Process On The Fly #4 – Silo Busters
An end-to-end perspective across departments, across applications and even across companies is within reach. Process technologies provide several options to break down the barriers between business and IT silos without the need to reconstruct the silos themselves. After all: Silos are good, if you use them for the right purposes. An outcome-driven platform approach that harnesses modern BPM, SOA and MDM best practices to ‘wrap and trap’ siloed applications can deliver lasting IT agility and better business insights, but without disturbing the stable assets that are captured in the underlying core systems.
In order to deliver an integrated customer experience and highly optimized operations, enterprises need to incrementally align and refine many different processes within the organization. This usually requires a frustrating long, complex and painful integration approach, as these systems usually remain ‘untouchable’ outside their original department scope and focus. The key challenge is to bust these silos without complicating ongoing process simplicity and flexibility.
What’s wrong with silos anyway?
First of all, we should realize that silos are not always bad: they provide secure and proven transactions and often capture the enterprise’s best practices. Silos should be valued on their significant merits, rather than being demonized. Still, despite the benefits (perhaps due to a history of ERP consolidation), IT departments typically tend to be inwardly focused on the illusion of integration and control and, in consequence, as much as 80% the modern IT budget is still spent on maintenance and ‘keeping the lights on’. This certainly also involves building all sorts of painful interfaces between specific silos, trying to deliver on specific business requirements.
It seems all those fixed interfaces between silos are not exactly making matters easier or cheaper.
This ailment is serious and requires treatment in the form of a concoction of BPM, MDM and SOA psychology that should be administered liberally to all disillusioned areas of the IT function. The fact is that trying to replace silos with a new integrated replacement usually creates more silos. An outside-in mindset change is required to protect IT and business agility in the future.
An enterprise should start from a common business outcome, with the IT department ensuring it pulls only the required processes, rules and information from an interlinked event perspective and finally, the business / digital divide should be narrowed by ensuring the solutions remain tangible against a measurable business outcome.
Something strange in your IT neighbourhood. Who you gonna call?
If you are a silo gate keeper spiritually looking for your technology key master, here are the big 5 tools you don’t want to miss:
1) BPM simplifies cross-application workflow to minimize repetition of business logic and rules in the applications themselves. Overrun by complex processes? Think Pega, Mendix, IBM BPM and Oracle BPM.
The role of the 5 silo-busting technologies is to simplify and automate processes through islands of stability that ensure typically federated events continue to work across business boundaries. It must also be ensured that the delivery approach considers smaller business-driven packages of change (or ‘micro processes’) that are delivered quickly, frequently and with obvious business impact.
It’s about keeping data, rules and logic apart –but– together for 1 key outcome
So, what are my next steps towards official ‘Silo Buster’ certification?
1. Focus on common business pain and scope tightly
Get a C-level sponsor (the CEO works!) to align key stakeholders towards a shared benefit model unlocking departmental budgets, reducing duplicitous project effort and, finally, smoothing unnecessary resistance to the change being implemented.
Bring the ideals of the emerging ‘sharing economy’ to your internal departments
2. Use an outcome-orientated approach with shared benefits over common business issues
Ensure that the scope of a project is constrained to just the processes, rules and information that are essential to deliver the business outcome. Monitor progress frequently, adopt agile deliver methods and consider multi-device technologies for speed.
Deliver ‘snippets of business functionality’ delivered on an agile multi-device basis.
3. Federate to Accumulate but do not Integrate
Embrace concepts such as Process is the New App to wrap applications silos within an insulated agility layer of standard data, services and rules.
Think ‘events’ rather than ‘systems’ to keep things in perspective
Don’t be afraid of silos. Bust them with process technologies, so that stability and best practices are combined with agility and oversight.
It’s the best of both worlds – or dimensions if you like. And thankfully, no ectoplasm is required.