The Staying Power of Silos: Will They Really Outlive Us All?

Let us start by saying that the panel at Ops Stars NYC during which Donna Peeples (Chief Customer Officer at Pypestream) and Rachael McBrearty (Chief Customer Officer at LeanData) talked about the Customer Experience was one of our favorites of the day. Often, when it comes to chatting about CX, there is a fair amount of repetition—after all, the core principles of the profession remain fairly static, even as the landscape changes. The most refreshing and transformative conversations often lean a bit towards controversy; opinionated industry leaders starting their own mini revolutions in order to improve upon the status quo. 

All this is to say that when Donna said, “Silos are like operational cockroaches and they will outlive us all,” we sat up a little straighter in our chairs. As revenue operations consultants, and just RevOps evangelists in general, silos are kind of the root of all evil. The framework we help our customers to implement is all about eliminating silos, so it stands to reason that we are pretty confident in our ability to, well, kill them. Still, we see Donna’s point, which is that try as though we might, perhaps there are some kinds of silos that truly will outlive us all. Let’s discuss, shall we?
At this point, we should all be able to agree that operational silos within a SaaS company (or, really, any company) = bad. This is going back to basics, but it bears repeating: Siloed go-to-market teams mean problematic handoffs, lack of data sharing, inconsistent messaging, and a customer experience that’s full of way more friction than it should be. The list goes on, but all these factors join forces to cause one big problem: decreased revenue. This, of course, is why one of the major goals of revenue operations is to get rid of these pains by facilitating not only harmony between your teams, but cooperation and collaboration in working towards a shared goal of revenue impact. 
With that said, perhaps even with #flawless RevOps roll out, the ghosts of silos past may linger. While your GTM teams may operate more seamlessly and may no longer be rowing the boat in different directions, the cold hard truth is that at the end of the day, Sales will likely still be thinking primarily from a Sales perspective, and the same goes for Marketing and Customer Success. In other words, you can take the person out of the silo, but taking the silo out of the person may not be so easy. 
So, how do you un-haunt the house? Truthfully—and pardon the cliché—the first step is acknowledging the problem. By understanding which people and processes are being hindered by residual silo syndrome, you will be able to decide how best to fix it. Hopefully, the will to be un-siloed is there, and it’s just a matter of a little extra enablement. As Donna would say, “You can teach the skill, but not the will.” Change is difficult, after all, and (more clichés!) Rome wasn’t built in a day. Figuring out new ways of working that will disrupt what essentially amounts to operational muscle memory will help ease people into new rhythms; for example, implementing a standing meeting between Marketing and Sales, or Sales and Customer Success, and having them participate in collaborative exercises. They’ll love it. Maybe. 
What if, however, you’re talking about a business without the will to un-silo? There are some, after all, that have made the conscious choice to implement certain facets of revenue operations, while still keeping their organizational silos in place. In these cases, it’s fair to hypothesize that the external forces of change have not been enough for these companies to see the value in such a big operational shift. Maybe the 26% increase in revenue promised by the RevOps model is not something they believe can happen, or they understand the why without really grasping the how
Any of these things could be true of companies rooted in legacy ops, and they represent a lifeline for silos--a means of keeping them around, even as they dwindle in both practicality and popularity. So, for the moment, perhaps we will have to concede that Donna’s point stems from a kernel of truth: although there is a way (revenue operations), it is the will that we cannot consult into existence. Sometimes, all we can do is to force the silos back into the shadows—still alive, but hey, at least they’re scared of us. 
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