed as you are … even distraught.

So. Has it come to this? No More Silos EVER?
In its “State of Marketing Survey” whitepaper, IBM stresses that organizations need an integrated marketing suite that can take customer information gleaned from a variety of different sources and apply it to targeted offers delivered across channels and planforms.” As experience shows, that’s easier said than done. We are not allowed, however, to simply give-up.

Yes, indeed, we need data and many other silos. So, now what?
Writing for Forbes, John Kotter suggests that organizations create a “guiding coalition” whose job it is to break down barriers — that is, “a team of people committed to changing the way the organization operates, composed of people from all levels, divisions and locations. Don’t pick this team; require people to apply for it to gauge their level of commitment.”

To make it happen, this Harvard Business Review article suggests leadership create a compelling case for innovation, bolstered by a fully aligned strategic innovation agenda.

Let’s bring in the machines, too.
Michael Hickins, editor at the CIO Journal, describes the variety of software being used (e.g., Jive,  box,  and Yammer) to offer social networking and collaboration within a corporate environment.

1to1Media describes the experience of Imagetek in devising a new, robust CRM system. According to Steve Ogden, the company’s general manager, “The new system has decreased doubling of work between different departments and apart from saving time, has also increased accuracy.”

And, if you’re not behemoth, that’s good news. Chief Marketer attacked silo proliferation in early October, concluding that smaller companies manage the outbreaks better. “The larger the enterprise, the more likely it is that customer information is managed and stored via a third-party data warehouse. That means marketers must broker the data they need from IT … For example, companies that have cloud-based built data models can achieve a 45% increase in channel efficiency and a 20% reduction in costs. Those are difficult results to achieve without the benefit of flexibility..”

For marketers interested in comparison shopping for software aimed at silo smashing and marketing integration, find some options below [none of which I’ve used or endorse]. Additions and recommendations are welcome here. We’re all a little desperate.



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One thought on “Thoughts on Breaking Down Silos

  1. Joe Manos

    Great post Nancy on a very complicated topic.

    Silos are one of the single greatest challenges that marketers face in today’s marketing world.

    As you have pointed out the first step for success is leveraging technology to provide an integrated approach to all of your marketing needs. Couple this with well thought out programs designed to achieve specific marketing objectives and outcomes and you have the basis for immediate improvement.

    Technology alone won’t get today’s marketer where they want to get to as it relates to silo improvement. You need a partner that lives and breathes this on a daily basis and has the experience and expertise that is relevant to your area of focus.

    MindFireInc is another leading Marketing Platform that has been working with leading corporations of all sizes (13 years) helping them improve their marketing outcomes through more effective cross channel marketing automation utilization.

    This area will continue to be a huge focus in the coming years and there are some very clear best practice methodologies that must be leveraged to start to improve silo management.

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