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How to Break Down Organizational Barriers

An increasing number of organizations today are looking at overhauling their traditional way of doing business and incorporating a digital focused lens to achieving strategic goals. Companies embarking on such digital transformations often find that organizational “silos” are typically the largest barriers to transformation success (see figure below). Approaches to tackle them focus on bridging these silos (often using another strategic, purpose-built team) or breaking them (through a costly company re-org).

Barriers to transformation chart

Source: Harvard Business Review, eMarketer 

In our experience working with teams going through organizational change resulting from digital transformation, we often see that the challenge arises not from within the “silos”, but from the barriers to team coordination and collaboration around these silos.

Collaboration allows knowledge to flow across the organization, and every organization has teams that do it better than others. Certain factors set these teams apart from the others, most notably:

1. Alignment on an integrated strategy

An integrated customer strategy, or core customer vision that applies to many possible customer journeys, is the foundation of a coordinated team. These journeys are a useful alignment tool, but only become meaningful when they have buy-in from different teams, and when those teams have been involved in the build process. Having the core concepts of the vision embedded into the different journeys allows each team to pursue their individual goals through separate journeys while still delivering on shared goals.

2. Insight-driven actions

Coordinated teams can quickly call upon past successes to see what has worked for them and apply those learnings to future processes. This is typically codified in the form of a best practice document, a training guide, and inputs to process design. Pockets of knowledge exist within organizations, and documentation is among the best ways to share this knowledge with the rest of the organization.

3. A collaborative planning process

Teams often do very well on their own and are able to align on and generate outputs efficiently. Where most organizations struggle is the interactions between teams, and the hand-offs that occur when teams work with each other.

For example, as part of an email campaign process, should a product or channel or analytics team have inputs into the selection of creative that goes into an email message? If yes, to what degree? As part of the upfront planning process, multiple teams – in this case, creative, product, channel, and analytics – might need to collaborate in the planning phase to determine what the right answer is.

4. Adaptive mindsets

Successful teams bring an adaptive mindset to day-to-day processes. They have typically completed a root cause analysis or business process mapping exercise which helps them trace where hand-offs occur between teams, and which hand-offs cause more friction than others.

For example, when channel teams generate and use multiple formats of a creative brief, it might end up costing the creative team time and effort to parse through the multiple formats. The individual teams want to coordinate on the output, but their priorities come through to creative in different ways. To solve this, the creative team might adapt the initial brief to develop a “unified” brief based on the needs of each contributing team and make modifications over time, depending on team needs.

5. Streamlined approval processes

Empowering stakeholders often helps teams move faster towards marketing strategy execution. With one recent client, we found bottlenecks around data requests sent to the analytics team. An analyst would typically receive multiple and often duplicate ad hoc requests daily, making it difficult to deliver results to stakeholders in a timely manner.

By adapting a formal structure and prioritization model that allowed the analytics team to prioritize incoming requests and fast track important ones, and by giving stakeholders greater visibility into current and past results (thus reducing duplication of work), the entire marketing team was able to make analytics-driven campaign decisions faster.

Want to learn more? Check out our 2019 Marketing Imperatives here to find out how to align your organization to people-based marketing.