Process On The Fly #4 – Silo Busters
An end-to-end perspective across applications, departments and even companies is within reach. Process technologies can break down the barriers between IT silos, without the need to completely reconstruct the silos. After all, silo applications are everywhere, contain years of investment and often keep a business running. We have to work with them, even if it would be more desirable to change them. Through BPM, micro services, and MDM, silos can be connected, delivering lasting IT agility and better-integrated business. Furthermore, robotic process automation (RPA) can alleviate organizations of mechanistic and mundane business processing without massive system changes.
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.
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.
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.
2. MDM reduces interface hell and translates data on-the-fly. No consistent corporate view? Think Informatica MDM, IBM MDM and Oracle.
3. SOA eliminates interface overload and ensures adaptable process continuity across IT silos. Experiencing API Armageddon? Think Oracle, IBM, Mulesoft, Denodo and Cisco.
4. A Data Lake reduces data movement between silos via a ‘one-stop shop’ for core event data. Drowning into data silos? Think Pivotal, Cloudera, Couchbase, Microsoft and MarkLogic.
5. RPA reuses existing IT Silos by automating tasks via existing applications without integration. Error-prone IT madness? Think Blue Prism, UIPath and Automation Anywhere.
These silo-busting technologies can simplify and automate processes 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 applying the DevOps philosophy to process evolution. So, what then are best practices to keep in mind when busting a silo?
1. Focus on common business pains and scope tightly
Get a C-level sponsor (the CEO works!) to align key stakeholders to prove that silo busting works. Prioritise key areas of inefficiency caused through inter-system and/or inter-departmental processes and pilot the top 3. Introduce a shared benefit model to incentivise cross silo working.. Bring the ideals of the ‘sharing economy’ to your internal departments.
2. Use an outcome-orientated approach with shared benefits
Find real world problems that will resonate with department leaders. For example, where there’s a big team manually processing data there’s a good chance that team is artificially bridging systems and departments. Scope the project to such examples – understanding the processes, rules, and information that are essential to deliver the business outcomes. Make it real for the business leaders so they recognise the silo busting value of the technology.
Be agile in delivery, lots of iterations showing value early on in the project. This is key to proving the approach is going to make a difference at speed.
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.
Work with the silos. Bust them with process technologies, so that stability and best practices are combined with agility and oversight.
So, next time there’s something strange in your IT neighborhood, who you gonna call?