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Digital media is breaking down the enterprise silos

August 25, 2011

In Buffalo, NY, there are famous old “grain elevators” on the waterfront. Depending on who you talk to, these silos are either an eyesore, or a treasured piece of history from the last century.

photo by Chris Smart

What a perfect metaphor for silos in the enterprise.

I’ve worked in many different marketing communications agencies in my career. Every single one of them had silos. They’re called “departments”, and they are set up just like department stores. There was a media department. A PR department. An internet (or interactive) department.

But in the 21st century, we’re past that now: do you think of Amazon.com as a department store?

And just like the silos from the industrial revolution, silos are so last century.

Silos worked at a time when communication didn’t matter. For example, customer service never really had to know what marketing was doing. Human Resources didn’t really need to know what PR was doing. It didn’t matter if a department strayed from another department because it took an investigative reporter to piece it all together.

In the age of digital media, all it takes is a Google search. Google collects all the information put out by a brand into one place. Not knowing what the other part of the company is doing makes a company look separated at unfocused.

When thinking about the silo picture from above, it makes a company look antiquated.

So what is the answer?

I think the answer lies in rethinking job titles and departments. We don’t think of Amazon.com as a department store because it doesn’t have departments. Just products.

In an enterprise, there shouldn’t be departments, just people with skills. Some people might be really skilled at presenting, while another person is skilled at making video presentations. Those people don’t need to be in departments, but they do need to be connected.

In this way, the enterprise should think about connecting people by skills and interests. In the same way that Amazon.com took the product out of departments, so should the 21st century enterprise.

It will take some time, but step one is tearing down the internal silos. They are an eyesore on a cohesive looking brand.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 31, 2011 9:25 am

    .Employees within the functional divisions of an organization tend to perform a specialized set of tasks for instance the engineering department would be staffed only with software engineers. In another example an automobile with a divisional structure might have one division for SUVs another division for subcompact cars and another division for sedans..Each division may have its own sales engineering and marketing departments..

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