How to break down team and department silos for digital transformation

Breaking down team and department silos for digital transformation is a challenge. But, it is also entirely necessary. Without the free flow of data, technology and processes across an different departments and teams, an organisation will never be able to experience the benefits of digitalisation. Instead, they will fade and eventually be disrupted by a more nimble or proactive competitor.

Here, six leading technology experts explore how organisations can break down team and department silos for digital transformation success.

1. IT and DevOps teams

‘If organisations want to succeed in digital transformation, application owners, IT and DevOps teams need to understand the direct link between user experience, application performance and business outcomes,” explained Michael Allen, VP and CTO EMEA at Dynatrace.

“However, while the data they need to unlock that insight is already flowing through the business and being analysed in many cases, it’s usually siloed across disparate dashboards in a variety of IT monitoring, web analytics and ad hoc reporting tools.”

He suggested that oganisation’s can break down these silos by implementing a common data model that ties user experience, customer behaviour and application performance data together with business metrics.

“If that data model is combined with deterministic AI, which provides precise insights into the root cause of anomalies, it’s possible to analyse the vast quantities of data flowing through the organisation and uncover real-time answers to business questions.

“By breaking down the walls between their tools and taking a new, multidisciplinary approach to how they run the business, organisations can truly leap ahead of their competitors and unlock the answers they need to improve the outcomes of their collective efforts.”

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2. Fostering collaboration

In the name of agility, organisations need to break down departmental and team silos — and many recognise this.

According to Jonquil Hackenberg, head of c-suite advisory and managing partner  at  Infosys Consulting, “even office spaces are being broken down and integrated, bringing different teams together physically as well as professionally. Advances in smart buildings and the creation of truly digital workplaces are enabling collaboration for businesses around the world, which has a huge impact on the experience of employees–and ultimately benefits customers too. After all, employees are internal customers, and having them on their side is the biggest asset a company can have.

“Fostering this sense of collaboration goes beyond offices, projects and individual products. Ensuring interactivity and creating partnerships across the whole value chain is key for businesses to react more quickly to the market and to customer needs.”

Organisations need a digital evangelist in place to drive change and get the whole business working towards the same goal

 3. Communication is key

Ed Hill, general manager UKI at TIBCO, believes that communicating a plan before implementing a digital transformation strategy that requires collaboration between typically-siloed departments and teams is critical.

“You need to use every possible lever at your disposal to generate goodwill, teamwork and enthusiasm,” he said.

“That can be lean and mean SWAT teams, brown-bag lunches, or one-to-one meetings. As some people are afraid of change or think new processes might have a Big Brother aspect, it is essential to keep talking and get the super-users on board to spread the word even more and to set positive examples.”

4. Smarter tools and talent

Adam Spearing, EMEA Field CTO at Salesforce, explained that one way to break down silos is to use smarter tools.

“Team and department silos can form when specialist skills are required that only certain parts of the business may have. Functionality like zero-code or low-code is one way barriers to digital transformation can be broken down and made accessible to all. A shortage of developer and digital talent often holds many IT projects back, but low-code tools can make software easier to use, manage and create by more people. Getting things like mobile apps and automated customer service processes off the ground quickly then becomes more achievable.”

“Bringing departments together to react better to customer needs means businesses are building mixed-skill teams. For example, bringing engineering together with design, then drafting in data and consultancy teams means that businesses can understand the customer journey from beginning to end” — Hackenberg

5. A company-wide process

Often, the responsibility of a digital transformation project is left to the IT team. This needs to change, because digital transformation is a company-wide process, according to Perry Krug, director, customer success architect, office of the CTO at  Couchbase.

He explained: “While digital projects naturally require the IT team’s guidance, planning and implementing them should be a cross-organisational process. This is why we’re now seeing many organisations look to a ‘chief data officer’ to lead the charge.

“Data is the currency of digital transformation that all departments will rely on; it’s therefore the CDO’s role to build a data strategy, identify where all of the insights from data can and should be applied, and get the senior team on board.

“Most importantly, the CDO needs to instigate a wider cultural transformation across the business, ensuring that everyone understands that digital innovation is a shared responsibility. This is perhaps the main challenge — as we’re constantly hearing, people are often reluctant to embrace change.

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6. Breaking down team and department silos for digital transformation — a case study

Speaking from experience,  Aleksey Fetisov, technological lead of the retail business at VTB bank, revealed how his organisation has broken down silos for digital transformation.

He said: “We embrace more flat structure, where we organise cross-functional team groups, which we call streams around a product, channel or service.

“The idea behind this is to enable individual units to have full control and full responsibility for particular part of the banking business, mortgages for example. This is where organisational and IT-architecture transformation are entwined, because to be successful as separate unit, the stream has to own its architectural domain and collaborate with other parts of IT landscape via backward compatible APIs.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...