How digital transformation can destroy the siloed business

Perhaps more than any other business decision, digital transformation is a team game...


…It may also be your best opportunity to finally break the business bottleneck: siloes.

To make a success of digital transformation, you need every key player in from the start (and to use the cooked breakfast analogy, I mean pig in, not chicken in). I’m far from the first person to write this, but it needs repeating A) because proof points now exist, and B) because one of the biggest problems in business is still the silo. And without everyone’s voice, in trying to transform your organisation for the better, you may be making it worse.

“In trying to transform your organisation for the better, you may be making it worse.”

For example: cloud computing is an amazing technology, underpinning some of the most incredible customer experiences and enabling business-led transformation. However, its pricing and quick deployment means it can be sold directly into the lines of business.

This has a risk: the line of business, in its desire for speed and agility, reinforces the silo. It’s no longer just your people not talking with each other, now it’s your platforms and applications as well. To misquote George Santayana, “those who cannot remember why a second ERP system was a mistake, are condemned to a third”.

The most successful, most ‘transformed’ companies I have spoken with recently have one thing in common… Small, multi-disciplinary teams focused on discovering and responding to customer problems quickly, their work guided and supported by a relentless obsession with usable data.

“Small but scalable multi-disciplinary teams deliver successful transformation.”

One great example: Adidas is doing this with their ‘newsroom’ approach to marketing. The company built teams in what it considers the world’s most culturally important cities. Each team is empowered to create and distribute relevant content and respond to trends without HQ approval, largely because each one contains all the skills you need to make good decisions quickly – from legal to PR to social media to data analytics. Nimble, agile, smart: small wonder Adidas is killing it.

At the recent CIO Insight Summit, I put this to a roundtable discussion group. One of the participants, CIO for a multinational oil and gas company, said: “Historically, IT used to ask the business for direction. Today, the business looks to IT for inspiration.”

It’s about bloody time, but to make a success of digital transformation, don’t stop there. Perhaps more than any other business decision, transformation really is a team game.