Have you ever worked at a company where it seemed like no one was on the same page? Maybe the CEO said that work-life balance plays a major role in how the business operates, but then your boss sends time-sensitive emails every Saturday. Or perhaps your department shares information via shared Google folders, but other departments use Dropbox. Every time you have a question for another team, it takes hours or days for them to reply only for you to realize you actually need something else from them. Miscommunication and misalignment make sharing and finding information difficult.
This difficulty paves the way for departments to go rogue: where they stop collaborating with other departments and form information and knowledge silos. But information silos wreak havoc on organizations. When departments don’t work together, operations don’t run effectively, redundant work wastes valuable time, and employees experience frustration due to a lack of opportunities for real impact. While you probably even have tools to reduce aspects of these issues (i.e. Trello, Evernote, and Google Docs), chances are, they are treating symptoms of the problem and aren’t helping teams share information in a highly searchable and collaborative way.
Silos Prevent a Unified Customer Experience
Each department plays a vital role in the success of the business. When departments work together towards a unified vision, the overall customer experience is consistent, and branding appears authentic. If employees are operating under department-specific objectives, then their actions could potentially prove detrimental to other departments, especially if they contradict one another.
And, unfortunately, customers don’t always recognize the internal silos within a business and expect the employees they speak with to provide guidance throughout any phase of their experience. A customer question that is passed to another department without context can lead to a lack of loyalty and overall dissatisfaction. When departments hold information hostage, it’s practically impossible for employees to adequately assist customers in the moment, even when they want to. This draws out resolution and breeds distrust.
Another frustrating occurrence for customers doing business with an information-silo-ridden company is when departments contradict each other. If a sales team member, for instance, tries to sell the customer something they’ve already bought, it will be clear to the customer that the business isn’t prepared to help them in a personal, curated manner. Customers want to feel special and cared for, and the most successful customer-facing businesses harness that by creating consistent interactions and easy solutions.
Internal Silos Create Obstacles for Scaling Business
There are many factors to consider when scaling a business, such as the rate of growth over a certain period, maintaining the company culture, and establishing long-term company goals. Company growth relies on knowledge flow, inventive collaboration, and passionate employees who feel personally invested in their roles and the success of the business.
Most of the roadblocks inhibiting growth center around the inability to access department-specific processes, procedures, and documents. Setbacks caused by this isolation of information include customer dissatisfaction, lengthy onboarding for new hires due to disorganized training, and contradictory goals. As touched on before, this makes it difficult for departments to work towards a unified vision, growth included.
The Solution to Information Silos
When businesses are small and just starting out, collaboration is natural. As companies grow, it’s common for departments to become disjointed, working alone and hoarding information. The most effective way to combat silos is to establish a knowledge sharing strategy that aims to address shortcomings in culture and technology that are preventing knowledge from flowing between departments. Knowledge sharing solves silo-related problems by making it so anyone in a company, regardless of department, can easily access the information they need. This prevents information from getting lost in the black holes of various departments.