Everyone who works for a large enterprise understands the frustrations of organisational silos, writes Gerhard Hartman, Vice President: Medium Business, Sage Africa & Middle East. As we deal with a new way of working with more people isolated to their homes, organisational silos continue to be a problem as different departments or teams cannot – or do not – interact with one another.

Silos prevent resources and information from being shared. They make it impossible to build and sustain trust, share ideas, collaborate, and achieve common goals.

In your own daily work environment, you may have experienced this when a project you were working on for weeks was cancelled because another department was doing something similar. Or perhaps you spent months trying to solve a crucial business issue, only to discover that someone on a different team has the skills or resources to solve your problem in minutes.

Silos are a massive stumbling block for many modern businesses. Just consider the following statistics:

  • More than eight out of 10 (85%) of people consider a lack of collaboration and poor communication as the primary reason for failed projects and workplace inefficiencies.
  • Nearly all (97%) people believe that a lack of alignment within teams negatively impacts projects or tasks.
  • More than half (52%) of employees would consider leaving a job because they didn’t feel a strong sense of community, and nearly 55% have stayed at a job longer than intended because they felt like part of a community or team.

If silos are such a challenge, why are they still so common in larger South African organisations? Because breaking down boundaries within an organisation is challenging and because there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. These challenges are not about technology – though an integrated enterprise application suite might be part of the solution.

Instead, they are to do with cultural issues and a lack of communication and collaboration. So, what does it take to break down organisational silos? It all starts with the three Cs:

  1. Collaborate effectively: By introducing collaboration tools across your business, you can help everyone in departments to communicate better – more people are now working remotely, which means collaborative technology needs to be adopted rapidly. Being able to work remotely and collaboratively makes it easier for employees to provide feedback to colleagues and managers, and it fosters a culture of information sharing.
  2. Create cross-functional teams: In creating cross-functional teams, you open opportunities for different departments to interact and work together. This also creates shared accountability. When your team members get to know people from other teams, they’re more likely to ask one another for help because they know what skills or competencies exist within the organisation.
  3. Cultivate common goals: In establishing a common goal, different individuals and groups are obliged to collaborate because they’re working towards the same outcome. To make this approach more effective, be sure to communicate with each member of your team. Everyone should understand their role in achieving the desired result.

View from the top 

Any efforts to eliminate silos must be championed by the leadership team which is currently being forced to adopt to new ways of working due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

They need to be responsible for creating a shared vision that aligns with the company’s goals and ultimately trickles down to managers and employees. Only once you’ve changed the mentality of those working within your organisation will you be able to encourage everyone to successfully and effectively work together.

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