As channels proliferate in this digital age, companies struggle to deal with brand fragmentation and execution of omni-channel orders through traditional competencies, especially in marketing, logistics and category management. The time that executives and their teams have is finite, but the seemingly infinite demand on their time to learn and master multiple legacy and emerging systems is not.
As companies breach the omni-channel threshold, it often seems favorable to remove departmentalized silos in exchange for a holistic team approach to systems and organization. Marketers become responsible for sales activities; logistics personnel become responsible for customer order interactions—the thought being that when all employees wear multiple hats that they can deal with all the different channels and personalized customer expectations.
The problem is, such a model doesn’t scale.
So how should companies orchestrate world-class processes across physical (catalogs, stores or dealer location, field sales reps) and digital (mobile, web site, kiosk, social commerce) touchpoints? Are silos really an obstacle to dealing with disparate channels? Or are they an advantage?
The answer is clear: if you enable a single view of content across your organization, your teams can collaborate while remaining in their areas of functional competency. A marketer can remain a marketer if they have the collaborative content tools that provide for real-time interchange with their colleagues in related silos of category management, sales and service, and supply chain.
No matter how globally distributed capabilities become, businesses can update their siloed structures to achieve collaboration in real time and preserve accurate data and content. Despite the three common misconceptions listed below, silos can remain an integral part of any company.
Silos Limit Cross-Team Collaboration
Misconception: One frequently cited objection to a siloed internal business structure is that individually focused competencies limit teamwork. For businesses, this can mean communication, collaboration, dissemination of company knowledge, etc. A lack of flexibility can occur when business units are stacked with restricted synergy.
While silos do create more competencies to manage, this can be solved with the implementation of an enterprise content network. Businesses have access to an increasingly powerful network of virtual data, and they can use a well-crafted digital network to promote sharing. Key elements, such as master data management (MDM) and product information management (PIM) can create a single view of company content within an enterprise and across enterprise partners. They can also overcome isolated areas of information to stimulate consistent, persuasive messaging across an entire company.
A company tailored enterprise content network brings multiple silos together under a unified and effectively governed umbrella of information. Moreover, while tools and technologies can unify communication across silos, their implementation also allows every individual business unit to retain specificity over its unique responsibilities.
Each distinct business department can do its best work while simultaneously contributing to singular company content. For example, when marketers can spend time enriching content and logistics personnel can fine-tune ERP and supply chain systems, the entire company runs more efficiently.
Silos Stymie Business Growth
Misconception: Despite already existing as a component of business, naysayers treat silos as a limitation to large-scale business growth.
Simply put, there is no need to eliminate silos when they are working well. Again, a common repository for master data that effectively houses information on customer, product, brand, etc. allows silos to function at their optimal productivity levels. Finding a solution that addresses internal content issues is a simpler and more economical choice than entirely overhauling company structures.
Like specificity, silos give a business the functionality to direct logical ownership over tasks to departments. Because competencies are tasked with managing their own responsibilities, each can autonomously get better work done faster. It simply makes more sense for marketing and sales personnel to claim responsibility for customer facing endeavors and logistics teams to have access to more specific customer information in order to properly address individual queries. All departments know what they are responsible for, fostering cross-company accountability.
Siloed businesses can continue to ramp up growth by starting from a single source of truth for company content and information. Then, each silo can contribute to company growth in a uniform way. Rather than deterring expansion, silos prepare businesses with proper infrastructures and systems to methodically handle quick or escalated periods of growth.
Silos Spur a Disjointed Omni-Channel Customer Experience
Misconception: Some believe that silos produce an inconsistent or unsatisfactory customer experience due to their disparate nature. When information is not shared across departments, brand messaging and customer data can differ and compete from one channel to the next. As the world becomes ever-more interconnected, it is believed that silos cannot keep up with an “always-on” business environment.
By their very nature, customers have different needs. More than ever before, consumers expect a personalized user experience, which silos can give them. Technology available today makes it possible for businesses to develop a single language cross-company. When a single source of truth is shared across an enterprise content network, all departments can bend the same information to their particular customer needs. For example, even when asking area-specific questions, a customer will get the same answers from marketing, sales, logistics, and other departments. Starting from a common point, all departments can ensure that answers create a singular customer experience.
With single company content, businesses can address the specific content needs of an omni-channel world. This includes mediums like catalogs, direct mail, desktop ecommerce, mobile, etc. No matter how company information is used, content, messaging and images remain consistent, both internally and with channel partners.
Channel-specific operations become simpler as employees deploy information that is guaranteed to be correct. Rather than searching for answers or double-checking work, departments can expend resources and time providing the best customer experience that is customized to each channel. Similarly, all silos can become experts in their particular fields of work and approach customer interactions with greater confidence and clarity.
Silos are often infamous for being outdated in terms of today’s business demands. However, their relevance remains clear when they are linked with the right technologies. From specificity to cross-channel communications, silos offer businesses a strategic opportunity to improve performance and interact with customers to earn life-long loyalty.
Rick Chavie is CEO of Enterworks. He brings industry experience from his leadership roles at major retailers such as The Home Depot, technology experience from his role as the global marketing leader for NCR’s retail and hospitality business, and management consulting expertise from his partner roles at Deloitte and Accenture.