Ditch Those Silos! Embracing Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Collaboration

At best, in any large business, IT is seen as a standalone department. At worst, the perception of the IT team by other units is that they’re a law unto themselves – one that often blocks the business.

It’s not always true and for sure it shouldn’t be this way. While it’s true that IT plays a vital role in modern enterprise, teams often need to do more to bridge communication gaps between themselves and the wider business.

But it works both ways. Changing this silo mentality is critical to successful implementation and overall collaboration. Let’s consider some ways to tackle internal ‘silos’.

Find A Common Purpose

A new year is the perfect time to kickstart a new collaboration initiative between business units. However, sometimes these can feel forced and inauthentic. Often what’s needed is a viable cause – something that affects everyone – in order to get all units together.

Take Windows 7 EOL – which ceased all customer support activity 14 January 2020. In instances like these all departments need to collaborate and work closely with IT – not just to onboard new operating systems, but to understand the broader impact of change on different areas of the business.

Under such circumstances, IT departments have an opportunity to shine: to offer support and communication around the upgrade; and to advise on how different issues are being overcome, and how the new system will impact each department’s apps and software.

Forgive Past Transgressions

Past sins should be overlooked too, such as shadow IT initiatives – when specific departments effectively patch in their own fixes; often because the IT department is unable (or unwilling) to provide them with the tools they need.

Instead of holding grudges, IT teams need to acknowledge mistakes made by all parties and ensure they don’t happen again. The easiest way for IT to do this? Make themselves more visible and accessible – so that employees begin to ask for advice upfront.

Encourage Empathy

One of the biggest problems businesses encounter is an internal ‘us and them’ mentality – even when everyone’s in the same boat, facing the same issues. This is especially true when a company has multiple offices, sites, and facilities.

Overcoming this stigma means deploying some empathy – especially when different business units don’t share the same work patterns. For example, production sites may run 24/7, while office-based staff are only in 9 to 5 on weekdays.

In addition to social silos, from an IT perspective, these sites will have different needs and priorities. But it can often seem that communication only happens when there’s a problem.

Initiatives such as cross-departmental visits, lunches, and opportunities to engage outside of a meeting environment can go a long way in providing some common ground – and provide an opportunity for employees to discuss their work in a more informal setting; helping to bridge these perceived gaps and build more trust and mutual respect.

Often a sympathetic ear is good enough to start an open conversation about the pros and cons of a user-created solution or a new business demand.

IT Is Central, But Not ‘The Centre’

All things considered, one has to admit that an effective IT department is at the centre of any successful company. However, with this level of accountability comes a big responsibility – to ensure that they’re not only visible, but that they’re approachable too.

Ultimately, communication should be bi-directional: other business units should be open and honest with IT, and IT should be clear about what these departments need to know and why.

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