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Overcoming Communication Silos in the Digital Workplace

October 02, 2020 Collaboration and Productivity
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

Much has been made of the evolution of work and the movement towards a more distributed workforce. According to Gartner, 82% of companies will allow their employees to work remotely in some capacity from now on while 47% will allow them to work remotely full time. 

There are several aspects of remote work from which employees and companies can benefit. However, as the future continues to trend toward remote and distributed work, be aware of the threats to communication and security in the digital workplace. Here's how to avoid some common communication and security issues. 

Related Article: The Role of Augmented Data Management in the Workplace

Get Data Silos Under Control

Data silos have affected how employees communicate with each other and share data. According to Chris Byers, CEO of Indiana-based Formstack, a workplace productivity platform, multiple separate sources of data make it difficult for organizations to get a clear view of operations. “When you have to battle data silos within your organization, it can be a struggle to get an accurate and holistic view of everything going on,” Byers said.

To avoid silos cropping up in a digital environment, it’s essential to understand how data files are stored and how collaboration has changed now compared to in the past. There's been a shift from systems of record to collaboration tools that drive productivity, said Rafael Solis, COO at Braidio, a workflow systems integrator based in the San Francisco area.

“Systems of record were one of the first steps in the digital transformation," he said. "Systems of engagement took that a step further by driving collaboration and engagement of employees to stay connected and unlock knowledge, but now we’re seeing a drive to go beyond that, to continue on a purposeful path while driving productivity.”

The key is people. Organizations need to look at how to unlock more value from existing employees, Solis said. "One of the main ways they can do so is by eliminating silos and creating a unified view of data and knowledge needed to execute across various workflows while also ushering in productivity automation,” he said. 

However, you can’t just go out and pinpoint particular silos and get to work. There needs to be a strategy. “Before you create an action plan, though, you have first to identify where the data silos lie within your organization and their root cause — such as too much software and disparate and unaligned teams,” Byers said. 

Related Article: Why Organizations Need to Build Better Data Management Strategies

Change Tools and Culture to Eliminate Silos

Knowing where to find data silos is one thing, but how can organizations overcome the challenges that come with them? The answer begins with a look at organizational culture, systems and processes, starting at the top. Organizational data gets organized into silos because the company itself communicates and operates in silos.

“Data silos exist alongside organizational silos which starts with how teams are set up and naturally trickles down to the data they generate and analyze. As such, from the top-down, this involves tackling company culture to be more analytical and data-driven and to collaborate,” said Byers. 

Alongside culture, examine the tools being used. One of the simplest ways to remove silos begins with changing the process of adding new tools to the tech stack. "It’s often one of the reasons why data silos might be rampant to begin with," Byers said. "Consider auditing your tools and processes or performing a design thinking session to get a grasp on how to develop new guidelines." 

Culture and tools work in tandem to create silos, so it's important to make sure both are set up for success. "One of the biggest reasons teams are siloed is because of all the individual systems they use on a daily basis," Byers said. "Each of these systems generates and collects their own data and they don’t like to share across platforms."

Careful selection of the right tools can help address the problem. “Explore using tools that bridge silos to create a unified view of data and knowledge needed to execute across various workflows and that can also usher in productivity automation,” Solis said. 

But don't forget about the human element. Companies should figure out a way to continually address communication issues on an ongoing basis. “Structured daily virtual stand-ups via web conferencing help keep everyone on task but also provide opportunities for remote social interaction," Solis said.

Socialization is a crucial aspect of communication especially in remote teams, and it shouldn’t be avoided if you want to maintain proper communication. So continue to set up virtual gatherings for the explicit purpose of socializing, such as a Friday virtual happy hour or coffee hour, Solis said.  

Communication silos occur in many ways and affect how data gets managed as well as how employees interact with each other. With the right tools in place and a collaborative culture, companies can deal with issues before they ever occur. 


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