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3 ways to stop departmental silos for good 

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breaking department silos

How focused are your people on the things that drive the success of the business? In a survey Sage conducted at the beginning of this year, 86 percent of business leaders told us they blame lack of collaboration or bad communication for business problems and team failures. Leaders know their teams are misaligned. In fact, many stated they have to consult with at least five employees to gain a somewhat complete picture of a customer or vendor, and it seems no two employees are focused on the same customer or business problem.

The cause of misalignment: working in silos

As agile as our businesses are operating today, we can no longer blame the fact that teams are remote or work in different locations. Nor can we declare the cause as lack of visibility into the work performed within departments, although these factors can contribute. I tend to believe the cause is founded on the metrics a company chooses to use to evaluate business performance and the way they communicate performance against these metrics.

For example, if your business focuses on driving top-line revenue growth, then your finance or customer support team may not see how they contribute to these numbers. Or if you focus on overall company profitability, traditional cost-center teams like marketing may only see how they decrement profitability performance.

Helping employees understand cause and effect

In many businesses, teams have different measures of business success.

  • A finance manager focuses on the costs and revenues of the business.
  • A customer support team focuses on the customer.
  • The distribution team focuses on inventory.
  • Marketing focuses on the customer experience.
  • Sales focuses on the next sale.

You get the idea.

Rarely do they collaborate toward a common goal.

But, if you make your traditional business performance metrics such as revenue goals the ‘effect’ and help your employees understand the ‘cause’ by layering-in more indicative, proactive performance metrics, then it may become easier for them to see how their activities contribute to the business.

Using indicative, proactive metrics to align your teams with a common goal

In previous blogs, I wrote about ‘How tracking revenue goals alone can set your business up for failure,’ and ‘The three types of financial indicators your business should be monitoring.’ Essentially, there are metrics your business could be monitoring that will help you understand the areas of the business that are contributing to common business performance metrics like revenue (spoiler alert: it’s more than your sales team), cash flow, and working capital. Once monitored, these metrics allow you to be agile enough to put plans of action in place when you see that your business may be drifting off course.

Even further, consider the value of making your company’s performance against these indicative, proactive metrics visible across your business. By giving more than just your finance and leadership team access to these results on a routine basis, then you’re not only creating a transparent organization, but you’re also allowing teams to see how they’re contributing to results.

Here are some examples:

Your client delivery team is working on a customer project. They understand the amount of revenue coming in once this project is delivered, and see that income from this project will allow the company to hit its revenue goals. Maybe this gives them more incentive to focus on project completion.

A customer account manager sees that their customer is slow to pay outstanding invoices. In fact, one of these invoices is over days 60 days late. Perhaps he or she will bring it up the next time they’re meeting with that customer.

Your customer support team has a first-come, first-serve approach to their support line. Unfortunately, this means that your best customers may be on-hold with the rest of your customer base. If they know who your best customers are then perhaps they can find a way to service their support calls in less time.

Your sales teams see that there are certain product lines in inventory that have not yet been sold or are not hitting your inventory turnover goals. Perhaps the next time they are in front of customers, they can push these product lines instead of others to help your business turn inventory into revenue sooner.

In this way, all of your employees working in an integrated way to enable you to achieve your business aspirations.

Of course, it is up to you and your leadership team to determine how much information about company performance is shared, with which teams, how often, and in which formats. However, consider how much more effective your teams could be if you were all working towards common goals.

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