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Why are business silos such a persistent problem, and how do you break them down once and for all?

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Reading this blog, Silo thinking and why it is bad, prompted me to ask, Why are business silos such a persistent problem, and how do you break them down once and for all?

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    The problem is in the concept of Value Chain - I preserve my 'node', my process and do not care about others. My value is Value though it may be irrelevant to the enterprise business goal and objectives. If I bring money, I do not care much about these objectives.

    Also, if I have my process, I'll do anything to protect it from failure, i.e. from any changes. Also, if my process depends on somebody's work, I better acquire this one to control/manage to protect my process and its value.

    This is why we still have silos. Thus, isolated value and process-centric mentality is in fault.

  • Business silos happen because of misalingnment between IT and Business. It happens all the time because efforts are not made to get this alignment early enough and often enough. There is also the problem of communication - Business thinks it is communicating perfectly and IT thinks it is understanding perfectly and somewhere things fall through the cracks.

    The solution is for IT to not build anything quickly and communicate early and often!

  • Nice blog but it doesn't go deep enough (sorry Gary lol)

    It goes beyond traditional process and silo thinking, you really need to throw away everything you know about organisational makeup and start with a blank sheet of paper. Watching the Social Network and Social Enterprise convergence emerge has raised interesting questions, not only in terms of the new technology as an enabler but how the enterprise makeup is going to look and operate in the future. Having been involved in many transformation programmes it always amazed me to see the same top-down hierarchical business operating models applied when redesigning the process architecture: Silo – Division – Department – Activity – Capability, they all amounted to the same rigid structure no matter how it was labelled.

    When Valve created Half-Life they adopted the Cabal, which according to Gabe Newell, President and owner of Valve Software, stated “the people involved were tired of working in isolation and were energized by the collaborative process, and the resulting designs had a consistent level of polish and depth that hadn’t been seen before.”

    I decided to get in touch with Gabe directly for a blog entry of mine to find out his own opinions on hierarchy vs network organisational models.

    “The simple answer is that hierarchy is good for repeatability and measurability, whereas self-organizing networks are better at invention,” Gabe said, “There are a lot of side effects and consequences. The lack of titles (roles) is primarily an internal signaling tool.”

    “The alternate answer is that organizations that think they are hierarchical actually don’t gain advantage by it (they actually have hidden networks), and that the hierarchical appearance is the result of rent-seeking.”

    (http://www.futuredux.com/2011/09/06/lessons-from-the-games-industry/)

    (http://www.futuredux.com/2011/09/06/embracing-the-social-enterprise-operating-model/)

    Hierarchy, roles, structure charts, silos... they are all archaic in today's fluid, flat and social enterprise context, those with the flexibility to adapt will thrive, those behemoths from the Jurassic era who still operate with the overbearing management mentality driven from the top down will become extinct, crushed by their own toppling ivory towers.

  • I often think that org-charts, value chains, alignment problems all originate in our education system. For the most part, we pick a specialty and we stick to it through most of our degrees - with little to no opportunities to go outside our degree and learn about other areas, other disciplines, other ways of thinking.
    Business silos stem from siloed thinking and siloed thinking is fundamentally formed through the education path we happen to choose/stumble into.
    I belong to the 30-something generation and most of my friends, after having spent 10 or so years practicing what they were taught in school are now either bored or not contempt with where they are. They are frustrated because there are little opportunities in the way organizations today are structured to operate/hire/promote to completely switch hats and break out of your silo.
    You want to break down the siloes? Go back to the way we are taught. There's a reason why for example designers are more and more invited to the board room table: they can switch hats with incredible ease and that's because they were taught/born with that ability.

