Silos in Your Mind

  • May 25, 2012
  • Scott

Loved this post by Jaisundar, “Leverage BPM to Kill the Silos. In Your Mind“:

…What was worse, these silos did not exist in the IT landscape at all. They were forming in our minds.

Yes, business users’ thinking was becoming siloed. Tendencies were developing to compartmentalize business processes addressed by the ERP or CRM as an ERP process or a CRM process. This thinking further exacerbated already existing silos by pigeonholing organizational processes under different packaged applications. Forward thinking business process professionals started to confront the risk of overlooking the many processes that overlap more than one application, different functions, different departments, or even different teams.

I recommend reading the whole post for context, but the main point is clear: the silo thinking isn’t along the old functional lines, but it still exists in new ways, around categories of systems.  And in some ways this has been harder to eradicate.

Jaisundar sees BPM as the answer:

One of the most fundamental benefits of business process management (BPM) is the opportunity it presents for rethinking the process and breaking free of the grip of a decades’ old “silo” mind-set.

The challenge is that you have to get mindsets to change – software alone won’t do it for you.  The software can make it easier to visualize the new world without silos, but there’s still a lot of heavy lifting to do with the organization and culture.

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  • Gary Samuelson

    Business compartmentalization and silos

    Well… two perspectives given the nature of BPMN “pools”
    and “lanes” – work effort naturally compartmentalizes around organizational structure
    and skill. We can say that BPM is “all about
    silos” and “working with silos”. Though from a top-level view, we have our
    collaborated values/goals. Here the walls break down because it’s really all
    just one business. Visualize a professional sports team – each member having their own key performance skills though sharing the common desire to win the game.

    BPM in-the-enterprise now works.

    Now let’s mix in some “reality” by adding the following “anti-BPM”
    narrow-minded practice: organizational fiefdoms

    Narrow-mindedness primarily cultivated under
    organizational fiefdoms (e.g. empire building). Shared values/goals subjugated by
    inwardly facing desire for preservation and dominance.

    For BPM’s sake, we tear down empires via “value tracking”
    dashboards and performance reports – reasonably forced upon our aggregate
    (collection of fiefdoms) enterprise by “key performance indicators” (pointing
    towards shared/real value) and “service level agreements”.

    Poor leadership tends to suffer under the spotlight when measured
    against enterprise values and performance goals (enterprise vs departmental). Key
    BPM practice then requires we build honest performance dashboards/reporting
    alongside process models.

    Imagine a baseball team where the outfielders simply collect and hold the balls. Though each inning ends with the outfielders holding all the balls, the team never wins a game. This is good for the outfielders since they can leverage themselves into each game via ownership of key baseball resources. Nobody plays baseball unless they’re invited into the next game (or they just take the balls and go home – e.g. “nobody plays unless I’m in the game”). 

    However… the owner (and fans) want a winning team – meaning the final score is our “key performance indicator” (KPI). Losing scores force our outfielders back into the game.  Tactically the manager replaces/retrains coaching and players until scores fall more inline with team’s goals and expectations.


    • i love the baseball analogy 🙂