January 19, 2008

“Tear Down Those Silos!” and Enterprise Architecture

One of enterprise architecture’s “targets” is to transform the organization from being purely monolithic, functional-based silos (like operations, sales, marketing, finance, HR, legal, IT and so on) to an interoperable, cost-effective, mission and results-driven enterprise.

Matejka and Murphy in the book, Making Change Happen, clearly states that a “barrier to the successful implementation of any change is the division of the organization into silos. The grouping of the same or similar tasks (creating pockets of specialized knowledge) provides distinct opportunities for the disruption of the seamless implementation of new strategic initiatives.”

The authors ask “what is a silo and why does the term have such a negative connotation these days?

They then consult that Random House Dictionary for definitions of silo, as follows:

“A silo is ‘a tall, cylindrical structure in which grain is stored’ or ‘a sunken shelter for storing and launching missiles.’ Hmm. Very interesting. So a silo is a valuable protector of precious materials, but a single –purpose, single-use, fragmented, isolated, fairly impenetrable piece of organizational architecture.”

What makes organizational silos the enemy of change and transformation?

  • Professional jargon
  • Professional memberships
  • Turf and resource protection
  • Comfort zones…Discrimination”
“In a specialized professional department, is the employee’s real allegiance to the company or to the profession? The answer might surprise you. Many managers we have worked with would privately state that it is the profession.” This is why in functional- based siloed organizations, they cannot achieve the unity, integration, and synergy to make successful change happen."

To break down the silos and implement true “enterprise” architecture, you don’t need to get rid of the functions (since they serve a purpose and are important), you just need to use cross-functional teams, reward cross-functional performance and strategic thinking, broaden the perspective of functional silos by providing cross functional training and development.


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