ESM and Agile: The Silo Busting Dream Team

By Hannah Price, agile coach, TOPdesk UK.

It’s the invisible problem, but a problem it is. And 68% of organisations admit that they succumb to this problem. What is it? Silos.

Typically, we work in departments: IT, marketing, HR, facilities, the list goes on. A business cannot survive without these teams, it needs a wealth of specialisms and experience levels to function, grow, and succeed. And each of these teams needs one another, too. Imagine a marketing team without access to IT support: How will they troubleshoot their technological problems and get recruits up on the system? (See they need HR, too.)

What’s strange is that the survival of each of these departments depends on the teams they work alongside, and yet, we seem so determined to work alone (otherwise known as siloed working). Silos are not tangible, we cannot see or touch them, so it’s easy to think they don’t exist. But, alas, they do, and this invisible problem has huge effects on the way we work and the potential our organisation can reach.

Why are we working in these silos?

There are various reasons why we find ourselves working in this detrimental way. Firstly, organisational set-ups unconsciously feed into these silos.

We team up people in groups of the same function: departments. The reason why we do this is that those working in the same/similar jobs are likely to be working together on a project, are directly impacted by each other, and typically have the same interests and drivers, so it’s likely to make for a harmonious team. However, having autonomous teams that focus on just one function of the business leads to silos. They will have separate goals and motivations, which is a blocker to collaboration.

Once these individual teams are established, the silos become stronger. They develop their own processes and invest in their own systems. So, when the conversation of collaboration arises, they say: ‘Well we work this way’, ‘we have a contract on X software’, ‘why should we change?’ or ‘why should our staff have to re-train for X system?’

The silo cycle can be a difficult one to break.

Staring the problem in the face

You may ask: Ok, but why are silos a problem? The answer is complex, but let’s focus on three aspects: Employees, customers, and business.

When we work in silos it has a huge effect on the progression of those talented people that we hire. Their opportunity for growth is limited to the skills, knowledge, and expertise of other members of their team. We miss out on wider knowledge sharing and even allowing each other to see new perspectives and insights.

Onto how this affects business. Each department is a vital part of the organisation it serves. Siloed working creates an us-versus-them mentality. Each team is committed to their own goals and processes, not the wider company’s vision, and sees collaboration with other departments as a potential hazard to their success. Therefore, silos create a disconnected culture, which makes for unhappy employees, a lack of efficiency, unnecessary spending, and makes it hard to truly succeed.

And when our company is disconnected, it funnels down to our customer base. When they attempt to communicate with us, their service experience will be fragmented. They’ll have to head to several different places to speak to each department, making accessing our services confusing and cumbersome. Also, our unhappy siloed employees are much less likely to go the extra mile and delight our user base. They’ll be doing the bare minimum for the company rather than helping it to reach new heights. Ultimately, silos will affect our customers and whether they want to continue to do business with us.

There is a solution!

Silos are a nightmare, but there’s a solution I’d like to introduce to you: The silo-busting dream team! Let’s take a look at them separately and then explore why, together, they’re a force to be reckoned with:

Agile Agile refers to a way of working which is designed to transform our mindset into one which values collaboration. We’ve discussed how silos create an us-versus-them mentality, agile is the complete opposite of this. Its core principles focus on how we can work together to deliver value, develop our employees, and experiment to achieve success.

While traditionally we work in single-function teams, when we work agile, our teams are multi-disciplinary. This means a group of people of different roles, responsibilities, skills, and knowledge, working together on a common goal. At the end of the day, whether you work in IT, HR, marketing, or facilities, we all want the same thing: For our organisation to be a success. So, why not work together to achieve this?

Enterprise Service Management (ESM) ESM is a solution to make collaboration easy, it provides a single place for each and every department in an organisation to work within. ESM doesn’t take autonomy away from teams but instead allows them to collaborate where it makes sense. For example, HR will have many confidential documents and processes which need to stay that way. With ESM, they can ensure confidentiality where required but also work better together with departments when onboarding employees with a thorough and collaborative process.

And when we all work together in the same system, it makes accessing our services far easier for our customers. Instead of heading to various places to speak to each department, users will find a single source of truth. If our customers are looking to communicate with us, we should be offering them the easiest and most efficient experience possible, and ESM is the key to this.

What makes agile and ESM ‘the dream team’?

Both ESM and agile have the ability to tackle aspects of siloed working. Agile changes our mindset, it fosters a want to work better together and provides us with tools to do so (multi-disciplinary teams, for example). ESM is the system that makes this desire for collaboration possible, it helps each team to communicate and design processes that work for all parties.

So, agile makes us want to collaborate but cannot provide the tangible area for us to do so. ESM gives us access to an area for collaboration but doesn’t guarantee that we work together within it.

Therefore, they don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle alone, but together they can provide the big picture solution to silos.

It’s time to bust your silos

While our organisations are typically set up to feed silos, we must find a way to work beyond them. They’re the reason why our customers are frustrated, employees are fed up, and company culture is disconnected – in fact, 72% of organisations know that cross-departmental working benefits employee engagement and experience.

Now is the time to stop silos in their track and no longer allow them to dictate how successful our organisations can be. And, yes, you could use either agile or ESM to achieve some level of this. But if you truly want to bust your silos then by embracing the dream team of ESM and agile you’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

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