COVID-19 forced the majority of businesses to integrate technology rapidly. Reacting instead of planning, businesses adopted this technology with a survival mindset, choosing solutions that could patch areas of concern and ensure they could continue to operate as close to normal as possible. However, 18 months on, most businesses are now left with a myriad of different technologies across different business units, exacerbating 'silos' and preventing agility.
For businesses, silos refer to when different departments act independently and function with different technologies; this isolates information, preventing companies from capitalising on their data and the insights it can bring. For example, if a business uses one technology for sales and marketing that doesn't integrate with separate software for accounting, information cannot flow freely. The result is a siloed business lacking in efficiency and productivity.
However, as vaccination rates soar and the economy starts to bounce back with the promise of greater stability and certainty, businesses can now take stock and rethink their long-term strategies.
Optimising your long-term business future
Strategic planning is a critical first step to becoming a unified business. Starting from the top-down, companies that can unite their processes and ensure all pursuits ladder back to the ultimate vision will reap significant rewards. It will be challenging to create a unified business, irrespective of technology. In siloed businesses, different departments set different objectives without consulting other teams or asking whether they contribute to an overall business objective. In unified companies, every process and goal contributes to the business' overarching objectives.
Breaking down business silos isn't an overnight process; it requires a long-term vision and an ongoing commitment to collaboration. When everyone within an organisation shares a common objective, understands their role in achieving it, and has the technology to make it happen, collaboration, communication and unification happens seamlessly.
Distinguishing siloed processes and teams
Unifying a business' processes is more straightforward than it sounds. Companies must identify teams or strategies that work in silos to create a unified operation. Communication is crucial. Start by determining how teams are using their time. Are they experiencing any barriers? What technology are they using? Is this the best solution? What processes are overly-complex and what would enable them to do their job better. The answers to these questions will often help you establish where your business is siloed and how to resolve it.
For example, if your manufacturing business has separate software for sales and accounting, but the data cannot be transferred from one to another or must be done manually, your business is wasting time, losing valuable insights and increasing the risk of human error. Or, if the marketing team at your retail company uses one platform to send campaigns but has no insights from colleagues in the sales teams regarding the quantity and quality of their leads and conversions, they have no way to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. Both are instances of siloed processes or teams.
Adopting technology strategically
Once a business is committed to unifying its operations and identifying where silos exist, the technology is straightforward. Taking the insights from different teams' issues and processes, you can then analyse your current technology approach, how many platforms you have, and how these affect your long-term business goals.
Businesses are often caught out by investing in many different solutions for each team; however, in reality, an 'integrated technology stack' can merge disparate activities into a more connected and agile organisation. This technology increases productivity and ultimately delivers better customer experiences.
For example, with an integrated solution, sales data is automatically accessible to your accounting software, providing valuable insights that can significantly influence predictions on growth and identify new opportunities for teams. This cohesive approach drives productivity, efficiency and reduces the risk of human error in your business. And similarly, if the marketing team at your software company has complete insight into the results of their campaigns, it's easier for them to establish what is and isn't working.
As a business owner, you can develop a holistic, real-time picture of your business and every team, process and result within it. Zoho One, for example, is one integrated platform with more than 40 applications and solutions to manage, connect, and automate business processes across your entire organisation. Everything from sales and marketing to finance, HR and operations empowers businesses to solve disjointed data challenges and close communications gaps across silos so that they can become more productive, adapt quicker, and become poised for growth.
Today, many Australian businesses have digitally transformed their operations to varying degrees. However, it’s businesses that take a considered, strategic approach that will avoid the pitfalls of silos and be best placed to lead by example, whatever their business faces.
Vijay Sundaram is the Chief Strategy Officer at global technology platform Zoho. With 45+ apps in nearly every major business category, including sales, marketing, customer support, accounting and back office operations, and an array of productivity and collaboration tools, Zoho Corporation is one of the world's most prolific software companies.