How do you recognize and tackle the problem of silo working in IT?
Picture the scenario: you’re in a meeting, discussing why something isn’t working; scratching your head and wondering how it can be improved. Most of the time the elephant in the room and the reason it’s not working is because of silo working and poor practices.
I previously worked in a vendor organization and saw this issue almost daily. After a while, I became passionate about changing it because IT has the potential to transform businesses and society. But for it to happen we’ve got to start talking to each other and, most importantly, our business colleagues.
Why we work in silos
IT has long been an industry full of, dare I say, geeks. Being geeky (that’s me included) is fine up to a point, but when it comes to speaking to a CEO or head of marketing about what you’re doing, it needs to be in a less technical way that everyone understands and needs to be conveyed in business terms.
Unfortunately for many of us geeks a further problem is that when we’re too good at our jobs we get promoted into management because our hierarchical management organizational structures dictate that’s just what happens. Take any technical experts – they’re good at their specialized jobs, get promoted and then start doing management tasks alien to them and they’re not good at, which affects communication. Often, those promoted to management in this way will shy away from the difficult leadership tasks of management and revert to their comfort zones of technical heroism which further exacerbates the problem.
There are also some challenges around the ‘them and us’ barrier that we create. For a group of introverts (which many of us in IT are) talking to people is harder than it sounds. And when we add in labels such as ‘customers’ to describe our business colleagues, that can further build barriers.
Whether large or small, IT or engineering, all businesses experience this issue. However, as the world around us becomes more digitized and IT takes a more important role in our economy, we’ve no choice but to adapt and grasp the opportunity of this IT renaissance.
How we overcome it
To stop silo working requires a cultural change from the top and, ultimately, authority needs to instigate it and lead by example otherwise people won’t follow.
Organizations also need to ensure there’s effective visibility of the business’ purpose and measurements of success e.g. the business strategy, objectives, purpose and what it’s trying to achieve, including the specific numbers. Having this visibility and understanding is referred to as having ‘Business IQ’. It is critical that IT has Business IQ. Transparency and heightened Business IQ is very important within a business and, for all employees to feel part of it, they need to understand the aims of the business for one, three and five years.
If people understand what an organization is trying to achieve, the measurements of success and everyone’s role in trying to achieve, they’ll start to speak the same language and recognize their part in the long-term aim.
When everyone has clarity on the aims and purpose of an organization, it also gives focus and strengthens the competitive advantage. For instance, if a request or other form of demand comes in, it can be viewed through a lens of ‘does it meet or support the business objectives?' and 'will it help deliver something above competitors?'.
To get this business IQ, the role of the Business Relationship Manager is crucial, but it also needs to evolve beyond mere operational concerns and become more strategic. This augmented role (as well as helping to shape demand and evolve a company’s offer according to trends) ensures customer and business demand is met in practice and holds the business accountable to its expectations of realized value.
And then there’s continuous service improvement. Together, every business unit needs to keep evolving their products and services to ensure they deliver against business outcomes and strategy.
To move away from widespread silo working, all IT professionals need to work better with their colleagues, be more transparent in what they’re doing and the value they’re adding. Rather than aligning, which is when people work together in the same direction but are still apart, what the IT sector needs – to be truly together – is convergence.
Read Simon's previous blog for AXELOS, Managing change at work.
To understand what Convergence looks like in software tool, Sollertis have designed an award winning solution that converges Business IQ with ITSM and BRM and delivers Business Value Dashboard reporting and an accelerated IT/Business strategic partnering operating model for Digital Enterprise Convergence. For more information, visit www.sollertis.co/businessrelationshipmanagement.html