At the beginning, most businesses start with a single person, or small group, doing most of the work. The basics are there; You have a great product or idea, you have investment to produce or deliver it, you’re willing to put in the work and you have customers that want to buy… that last one is the most important one, without customers, you have no business. You do everything, finding the customers (marketing), getting them to buy (sales), producing and delivering (operations), and get the money in and pay the bills (Finance). It’s exciting, but it’s hard work and it’s not scalable. For a business to grow, you need everyone to be focused on what they’re good at and you need to be able to replicate what you do, easily. You need to increase the input of new customers, increase your sales, produce more products and deliver more services, and you need to stay on top of your finances and accounts. Very quickly you start to standardise and expand your business, reinforcing your structure with the four main business functions as your foundations: Marketing, Sales, Operations and Finance.
What’s the challenge? Separation.
The more you standardise those functions, in order to create a robust and scalable business, the greater the risk of these functions evolving on their own and creating silos within your organisation.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do your teams understand and appreciate the roles outside of their function, within your business?
- Do your departments have full visibility of what is going on within your business in order to ensure they are all pulling the same way?
- Are all your people driving in the same direction, towards the same common goal, or are they simply doing what’s necessary to achieve their departmental targets and then handing it off to the next team?
With a segregated business model, often each department or function develops their own processes and implement their own systems, with the focus on achieving the targets set on their team, rather than focusing on the overall business goals. Teams become more insular and more rigid in the way they accept information from functions that feed into them and less structured in how they pass information into the next function in the chain. This creates frustration and resentment, making the gaps between teams bigger, allowing more things to slip through the gap and slowing down your order to cash cycle. This can have a serious impact on company morale and business performance.
From a technology point of view, using multiple systems for different functions makes it difficult to ensure information is passed successfully between teams as integration and security become a challenge. Typically, teams will require information to be presented to them in a particular format. Additionally, due to running the business on multiple platforms, security and license costs restricts information access to people within each department. Each department creates a wall around it, with big strong doors to keep people out and tiny windows for the rest of the business to see in.
There is another way.
To create a joined up business, you need joined up systems and processes. Unifying your business information, into a single platform, you can secure information by content, record or file type, everyone works off the same set of information, everyone can see the status and progress of projects and orders, without the need to manually produce reports or present at time consuming meetings. Instead of information being passed between teams, it simply changes status and is reallocated to the appropriate team member to carry out the next task.
Marketing teams can see which customers have bought what, and where there is more opportunity. Sales can see what stage their customers project is in and will know when bills have been paid or accounts are on stop. Operations will see potential new orders before they are closed, allowing them to resource appropriately. Finance can see customer service queries next to account information… perhaps there’s a reason they don’t want to pay their bill?
From the technical angle, you reduce your operational overhead considerably, by reducing the amount of systems you need to maintain, backup and upgrade. Training becomes easier and there is less information loss or unnecessary duplication of data or effort. Security is simple too as permissions are allocated to file or information type. Data can be made read only to those who only need to see it, rather than hidden all together, while Sensitive information can still be locked, so that only the appropriate people can see it and/or edit it.
Utilising a transparent, consistent and integrated set of systems and processes helps to create a stronger bond between teams and ensure that they are all pulling in the same direction. Everyone in your business is driving it forward toward the same common goal… and when things aren’t working at the optimum, it’s easy to spot the problems and work together to resolve them.
Systems and processes should support business goals, not restrict them. In order to ensure that all areas of the business drive toward the same business goal, you need to ensure a single, consistent view of the business as a whole. One source of information, One version of the truth, One common goal.