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Dismantling the Silo Mentality in Tech Companies
Jan 3, 2024

Dismantling the Silo Mentality in Tech Companies

While silos are excellent for storing grain, adopting a similar mentality within your business can damage your operations and the overall customer experience. Breaking down these barriers is the key to a sustainable, collaborative, and scalable organization. Unfortunately, the silo mentality remains a significant obstacle in many IT organizations.  

According to Gartner, nearly 75% of DevOps initiatives fail to meet expectations, often because of challenges in cross-functional teamwork. Moreover, a report by Mulesoft indicated that approximately 89% of IT teams still struggle with data silos.  

In IT departments, silos often originate from isolated teams or resources operating within specific functions or technologies. These functions can be viewed as distinct verticals within IT departments, each with its own focus and specialization. Typically aligned based on either function — development, operations, architecture — or technology domains like data warehousing, ERP, cloud services, SAP, and more.  

As a growing company, you start to get more specialized and a pillar structure around specializations can begin to emerge.   

That in itself is not a problem. You need certain types of people and talent, and you’ll naturally start grouping them together. Where it becomes problematic is when siloed communication or a silo mentality starts to develop. If a group is not aligned with the bigger picture, it can become an issue.

Nicole Tiefensee, COO of Runn.io  

Silos make it difficult for IT teams to respond to dynamic business requirements. They hamper the creation of end-to-end processes by segregating data while simultaneously slowing down efforts to deliver services and solutions that require cross-functional cooperation within IT teams.  

The silver lining, however, is that silos aren’t permanent. By identifying the root causes and implementing effective strategies to overcome them, businesses can dismantle these barriers and foster a more collaborative, cohesive environment across the entire organization.   

Where Do Tech Silos Come From  

Organizational silos have historically supported the division of labor, fostering specialization that proved effective in manufacturing, business, and IT, too. In the early stages of IT’s evolution, when tech stacks were largely homogeneous, it worked seamlessly. However, the rapid acceleration of digital adoption in recent years led to the deployment of disparate systems and environments tailored to the specific needs of different departments, resulting in technology verticals functioning as isolated silos.  

This siloed approach extended beyond just technological infrastructure, influencing IT org charts and company culture. IT personnel often specialize in specific systems like SAP or Oracle, creating different teams managing diverse platforms. For instance, a traditional IT department might have experts in OpenVMS managing an on-premises mainframe while another team oversees the Azure environment, and so forth.  

The challenge arises as many large platforms used by businesses were not designed to work with disparate systems. Consequently, as IT specialized along technology verticals, these silos became more isolated due to the scarcity of connections between these systems.  

Silos are not just technological; they also have a cultural component. Teams and leaders, responsible for specific systems and data, tend to be cautious about sharing information or granting access to other teams.   

Challenges That Come With a Silo Mentality in Tech Companies  

While silos serve the purpose of efficient specialization, their presence becomes a hindrance as organizations increasingly rely on digital processes. In IT departments, where continuous development of cross-functional processes and services for managing enterprise-wide data is imperative, collaboration across teams and functions becomes necessary. This collaborative approach is essential for quickly delivering and iterating solutions to meet the ever-shifting demands of the business — a fundamental aspect of DevOps.  

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However, silos in IT hamper these efforts in several ways:  

  • Connecting disparate systems becomes challenging, leading to error-prone and unreliable integrations.  
  • Limited visibility across tech stacks hampers troubleshooting efforts and makes optimization costly.  
  • Siloed teams and tech stacks often rely on different best practices and governance, making standardization, security, and compliance difficult to achieve.  
  • Teams operating in isolation may be unaware of existing solutions to a problem, resulting in unnecessary duplication of efforts.  
  • Teams within silos often have competing agendas and judge success using different metrics, making it challenging to align collective efforts.  
  • When software engineering, quality assurance (QA), and operations teams operate within silos, the lack of close communication leads to greater inefficiency.  

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Identifying Silos in Tech Companies  

In several cases, the digital infrastructure of a department was established before silos became a digital obstacle, leading to easily identifiable practices. A common indicator is the reliance on custom scripts to connect to a database supporting a specific department (like sales) — a clear signal that the database exists within its own silo.  

The existence of data silos is prevalent, often rooted in the past efforts of organizations to collect as much data as possible without understanding how that data would be used. Changes in leadership, company vision, and acquisitions frequently alter the landscape of data collection and storage, resulting in data silos that are often decades old. Furthermore, the reluctance to grant access to data, considering it as a valuable asset, can contribute to the perpetuation of these silos.  

Technology silos, regardless of the department they support, share common characteristics. The presence of multiple or redundant tools, such as relying on numerous job scheduling tools or monitoring solutions, usually means your environments or systems are being managed separately.  

