Silos belong on farms (redux)

If you attended last week’s conference you heard the term “omni-channel” thrown around quite a bit. In fact, an entire break-out session track was devoted to retail’s latest and greatest buzzword.

As is true with most conferences, attendees were regaled with pithy anecdotes of burgeoning success. “If you would just follow our play book you too could achieve your omni-channel dreams”, seemed to be a common theme.

Often lost amidst the breathless case studies and clever frameworks, was a simple and powerful reality. If you desire to be customer-centric–and it’s hard to imagine why you wouldn’t want to be–you cannot have fragmented data, uncoordinated marketing programs, channel-centric metrics and a decentralized organization. Period. End of story.

Silos belong on farms.

Three years ago I wrote about the concept of one brand, multiple channels, but I am hardly the first person to espouse this view. So why is there still such a gap between the knowing and the doing?

As is so often the case, the answer is at the nexus of leadership and fear. All the noble experiments and clever PowerPoints in the world get you nowhere unless change is driven from the top. And this innovation agenda requires radical acceptance of the reality that slow deliberate change is, in fact,  the most risky path.

The inconvenient truth is that most CEO’s are afraid to invest in technology with uncertain ROI and fear push-back from their direct reports who have thrived in a silo chieftain world. Letting go of age-old performance measurement systems and taking funds away from legacy marketing programs, even in the face of obvious ineffectiveness, seems scary.

But if you want to be really scared, take a look at what the competition and the most coveted consumers are doing right now. Brands like Nordstrom are winning precisely because their leadership began busting silos nearly a decade ago, well before a clear ROI could be calculated. And, increasingly, consumers are directing their loyalty to brands that engage in frictionless commerce.

Silos belong on farms. Silo busting belongs first on your to-do list.





9 thoughts on “Silos belong on farms (redux)

  1. My last years with SHC were in a department that developed plans to “ruin” other parts of the business in the same company?? Eddie had divided SHC into 5 silos that were “free-standing” and each business unit was trying to cost all expenses plus a margin to make a profit and charge other businesses for the services provided and make a profit on the activity.

    We did not work as a team but we were in “competition” with each other = destruction of a company, kill or be killed! Many gullible “managers” were ruined with this philosophy.

    Such a shame to ruin the reputation of a 120+ year old brand.

    Oh Well, there have been others and more to come!

  2. Great insight. I believe most “leaders” grasp that silos are nonproductive in theory, yet lack the ability to take risk as you noted.

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