Breaking Down the Silos

{I wrote this post last September for my personal blog, but found it completely relevant for this week's #EMchat!}

Silos are good for a few things, none of which involve operating a successful business—unless of course, you’re a farmer or a silo salesman.  Their purpose is to store things, to contain things, and to prevent anyone or thing on the outside from getting in.

Silos have no place in business.  And yet, they’re inevitable.

Institutions of higher education typically have an extremely diverse work force.  Professors from engineering to social sciences, maintenance workers, industry leaders, marketers, consultants, dining service employees.  These are the people who make up the web of an institution.  These are also the people who make up the silos.

When it comes to recruiting students in higher education, communication between various departments is absolutely integral to the success of a strategy.  In fact, pretty much all departments on campus need to work together to bring in the highest caliber students.

I was reading [yet another] great post by @Intelliworks today about difficulties in adoption when implementing CRMs (see it here!).  They brought up some phenomenal points on how to combat the issue.  But, even when it’s not a software product, the fact is that you can’t successfully implement any project or program without buy-in from other parties.

So how do you conquer this?

Well, there’s no simple solution.  But, promoting a policy of open communication across departmental borders is a great first step.  Yes, there are retention task forces and enrollment management teams comprised of individuals from across the campus.  But, monthly meetings and a review of the minutes can only get you so far.  Communication has to extend beyond the walls of a conference room.

One of my first posts (that I just realized was lost in my transfer from blogger to WordPress…) talked about my vision of an institution where all departments could have a hand in developing a CRM strategy—a CRM task force almost.  An institution that truly manages student information from prospect to alumni, and all of the milestones in between.  @KyleJudah responded that while it was a great idea, people just don’t talk in higher ed, and that’s the beginning of the problem.  He’s absolutely right.  But just because that is true for the most part doesn’t mean it has to be true forever.

What I’ve learned in my current position (that is completely unrelated to higher ed) is that you can’t get buy-in unless people fully understand and see value in what you’re presenting.  If you’re not passionate about something, you’re not going to get anyone else to be passionate either.  If you’re not willing to take the time to teach your peers, whether they be those in your office or VPs across campus, they won’t take the time to listen. 

It all begins with your personality, though.  Leave your office door open and stop in on others throughout the day.  Building your personal relationships with peers in other departments transfers significantly to your professional relationships.  Set the bar through your actions.  And because individual departments are usually extraordinarily close (especially in higher ed), your relationship with one person will enhance the overall amount of credibility and respect you gain with the whole department.

It’s such a simple concept but it can have such a huge impact.  We get so caught up in what’s going on in our own departments that we sometimes forget our role in the greater organization. 

Communication leads to collaboration.  Collaboration leads to success.  It’s time to break down the silos and get back to the basics of talking…or tweeting, or texting, or emailing…you know, whatever you do best.