Ed Toner

Silo Thinking

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Some time ago at the State of Nebraska, we recognized it was inefficient for our technology resources to work in IT silos. Prior to consolidation, IT silos existed in every individual agency.  As any productive business would do, we began working to break down these legacy silos across the enterprise through organizational and technological change. 

Yet, even after a successful network consolidation, organizational silos still exist in the larger enterprise. ‘Silo mentality’, or what I call silo thinking, is when a department or group focuses inward only, solely on what they control and contribute, and not on where they fit into the enterprise common goal.  In IT, a silo is a system or application that is isolated from other systems. Such a system does not contribute to other systems, and this is true of organizational siloes too. Silo organizations lack collaboration. They create an environment of individual and disparate systems within an enterprise. Silo thinking causes division within organizations and prevents them from successfully contributing to the goals of the enterprise.   

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Symptoms of Silo Thinking:

  • Using different processes and/or tools for similar business functions
  • Preparing similar reports in isolation without sharing data
  • Distrust and placing blame between departments or agencies
  • Lack of cooperation or joint ownership of issues
  • Lack of true innovation

One of the primary reasons for changing the State’s decentralized IT infrastructure was, known from the start, to consolidate IT with the goal to integrate the different agency goals and objectives across the enterprise.  Now it falls to each organization, to break down the silos and form strong cooperative and collaborative management between Enterprise IT and Agency IT Management. Collaborative thinking in our case simply means to stop defending the way it has always been and to start imagining the way it could be. 

 

6 Strategies of Collaborative Thinking:

  1. Using a Single Service Management (ITSM) tool. Collaboration in enterprise service management means to have parallel customer service processes within each individual Agency. Support teams operate more efficiently when following a common process. 
  2. Example: Using Service Portal to request and process Incident Requests, Service Requests, Problem Requests and Change Requests.

  3. Measuring and Sharing the Metrics. The data we are gathering from our ITSM tool is updated and shared with our team members in real time. Since we started doing this, we can determine our strengths and challenges, then redistribute resources more effectively.
  4. Example: “I have 15 tickets from 15 different agencies with the same problem. What do we need to change to improve the service?”

  5. Enterprise Software Purchasing Agreements. As complexity of software applications increases, so does cost of licensing and maintenance to keep them running. Enterprise applications represent some of the most common business operations. When technical teams are allowed to hone their skills toward supporting one common application together, the depth of support for that tool increases as does the efficiency of the tool itself.
  6. Example: Taking single agency software purchases and making it available to the enterprise – Citrix ShareFile. One solution, used by many.

  7. Group Problem Solving. Simply having the ability to ask for help indicates teamwork. Group problem solving means our strategies are fully developed in discussion prior to production. It allows developers, advisors, product owners, and decision-makers to consider the best options before determining the resolution.
  8. Example: Contacting the appropriate OCIO support team in case of a network, server, storage, desktop, or software issue.

  9. Teamwork. This is synonymous with collaboration, and slightly different from group problem solving.
  10. Example: Putting employees from different agencies that do the same task on the same team.

  11. Shared Security Processes. The ability to implement “shared security processes” in all areas is important for compliance reasons, and also helps the enterprise to balance security management with daily operations.
  12. Example: Development and Operations (DevOps), Voice, Network (All Infrastructure) working together toward a common goal.

With IT consolidation we have already broken down many of the silos that previously existed.  We combined agency resources to work together on the same team and we are much better for it. We are becoming more innovative with ideas provided from different agency vantage points.  Now we have a better understanding of why things were done in the past and can position ourselves to define better solutions for the future of State business. 

As always, I appreciate your continued service to the citizens of Nebraska.
Ed

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