Breaking Down the Business Silos


Vizions In Motion Breaking Down the Business SilosDoes your company operate as one coordinated enterprise or as a collection of individual business silos?  All too often, companies tend to operate as a series of independent segregated business areas within the same company, more commonly known as business silos.

Unfortunately, this approach usually results in duplication of efforts and conflict of interests.  Silos can occur in any company of any industry.  Are there any benefits to having business silos?

Any Benefits of Business Silos

Business silos are rarely beneficial to a company.  Each business silo creates their own individual set of systems, goals, strategy, processes and business rules that may duplicate or conflict with those of other business silos within the organization.

While this arrangement encourages specialization, it also prevents collaboration, creates boundaries of responsibilities (and blame), discourages knowledge-sharing and creates duplication of effort.

Impacts of Business Silos

The impact of business silos generally reach well beyond the company’s walls.  It is accepted that different business areas have specialties but those lines between business areas should be transparent to the customers.  How many departments should the customer be transferred to just to get a question answered?

Unfortunately, the customer is often subjected to different procedures, quality of service and overall expectations if they interact with more than one business silo.  One business silo will rarely provide assistance to customers of another business silo.  In part, it is because they do not recognize the indirect value and benefit of that time and effort spent and in part, because they lack the knowledge or abilities to provide any real assistance.

Learn to Operate as One Entity

For a company to maximize its potential and minimize its internal conflicts, it should learn how to operate as one coordinated entity.  Knowledge between business areas should be shared and consistent.  Business rules, strategy and expectations should be applied horizontally across every business and support area of the company.  Collaboration, communication and networking should be encouraged and supported.

If you feel that your company already operates well as a series of “mini-companies”, think about how much more your company could achieve if every one of those business silos were operating in unison.

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About the Author

Vizions In MotionAn advocate for clients to operate and deliver to their full potential by incorporating business architecture, solution design, strategic planning and change management.View all posts by Vizions In Motion

  1. TJ

    Amen to that! Our company feels like it is just one big group of business silos and we don’t know how to break down the walls as you call it. The departments are unwilling to let anyone know what is going on in their department and not likely to change anytime soon. It feels like the executives are actually encouraging this behavior even though they say they want to change. How do you start?

    • Vizions In Motion
      Vizions In Motion12-08-2011

      @ TJ

      Don’t get defeated before you start. It can be done. You start at the beginning – before planning the needed changes, take a good look at the current structure and identify all the issues and opportunities then create the needed strategic roadmap to accomplish the goals. And then, make it happen!

  2. Jayne

    I agree. Our company works in silos and it’s only at the top levels that things start to make sense. Once they instituted quarterly all-staff updates, the bigger picture became clearer to the average worker. That lack of knowledge of other activities and initiatives within the company wastes time and creates confusion for the customers.

    • Vizions In Motion
      Vizions In Motion02-13-2011

      @ Jayne

      Thanks for the insight to your company. Information distribution across silos is a great step towards reducing the silo walls. Hopefully your company will take the next step of applying a solid business architecture approach to take down the walls altogether and operate as one complete holistic company.

  3. Jerry

    Great article! I think you just described every company I have ever worked for. Some of them realize it and some do not but very few want to admit it. I think some want to change but they do not want to invest in the time and costs necessary to bring it to fruition. It also seems like the bigger the company, the more siloed they are. If they can only realize the benefits and the possibilities but only if you have the right people and skills in place. I don’t envy your job to get them to see the light.

    • Vizions In Motion
      Vizions In Motion02-13-2011

      @ Jerry

      Thanks for your comment. The first step of changing from a silo environment to a holistic enterprise environment is recognition of the benefits and commitment to change. Ideally everyone will join the efforts and not just the Business Architect – many people had a role in the organization’s current state and everyone can have a role in establishing and supporting the desired future state.

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