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From siloed to strategic: Developing a unified business through technology

Over the last 18 months, many businesses adopted technology with a short-term, survival mindset. In most cases, it helped them to overcome the immediate impacts of the pandemic. However, their adoption of technology wasn’t always strategic or with the medium- to long-term in mind. As a result, many are now operating in ‘silos’. In business, organisational silos refer to when different departments or processes operate independently and don’t share information. 

There are various causes of a silo, but one of the most common is when technologies that cannot integrate with one another are used in different departments and processes. 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, productivity, and organisational foresight. 

With businesses able to plan once again for the long- rather than short-term, now is the opportune time for organisations to break down silos, unify their technology and build a more strategic future-focussed operation. 

Create a unified, long-term vision

The first step to becoming a truly unified business is a conscious and strategic decision to prioritise a unified approach. It starts from the top down. After all, if teams and departments still think in silos rather than the bigger picture, it will be difficult to create a unified business, irrespective of their technology. Different departments set different objectives in siloed businesses without consulting other teams or asking whether they contribute to an overall business objective. In unified businesses, 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 a company has the same broad objectives, understands how they contribute to that goal, and has the technology to make it happen, it makes collaboration, communication, and unification infinitely easier.

Identifying siloed processes and teams

Unifying a business’ processes needn’t be as daunting as it sounds. To create a unified operation, businesses must identify teams or processes that work in silos. Communication is crucial. Ask teams where they spend the most time, what processes are problematic or inefficient, operational bugbears 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 retail business has separate software for both 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 software 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. 

Strategic technology adoption

Once a business is committed to unifying its operations and identifies where silos exist, the technology is easy. Analyse your current technology approach, how many platforms you use and how they deliver on your long-term business goals. It’s easy to think that the more technology a business operates, the better. In reality, the opposite is true. Through an ‘integrated technology stack’, businesses can merge disparate activities into a more connected and agile organisation, increasing productivity and ultimately delivering better customer experiences. 

For example, through integrated technology, your sales data and insights are automatically accessible through your accounting software, driving productivity, efficiency and reducing the risk of human error in your retail 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. 

And 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. With everything from sales and marketing to finance, HR, and operations, it empowers businesses to solve disjointed data challenges and close communications gaps across silos, so they can become more productive, adapt quicker and become poised for growth. 
Digital transformation has long been considered the hallmark of successful, future-proof businesses. Ultimately, businesses that are strategic and considered in their digital transformation will be best placed to overcome challenges, seize opportunities, and stand out, irrespective of what the future holds.

Read more:Digitisation keeps customers on side and helps businesses de-silo departments: Docusign panel

Read more:Let’s Talk: What technology has improved the operation of your business the most?

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Vijay Sundaram

Vijay Sundaram

Vijay Sundaram is the Chief Strategy Officer of 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.

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