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Bridging Departmental Silos to Harness People-Based Marketing Transformation

Departmental silos are a natural side effect of business growth and deepening functional expertise. However, they diminish an organization’s ability to drive a unified vision, deliver fragmented customer experiences, and make it difficult to realize broad-scale transformational objectives. They pose as barriers to cross-team coordination and collaboration. As companies find themselves forced to re-invent and adapt to keep pace with the ever-empowered consumer in our “C2B” (consumer-to-business) economy, bridging (not necessarily breaking) these functional silos are a key ingredient to successful people-based marketing transformation.

Only after you have grounded the organization around a clearly articulated vision and customer strategy can you really begin to address silos. This often requires redefining an operating model to support greater agility, collaboration, and a customer-centric transformation agenda. A holistic operating model assessment means examining current marketing processes, establishing clarity around roles and accountabilities, identifying friction points and redefining collaboration paradigms to ensure more effortless handoffs. Here, we’ll highlight three key areas of focus for resolving organizational silos.

Establish an Executive Champion

Silos are often uncovered during strategic transformation initiatives, which usually require the participation of many different stakeholder groups. Without a strong executive change champion, navigating organizational silos and driving any large-scale transformation program forward is tough. The executive champion leads the charge to help communicate and “sell” the vision to the broader organization, obtaining buy-in and financial support from other areas of the business.

The silo mentality often starts at a leadership level. A strong executive leader inspires passion and belief around a common mission or future state vision. They forge strong partnerships (networks) within and outside the organization to capture, create, and maximize value. The first step in addressing silos is finding an executive agent (can be a single individual or executive steering committee) who not only helps navigate the organizational complexity and networks, but inspires collaboration, action, and swift decision making through every step of the transformation journey. 

Integrate Processes and Collaboration

Sometimes we find strong alignment exists at a leadership level, but departmental silos at an operational level prevent advancement of a customer-centric operating model. The second step in addressing silos is a deeper examination into existing operational processes to understand gaps and pain points in roles, skillsets, and handoffs between different functions. Common pain points resulting from silos are inefficient or inconsistent handoffs and lack of clarity around who owns what.

This does not always have to be the case. I recently worked with a travel services client where we successfully bridged departmental silos by redefining their end-to-end marketing processes, clarifying roles and accountability, standardizing key inputs and streamlining key decision points where breakdowns would occur. The difference was that this exercise was accomplished through collaborative, cross-functional, iterative sessions involving representatives across marketing, creative, product, analytics, etc. who played an active role in validating our improvement recommendations. This resulted in a sense of ownership and accountability for the changes we collectively aligned on. The key to finding the right operating model for your organization is to focus on the collaboration models that address key friction points (vs. getting caught up in the organization structure itself).

KPI Alignment

A common barrier that fuels silos is when each department is incentivized by and measured upon a different, often competing, set of operational KPIs and metrics. A recommended approach is to establish and align teams around a common, customer-centric measurement framework that clearly links strategic corporate objectives to operational goals to desired customer outcomes and experience KPIs. Create transparency and cross-team education around the KPIs that drive success for each team, especially adjacent functions who must work closely together. KPIs that are more closely aligned to a unified customer journey and plan will increase the focus on desired customer outcomes rather than focusing on tactical, channel or department-level outcomes.

Departmental silos, while not entirely undesirable in and of themselves, can get in the way of delivering exceptional, cohesive customer experiences. Collaboration does not always arise organically and requires the support of an executive leadership and governance structure, as well as calibrating and clarifying processes, roles, ownership, and KPIs to optimize handoffs and build shared understanding across different functions. Without these operating model elements, departmental silos will become a key hurdle in the journey to people-based marketing transformation.

Want to learn more? Check out Merkle’s 2019 Marketing Imperatives here