To gauge whether an IT department is siloed, ask yourself the following questions:  

  • Are there shared access points for critical resources, systems, and data among different teams? If not, how does this lack of overlap impact their collective workflow?  
  • Do teams’ goals align with the IT department’s or organization’s goals? Are team members aware of how their contributions fit into the larger strategic objectives?  
  • Is there an unwillingness among teams to share data, resources, or their respective goals with other teams?  
  • How often do the development and operations teams interact or collaborate?  
  • Do teams have overlapping responsibilities, and if so, do they actively collaborate, or does this lead to duplicated efforts?  
  • Are team leaders kept informed about the ongoing initiatives within other teams? How well-prepared are teams for handoffs?  
  • Is there a culture that promotes information sharing, or is the leadership team reluctant to simplify access to key datasets?  

Perhaps the biggest red flag indicating departmental silos is the extent to which individuals on separate teams know each other. This becomes particularly challenging in the context of increasing remote work within IT teams.  

How to Dismantle the Silo Mentality in Tech Companies  

IT services and solutions require end-to-end processes that span various applications, systems, and technologies. However, many existing solutions within organizations were not originally designed with integration in mind (especially in the case of cloud computing).  

However, a transformative shift is underway amongst IT vendors. Many organizations are adopting APIs to connect disparate endpoints, leveraging API management tools to streamline development and maintenance processes.   

Additionally, there is a growing adoption of service orchestration and workload automation solutions, offering ease of connectivity but with advanced functionalities and superior monitoring and management features.  

Modern workload automation solutions can be deployed in any environment at the service orchestration layer. This can facilitate quick connections to virtually any endpoint, regardless of the underlying technology or platform. This flexibility makes it possible to assemble end-to-end processes from infrastructure to end-user, whether in on-premises or cloud-based environments.  

To break down silos and enhance collaboration, extensible, low-code process automation tools play a crucial role. Here’s how:

  • Low code development and reusable templates reduce barriers to entry, enabling IT generalists of different experience levels to build reliable processes effortlessly.  
  • Automatic documentation and dependency mapping facilitate a clear understanding of how processes operate and their intended purposes, ensuring that knowledge isn’t lost due to turnover.  
  • Manage governance, access, and permissions from a centralized location across multiple environments, establishing consistent rules and best practices.  
  • Real-time monitoring, reporting, and analytics help streamline DevOps and root cause analysis to accelerate development with change management, reusable templates, and prebuilt integrations.  
  • Secure existing scripts that support legacy systems and solutions with features like script vaulting, revision histories, and comprehensive audit trails.  

The right automation tool enables your team to consolidate job schedulers, reduce redundancies, centralize control over monitoring tools, manage APIs efficiently, and more. It simplifies the process of building reliable connections, facilitating streamlined data flow and dependency management across diverse environments.  

How TechBlocks Can Help Shift the Silo Mentality in Tech Companies 

As we know, overcoming silos is key to fostering collaboration, innovation, and operational efficiency. TechBlocks, with its dedicated Centers of Excellence (CoEs), emerges as a strategic partner to guide your organization through the process of dismantling silos and unleashing the full potential of seamless integration.  

Our global team of business and technology experts will help you transcend boundaries to unlock new product initiatives with a value-driven set of services via proof of concept, assessment, co-creation, best practices, training, and support.    

TechBlocks CoEs are not just about solutions; they are about adopting industry best practices. By partnering with us, your organization gains access to proven methodologies, frameworks, and cutting-edge technologies that accelerate the process of dismantling silos. This not only streamlines current operations but also ensures future scalability.  

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Partner with us to unlock the true potential of your technology landscape and drive sustained success in the digital era!

 

About the Author

Michael Chu

Michael is our VP of Digital Product & Strategy and has over 20 years of experience as a Solutions Architect, Product Manager, Technical Architect, and Digital Architect for companies globally, with a passion for creating delightful digital experiences and driving positive change using technology. It's a love affair that started because of his keen interest in understanding what drives people.  

Michael is a proven digital leader who joined the TechBlocks family in March 2023. He oversees digital transformation efforts and ensures our client's visions are brought to life. He also has extensive experience building ecommerce and healthcare technology solutions. He focuses on seeking the root cause to solve business and technology problems rather than just fixing symptoms.    

His thirst for knowledge keeps him at the forefront of technology and has translated well into conceptualizing and designing innovative tech solutions. Michael has built a reputation for being a 'creative technologist,' whether they're life-changing health tech challenges, developing new ways for consumers to discover and purchase goods, or building other enterprise solutions for complex use cases. 

Michael brings a wealth of experience from tech companies like Mekkano, Bowstreet, and Streebo. Before joining TechBlocks, he was a Digital Architect at Vasa Digital, helping enterprise customers realize business value via enterprise architecture and digital transformation. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Dalhousie University and an International Master of Business Administration degree from York University, among other certifications.   

Michael Chu