Leaders in the social media and marketing verticals have been talking about silos almost since the emergence of those industries, but the conversations often lack one key element: the integration of data points, which can take years (and often does). Integrating data is a core way of reducing the inevitable silos that grew as the business did; when you integrate data, management (and ideally everyone) has access to all the reports needed to find opportunities and cost savings.
With full integration, you can reap the rewards and start moving from social media and marketing “tactics” — a day-to-day playbook, essentially — to social media/marketing strategy, which has ties back to the business and the bottom line.
Pause and pivot. Here’s the challenge.
Organizations are actually now drowning in data. We’ve been discussing the value and need for it for 3-5 years, so many organizations went and started collecting it. But without experts in (a) how to analyze it, (b) how to present it to others, and (c) how to tie millions of data points to a bottom-line-facing idea, the silos are actually becoming more difficult to manage. Marketing has their data and their perceived needs; same with HR (‘People Analytics’), IT, Sales, and a half-dozen other functions.
How do you solve this challenge?
It’s complex and it varies by industry (some heavily-regulated industries have tighter security protocols around data, for example), but there’s one core concept to embrace at the beginning.
You don’t work for the business; you work for the end customer.
This is hard for some people to embrace, because the organization ultimately is the one paying your salary — so it would logically seem that you work for them. In reality, the customers drive a large percentage of the money that becomes your salary, so shift your headspace: you actually work for the betterment of the customer’s experience, regardless of where you are in the hierarchy. (This can be a challenge for C-Suiters, because they are usually further removed from the customer interaction level.)
If you can set up a culture whereby the customer experience is paramount at every level and on every team — and a close 1A should be the experience of your employees, which will help unbelievably with branding and attracting other top talent — you can move your organization to a forward-thinking management structure around data, analytics, integrating, and the gradual parsing down of silos.
There’s another key point here: as our friend Ferris Bueller once reminded us, Life moves pretty fast. This is doubly true in business. Many executives have a tendency to see trends emerging — Internet of Things! Wearables! — and dive right into those (“Get a team on it”) because it seems to be where the rest of your industry is headed, and no one wants to be left behind. That’s only logical.
The problem? Unless you solve the issues above around data, silos, and effective integration, you’ll never be able to effectively compete in any new sub-market that crops up.
You need to start with the foundational blocks — how data is organized and stored, who can access it, and what teams are responsible for analysis and reporting — before you can tackle any bigger projects or new markets. Rather than diving head-first into the Internet of Things or hiring consultants who might confuse your C-Suite with reams of techno-speak, start with the basics:
- Who is our customer?
- What do they need?
- What data should we be looking for to see if we’re delivering on this?
- Where is the data coming in from?
- How is it stored/organized?
- Who looks at it and how frequently?
- Who is analyzing it?
- Who is presenting it in simple terms to those with decision-making authority?
If you can begin to conquer these concepts, I can almost guarantee bottom-line and management growth for your organization. But you need to start there.