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I’ve written about silos and their impact on the employee experience and the customer experience countless times. Silos can be a challenge for any organization, but I always like to remind everyone: “Silos are more of a mentality than a physical thing. There are no physical walls in place to keep you from talking to your colleagues in another department or from sharing data, information, or what you’re working on with others. Department or business unit leaders choose not to share information or not to collaborate. It’s a leadership issue. It’s a culture issue. It requires a shift in mentality!”

The go-to when silos exist is to break them down. But we don’t always have to do that. There may be reasons for their existence in some organizations; it really just depends on the goals of the organization and of the individual silos. In some cases, connecting silos can benefit both employees and customers to balance or outweigh some of the disadvantages that silos present.

Why Even Talk About Silos?

Why all this talk about silos and whether to break down or connect them? Well, ultimately, silos impact both the employee experience and the customer experience. In this article, I focus on the customer experience, but know that at the root of that is the fact that silos impacting the employee experience without a doubt translate to the customer’s experience.

Specifically, I want to talk about the impact of silos on data and information sharing. Data is at the heart of designing and delivering a great experience, where “a great experience” is defined by your customers’ expectations, i.e., seamless, consistent, personalized, etc. That means it must be shared freely across the organization.

How Do Silos Impact Data Sharing?

When silos are pervasive throughout the organization, here’s how they impact data and information sharing.

  • Disparate data sets: different departments maintain different data sets or databases. That data is isolated and not accessible by the rest of the organization.
  • Communication issues: when there are barriers to communicating easily and efficiently, departments can’t share data and information critical to the experience.
  • Duplicated efforts: because departments aren’t communicating or sharing information, they may duplicate the work they are doing, leading to inefficiencies and wasted resources.
  • Inconsistent data standards: the siloed departments might have different standards for data management leading to inconsistent data quality and formats.
  • Slow decision making: because of communication barriers, there’s no real-time sharing of data or information when departments needs to collaborate on issues.  There’s often a channel or protocol that slows response time considerably.
How Do We Connect Silos?

That’s great to know, but it’s important to mitigate those impacts by connecting the silos. How do we do that?

  • Integrating data systems: integration allows for a centralized repository or a unified platform where data can be accessed, shared, and updated in real-time by those who need it.
  • Using shared technologies: tools such as collaborative platforms or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems facilitate the seamless sharing of information across departments.
  • Building cross-functional teams: teams and committees that consist of members from different departments encourage the sharing of insights, data, and expertise, thus fostering a collaborative environment.
  • Standardizing data practices: doing so ensures consistency in data formats and quality, making it easier for different departments to understand and use shared information.
  • Implementing regular updates: regular reporting and updates keeps all departments informed about the progress and developments in other areas, which reduces the risk of duplication, enhances overall awareness, and allows others to add value, as needed.
  • Developing clear communication channels: in order to facilitate the efficient sharing of information, set up standards for regular meetings, shared documents, internal messaging channels, and project management tools.
  • Implementing data governance rules: this helps ensure that data is managed consistently across the organization, promoting transparency and accessibility.
  • Developing and providing training programs: to not only ensure employees know the standard data practices, systems, and technologies but also to emphasize the importance of data sharing and collaboration.
What’s Culture Got To Do With It?

Connecting silos involves both technological and cultural changes. By fostering a culture of collaboration and implementing the right tools and practices, organizations can significantly improve data and information sharing across departments.

To that point, if you really want to get to the heart of the matter and connect those organizational silos, start with the culture. If you deliberately design your culture to be one that is customer-centric, it will be collaborative by definition. There can be no collaboration if silos exist – or if silos are not connected. How can employees work together with their colleagues if these silos prevent them from doing so?

In a customer-centric culture, by definition, the entire organization rallies around the customer. Also by definition, the entire organization must work toward a common goal, to deliver a seamless and consistent experience for the customer.  That cannot happen in a fragmented organization. It can only happen when everyone works together. Breaking down or connecting silos takes some of the effort out of the experience for both employees and customers, making it a major benefit for both constituents.

A customer-centric culture is one that also embraces continuous improvement. Departments work together to identify areas in which to enhance the customer experience, which only further fosters a culture of collaboration and innovation.

In Closing

When silos are broken down or connected, employees can more easily communicate, collaborate, and share. They take a more unified approach to delivering on the customer journey. Processes become streamlined, redundancies are reduced, and efficiency is increased. This leads to improved productivity and morale.

And when employees are happy, productive, and working together, that easily translates to a better experience for customers.

A customer-centric culture is a catalyst for breaking down or connecting silos and fostering collaboration. When the entire organization is aligned around the goal of delivering exceptional value to customers, the different departments are more likely to work together to achieve that objective.

Silos—and the turf wars they enable—devastate organizations. They waste resources, kill productivity, and jeopardize the achievement of goals. But beyond all that, they exact a considerable human toll too. They cause frustration, stress, and disillusionment by forcing employees to fight bloody, unwinnable battles with people who should be their teammates. There is perhaps no greater cause of professional anxiety and exasperation—not to mention turnover—than employees having to fight with people in their own organization. ~ Patrick Lencioni

ABOUT ANNETTE

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business [Advantage|ForbesBooks], which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.