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Next time you take the train, observe the intricate system that ensures your safe journey. The seamless integration of tracks, looping around obstacles and overlapping at diamond crossings all enable uninterrupted train passage. Occasionally, compartmentalizing those tracks becomes necessary, temporarily separating one train on its own set of rails so it can operate independently without interfering with others in the area. However, no one train can operate effectively in isolation, at least not for long. It requires a constant exchange of information across countless systems to maintain the schedules and track assignments of hundreds of trains across thousands of miles of track. The result: Safe and on-time departures and arrivals without collisions or confusion on the part of operators or passengers.
Whether we’re talking about systems, individuals, teams, departments or business partners, striking the right balance between compartmentalization and collaboration is crucial to avoid siloed information and inadvertent “collisions.” While every application or team has its specialty, excessive compartmentalization hinders cross-departmental collaboration, creating a brittle framework akin to disjointed train tracks.
Not unlike a lone train on an isolated track, everyone focusing on their own tasks and expertise appears to work initially. Eventually, though, this approach reveals its limitations as projects and decisions of one department ultimately impact another — and a desperate need for cohesion and collaboration. A lone train, after all, is part of a much larger business ecosystem.
Related: How Siloed Data May Limit Your Business Growth (and How to Prevent It)
Compartmentalization discourages (and often prevents) collaboration
Many businesses have functioned largely under the compartmentalization model due to the lack of resources necessary to nurture dialogue. However, new technology capabilities and a demand for a digital customer experience at each level of the supply chain are transforming work dynamics. Collaboration is now a key differentiator, one that demands free and clear communication and the proper sharing of “tracks” (information). These empower and enable not only individual “trains” to reach their goals but also the business as a whole. Unless we break down silos, collisions are bound to occur because everyone is working towards their own goals.
Collaboration should be a key consideration of every business app or IT system we create or select, even when its integration into the whole is intended to benefit a specific department. Adding new tools should not overwhelm an organization by requiring every employee to cross-train on every program but rather enable all departments to reach new levels of optimization and visibility. Systems that allow the sharing of projects and data facilitate open dialogue and collaboration between departments and transparency in business goals.
Here are several actionable steps to breaking down silos within your own organization to unlock the agility and strength that come from collaborative ecosystems.
1. Deployment of the multipurpose, multi-tenant portal platform
Enabling and encouraging collaboration among teams and departments isn’t only helpful – it is crucial. Eliminating the need to switch between dedicated collaborative tools like Outlook, Teams, or Slack provides a seamless experience within the business apps themselves. A unified, multi-tenant portal should serve as a hub connecting customers, vendors and other business partners. Such a portal allows all these parties to upload, view, approve and process orders and payments. It’s a many-to-many relationship, similar to a bustling terminus station, where individuals from anywhere can converge, depart and meet in one central location.
2. Automated workflows to encourage visibility and cohesion
Operational inefficiencies arise when organizational parts fail to connect, hindering team cohesion, causing costly errors, and reemphasizing the need for continuous alignment and dialogue. Conflicting goals and priorities among team members can lead to individualistic approaches, hindering team cohesion and creating a sense of disconnection. CFOs, in particular, face the challenge of preventing such “silo consequences.” Luckily, technology can automate a great many workflows as well as reduce errors commonly caused by human oversight. Further, automated workflows support greater visibility across finance, marketing, and sales, allowing CFOs to more quickly assess which tactics (and the associated expenses) produce the most impactful, positive results — and which do not.
3. Centralized platforms that provide targeted training and clear objectives
When combined with clear directives, digital tools become catalysts for smooth operations, offering space for high-level thought and collaboration within and between teams. To tackle the issue of conflicting goals, as mentioned earlier, CFOs can introduce a centralized platform on which to align objectives and provide comprehensive (and, in some cases, cross-functional) training. Such technology platforms act as a connector to enable and foster collaboration, which in turn streamlines operations, bridges gaps and drives success organization-wide.
4. Collaboration on the inside begets collaboration with those on the outside
Internal collaboration lies at the heart of a successful organization. Yet, it is essential to recognize that the true potential of collaboration extends far beyond these departments or even corporate walls. To achieve long-term resilience, fostering collaborative relationships throughout your entire business ecosystem is paramount: between individual team members, between departments across the organization, and out to your vendors, suppliers, and other partners.
Prioritizing people and partnerships is worth the effort
Building a collaborative ecosystem that prioritizes mutual benefits is like laying down a robust train track system for long-term resilience. By embracing collaboration beyond internal departments, we connect different tracks, tapping into collective strengths and adapting to evolving market demands.
Breaking down silos between people, departments, and business partners by insisting on collaboration (as opposed to compartmentalization) doesn’t just happen, however. It takes dedication, persistence, and technology that seamlessly enables, facilitates, and encourages sharing, both of personal communications but also the relevant data and insights from other systems. It is the absence of traditional silos that will keep everyone collectively on the tracks and moving forward.