Silos Can Kill Great Programs. Your Job Is to Break Them Down

In the ever-changing business landscape, as a business owner, it's not always easy to get big initiatives off the ground successfully.

You have an idea, build your strategy, and get enough buy-in for your budget; however, you still have to prove it. Unless you have a C-suite title behind your name, proving it isn’t easy. Why? Because of the dreaded silos, especially those separating Marketing from IT. We all know they exist. We joke about them. And good intentioned organizations work hard to remove them. But, there they are—preventing our vision from getting off the ground. Why is this? From my experience, it’s because goals don’t always align and without clearly aligned goals, persuading the organization to get behind your vision won’t be easy. But, it is possible.

Getting any program in motion will ultimately mean you’ll need to gather resources from across the organization that you can form into the project team. Starting off with the right players on your team is an absolute must. And, inevitably, as you gather your team to launch your program, they’ll have questions: Who is the sponsor? Will they get behind this program to help make it successful? Why would or should we get on board?

In my last position, I was put in charge of launching a loyalty program in 4,000 stores and in a very short timeframe. There wasn’t a lot of money for the task at hand and I was given insufficient time and resources. Was this a recipe for disaster? Was my team up for it? You bet. The real question became: How was it going to get done and be successful?

I knew that my first priority was getting the help I needed and that meant asking for support from other teams. It had to be more than receiving a head nod—I had to ask the question, “Can you help me?” Their support and participation were crucial to getting the program launched—even the pilot program. And after the teams were identified, there was the task of really getting them to buy in by showing them what it would mean for them. Here are some practical tips I’d share with you:

"Buying In" Means Connecting the Dots & Creating Buzz

Since this was a new initiative, it was not on anyone’s annual road map or list of departmental goals. By engaging with this cross-functional team, I was asking them to potentially take focus away from their goals and shift some of their attention to my program. The goals of the marketing team didn’t necessarily translate to the rest of the organization and they had enough to accomplish. But I needed just about every “silo” to actively participate.

Telling them why they should care meant figuring out how to tie their goals and my goals together. By providing the facts and data to clarify what the program could deliver and illustrating how it tied to their goals, I was able to get them to buy-in. Little by little, team by team, collaboration started to pay dividends. Teams actually got excited because they understood what it meant if it worked—more sales from bigger baskets. Once I got a few on board, the buzz took off. Getting that internal buzz created momentum to drive new ideas and better outcomes.

Put Ego Aside and Genuinely Listden to Others' Opinion and Thoughts

Be up front and humble enough to share the details, reporting and business case. Sometimes it’s hard to step back from “your baby,” but for a program to be successful, you will need to provide the team with the information to unleash their unique expertise. It is natural that your initial tactic might be to hold onto your strategy and tell the team exactly how you want it to work. However, by sharing, listening and being open to unexpected insights, the program can evolve to a place that is better than you imagined. Giving others the freedom to share great ideas from their unique perspectives is what makes a cross-functional team great.

Create a Communications Plan/Map

Connecting with internal teams can feel like boiling the ocean but doesn’t have to. As a marketing professional, I’m always thinking about how to get my customers to love the brand and support the company, so why not apply that same thought process to my internal partners? By connecting with my customers, I get profit; by connecting with my organization, I get buy-in and resources, which will lead to profit. Networking internally is the key.

Where to start? Who to talk to first? In this case, I started at the manager and director level. The conversation started with us both sharing our goals as I mentioned earlier. The intent was to avoid the road block of “That’s not on our current road map, maybe next year.” Working from a shared knowledge of each other’s goals, we collaborated on how this initiative could lead to accomplishing both our goals, which made them more open to hearing the business case/rationale. Once I had their support, I had a united front and moved up to the senior level. It wasn’t just my initiative now, it was a group effort. Keep in mind, you will need to clarify how much of the team’s time and effort will be needed. Starting at the manager/director level also helps hone your message for your next big audience. Finding and bringing on board a senior level champion brings the one-two punch to get the program full steam ahead. And by bringing together the management level to get it done and the senior level who wants it done—it’s hard for the nay-sayers in the middle to argue and decline.

Share Successes By Recognizing All the Contributors

We all want to do our best. We all want to be recognized for contributing, right? In this project example, there were 10+ teams involved. In order to ensure they felt their participation received the recognition it deserved, I created a trophy program for field operations (based on reporting) and got myself on the quarterly leadership meetings agenda to present plaques for going above and beyond. I sent thank you emails, recognizing the team, and called attention to specific individuals who drove the initiative. Sharing the success is, without a doubt, gratifying and it doesn’t require spending your entire budget.

Did All This Hard Work Pay Off?

Yes! Not only did the program get launched on time and under budget, the company’s customers loved it! Not only were customers signing up in droves, their feedback was positive. Within weeks of launching in stores, teams were already coming up with ideas on how to improve upon the program and were adding these ideas to their own team’s road map.

I hope sharing my experience was helpful as you think about your next initiative. Collaborate. Communicate. And share successes. If you do these key things, I am sure you’ll pull down those silos and collaborate in a way that will effectively move your initiative and the organization.

About the Author

Crys Puszczykowski (Push-chee-kov-skee) recently joined Olson 1to1, bringing along with her over 15 years of experience in CRM, loyalty, promotions, brand strategy and retail marketing. Prior to Olson, she led a cross-functional team to launch a loyalty program in 4,000 retail locations that enrolled over 3 million members in the first 3 months. She also managed the retail CRM team responsible for weekly email and monthly direct mail campaigns that delivered $72M in annual sales lift. At Olson, she is an Account Supervisor and applies her passion for creating brand loyalty to helping her clients build meaningful and relevant loyalty programs and maintain them in the ever-changing customer landscape. Crys has a BS in Marketing from Metropolitan State University.