  • Silo thinking is a common Information Technology practice for more than 50 years. Object Oriented (OO), Component Based development (CBD) and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) are initiatives which aim at changing Silo thinking to another way of thinking: Reuse of common elements accross programs (OO), in a System (CBD) and in the Enterprise or even Virtual Enterprise (SOA). The root of Silo Thinking is not technical. It is an Organizational Culture issue. Changing to a Reuse Culture is difficult.
    A failure to change the culture is the reason for many unsuccessful SOA implementations. You can read more in a post in my blog titled: Reuse easy to say hard to use http://avirosenthal.blogspot.com/2008/12/reuse-easy-to-say-hard-to-use.html .
    The emergence of Web 2.0 technologies and especially the emergence of Electronic Social Networking Services e.g. Facebook or Linkedin is a Cultural change towards sharing and Reusein the Consumers market. Social Businesses are trying to extend this approach to the Enterprise. You can read the post tiled: SOA and Social Business
    http://avirosenthal.blogspot.com/2011/12/soa-and-social-business.html

  • In IT we are used to silos – in particular when it comes to application systems - and try to break them down. But humans usually are more concerned by their immediate environment and hurdles, and tend to discard less relevant ones. So silos are actually part of “instinctive human behavior”, be it in IT or in business areas.

    Breaking down silos is an architectural undertaking, offering a broader view and perspective across domains and systems. That’s where Enterprise Architecture comes in, trying to align and bring it all together.

  • Silos definitely seem to be rooted in human behavior, and as Mihnea suggests, we may educate kids to be individual contributors and reinforce it with traditional organizational structures. Of course, our organizations are built around the fact that we are human and can therefore only visualize and manage a limited set of connections, communications and complexity related to our roles.

    Technology can help silos disolve, through:

    * better visualization and analytics
    * better communication and collaboration
    * automated processes removing the need for repeatable work having to be managed by human brainpower

    All of these limit the complexity, and give us a way to expand our horizons beyond the paper on our desks.

    Development and training of people can help too, by providing people time to work in other parts of the organization, and therefore understand challenges that are normally hidden from other employees (and suggest novel solution to them only obvious to outsiders). Socially, silos break down when we see the people "over there" aren't out to sabotage our own efforts, just get their own jobs done.

    Silos exist, and are a function of the fact that we are trying to get a lot more done than an individual can do in a completely unstructured role. We need to work to avoid destructive silos, while providing enough structure for people to actually function productively.

  • Silos exist as much in one's professional life as they do in personal life. I have my family, work colleagues, church friends, college buddies, etc. Then I have to break down life based on the categories for wife and kids. Sometimes I can mashup silos as friends/associates cross divides. I find that to do so requires me making it happen.

    I believe the same thing is true at work. Silos exist between marketing, sales, engineering, R&D, distribution, Professional services,etc. They tend to funnel together at upper eschelons as management comes together to create strategy and manage operations. However, I believe that people lower down the food chain can do lots to mash up silos if they want/need to get things done or have ideas to create new value offerings.

    Breaking down silots requires people to care.

    The same is true with BPM. Buying a product is not going to make you successful. You need requirements. You need talent/resources. You need sound project management, budget, and authority to make changes. Bringing these things together necessitate collaboration - breaking down silos.

  • The answer to the first part of the question is: that's the result of deeply ingrained human instinct. People identify most strongly with the smallest group with which they are affiliated. Therefore the answer to the second part of the question is: that's going to continue to be very hard.

    So, while this is an issue that certainly creates problems for business, it's not at its core a business issue. Still, in business we find ways all the time to incent people to do things they otherwise wouldn't. If my bonus depends on my ability to collaborate across organizational boundaries, then I'm going to turn into a lean*, mean, collaboration machine.

    (*) For a given value of "lean".

  • If my performance evaluation and rewards are based upon my skills and demonstrated capability for collaboration, fostering team successes, and encouraging end to end process efficiencies, that will be my focus.

    If you want to break down silos, don't use a compensation and reward system that is designed to entrench the very attribute (behavior) you want extinguished.

  • Silos stood mourning in the dark shanty town
    I asked a long-faced silo,”Why do you frown?”
    It said,”Tell me, how’d you feel
    If they built you in thick steel
    And hazed the poor lads for not breaking you down?”

  • Business and IT survive the battle of analytical progress in both spheres. IT has developed under the vector of speculations mostly. Has the normal training dimensions of Americans gone up since its origin? Thinking about any distinctions in the quality and force of the topic. I'm to comprehend what achieveessays educators realize has been stupefied throughout the years.

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