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Monday, June 8, 2009

The problem of thinking and acting in silos

Today the consequences of thinking and acting i silos can be fatal as competition forces businesses to be efficient and innovative at the same time. Thinking and acting in silos prevents innovation from happening.

The paradox, as Idris Mootee describes below, is that achieve great results, we need to focus and when we focus we get blind to everything but our closest environment, which makes us miss out on new ideas and opportunities.

Today, most businesses are forced to think out-of-the box, collaborate across boundaries, and facilitate information exchange across teams, processes and systems if they are to be successful. The trick is to do it without loosing speed and focus. Social technology has definately a role to play here.

Here are a few thoughts by others on the subject of silos, all with different angles.

Today, creative collision is the zeitgeist of innovation...//...Every intersection across domains as diverse as business, non-profit, science, art, and entertainment is a nexus for innovation. We need to learn to break down associative barriers and view problems in new ways, be ready to walk away from familiar territories and venture into the unknown. The unknown is where large organization feels uneasy. Innovators have a restless curiosity to explore intersections. They see social technologies as an enabler of innovation and new business models, rather than as a way of making the current model more efficient.

We are all over-focused. The economic climate further pushes us to their direction and beyond a point we lose sight of the big opportunities ahead. Focus limits awareness, and important information outside the range of focus can be missed. The paradox of organizational focus is that it often blinds us to new opportunities. Focus is the core reasons for blind spots. Through constant scanning and reading weak signals, we can then recognize and seize upon that moment when luck aligns the forces of the universe to unite need and opportunity in such a way that the connections between unconnected dots can be seen. Strategic Innovation is not about creativity or design, it is about organization agility and constant organization realignment.
There is a lot of silo thinking going on: we have virtual worlds, augmented reality, mirror worlds, social networks. What is neglected is that there are common themes and technologies here, which would be great to mix and match. Virtual worlds seem to be stuck somewhere in the nineties, but their social component is well developed. Games can have great graphics and cool augmented reality features but can be lousy in the social components etc

I guess what Rice basically says is “look at all this in a truly new way”. Think out of the box, get rid of the silos. Mix and match fascinating developments in media and internet technology. We don’t have to wait for those fancy glasses to become widely available to start.
To me, one of IT's great paradoxes is that even as it tackles data integration projects, it continues to create new data silos.
Rick Sherman, a consultant with Athena IT Solutions, recently addressed this issue in his blog, The Data Doghouse. He concludes there are two reasons we still have data silos, even when we're striving for that ever-elusive “single version of the truth”:
    1. Business intelligence and datawarehousing projects are typically organized on a tactical, project-by-project basis.
    2. There's no overall information architecture to guide that blueprint.
      Okay – that's what causes them, but it still doesn't address the why. Why not change to a more strategic approach?
      Sherman thought that question through as well, and lists five factors at work in favoring a tactical over a strategic approach:
      1. Group-based funding for projects.
      2. Jargon confusion. “There are many similarities between CRM (customer relationship management), SCM (supply chain management), budgeting and forecasting, performance management and balanced scorecards. Many people do not see that each has data, data integration and business intelligence that can be shared across projects," Sherman explains.
      3. Technology silos – in other words, they treat different integration technologies (ETL, EAI, data virtualization, etc.) as different applications and projects – when it's all just different approaches to data integration.
      4. IT's organizational disconnect, which keeps “data people” from talking to and working with “application people” -- a political problem also noticed by Judy Ko, Informatica's VP of Product Management and Marketing.
      5. No architecture helping to shape tactical projects.


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