September 30, 2009 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Corporate Transformation
Information / Process Silos In Corporate Settings
By John Bolden
- Profit Centric Motives Beget the Need for New or Changed Process…
- Process is created or changed through Project(s)…
- Project(s) view Information from the perspective of the Process Need…
- Project(s) cause Information to be defined and structured to satisfy Process…
- The result… more information/process silos
Information/Process Silos are outcomes of defining and structuring Information as a Necessity for Process rather than as a Value Enabler for the Enterprise.
In any business, there are literally thousands of Information/Process Silos. The bigger the business, the more Information/Process Silos there will be. Today, finding the linkages, relationships and implications within and between Information Silos, thereby enabling informed decision making, is extremely time consuming, prone to error and full of real as well as implied risk.
Each and every Silo is a barrier that prevents seamless, cohesive use of information across the enterprise. As the number of Silos increases, so do the problems of being able to gather information from multiple, disparate silos.
Silos might contain highly structured data accessible only through Process specific pre-defined screens and reports; therefore absent enterprise context and value.
Silos might be template driven files and folders scattered across the enterprise – mobile sales forces, branch offices and similar distributed business functions rely heavily on non-corporate wide information to manage their responsibilities, every instance of such distributed files might a unique Silo (depending in the information inside) or part of a scattered, virtual Silo held together (just!) by virtue of organizational structure rather than seamless, cohesive information linkages.
Silos might be totally unstructured. This means that there is no standard by which information is captured and stored. The only standard might be the software that facilitates information capture.
Microsoft Office has a neat piece of Software called OneNote, it provides users with a quick way to capture information but the information goes nowhere else and, perhaps it shouldn’t. Then again, perhaps, it should. Mobile computing again provides a useful example; how often does useful to the enterprise information make an appearance on Blackberry screens?
A prospective purchaser contacts a sales rep’ via Blackberry because he wants to order a gazillion widgets now. Presumably this vital knowledge would only become known to the enterprise from a pure information perspective when the sales rep’ gleefully enters information through the usual order processing channels.
Is this right and proper, one could imagine many scenario’s where the poor rep is waylaid or otherwise constrained which then begs the question – should that information percolate ‘upward’ into an information repository that is accessible by more than the Blackberry user who received the information?
If the answer is Yes in whole or part; each Blackberry is by definition a Silo unless the ‘upward percolation’ mechanism is in place. A whole series of troubling questions emanate from both Yes and No answers, too detailed to list here but I am sure you start to understand the implications and linkages between mobile devices and Silos.
To recap; the more lines of business there are – more Silos. The more products there are – more Silos. The more segmented the customer base – more Silos. Silo proliferation, without doubt, causes the enterprise to be data rich and information poor.
Simply put; businesses cannot quickly, efficiently and cost effectively access, gather, layer, filter, consolidate and analyze information in varying formats from multiple Silos.
Beyond the inability of the enterprise to find and use information lies the danger that any failure to deliver information when required by external stakeholders (customers (current and prospective), suppliers, investors, etc.) is seen by these important parties as the enterprise having serious internal operational issues.
In today’s virtual world, stakeholders outside of the enterprise expect, request and require that the right information, in the right context be provided to them when they ask and provided to them immediately. Anything less is a black mark against the enterprise.
The Process side of the Silo effect brings another serious risk dimension into view. Silos are built-in impediments that limit what the enterprise can do to quickly and simply improve the business.
Information/Process Silos are designed and built to serve a Process Need; when one looks to combine, streamline, consolidate or reengineer more than one Process, innumerable obstacles bubble to the surface.
These obstacles take the form of gaps and disconnects that are only apparent when the Silo is to be changed. Filling the gaps and fixing disconnects quickly renders what looked to be a quick, relatively inexpensive improvement to the business into a Pandora’s Box of costly surprises.
Given the vast number of Information/Process Silos that are in operation today and the likelihood of many more being created in the future - you could end up spending a fortune redesigning current systems, processes and data repositories to make information readily and cost effectively available across lines of business, between product families and spanning customer segments.
You could spend even more removing the barriers that currently impede quick and efficient streamlining of the business.
In both cases, whatever you spend, the value would quickly diminish as new Silos are deployed into the enterprise to address future needs for new or improved processes.
Addressing these issues requires a different approach; one that adroitly constrains future Information/Process Silo proliferation while enabling the enterprise to deftly cut through current Information/Process Silo barriers…
You do not need to spend a fortune; you just need to explore with us how we could help you bring clarity and cohesion to the convoluted world of unconstrained Information/Process Silos.
If you would like to learn more about the seminar themes I speak to, types of consulting engagements and research that underpins my thinking, feel free to browse my web presence at http://www.TLIRGroup.com
RMA, Mil C, C/MBB-ISSSP. F-IICM, F-IPMS
Transformation Leadership, Innovation & Research
John Bolden is renowned for value laden advice that stakeholders depend on when assessing the wisdom of investing billions. John’s views and observations enable corporate leaders to ask the right questions, probe problematic answers and avoid surprises.
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