Want Effective Collaboration? Forget the Silos and Focus on Outcomes
Let’s face it. Collaboration is beneficial, but typically hard to do in big enterprises.
There is a lot of talk these days about the benefits of collaboration for manufacturers. It generally goes something like this: “If we can promote greater cross-functional teamwork, engage our suppliers more effectively and share important information more broadly, we can improve profitability, get to market faster, serve our customers better, etc.”
Great stuff. However, making collaboration actually happen is difficult, especially in large enterprises. And not just because of the silo mentality that hinders teamwork, but also because of the outdated information systems mindset at many companies. You know the deal: Engineering owns and operates the PLM/PDM systems, Purchasing uses the Source-to-Pay suite, Finance does their thing in the ERP, CRM is for Sales, and so on. Each product stakeholder team has their own operating system for their particular functional silo.
These systems were designed for accomplishing functional-specific activities like product design, supplier quoting, materials ordering, (slowly) paying invoices, etc. Systems are budgeted by functional department and often licensed based on the number of active users of the system. And the people in a particular function tend to become agitated when you suggest they work in any system other than their own. Consequently, the functional silo mentality extends beyond the people to include the function’s systems and the information trapped within those systems. So much for collaboration.
Focus on the outcomes.
So how do you break down the silo mentality and enable authentic collaboration?
First, it will never happen without leadership. Someone with vision and authority must clearly articulate what is possible and align the various functional teams to go after some important objectives. Much like the S&OP process was implemented to synchronize planning across the sales, manufacturing and supply chain functions, a similar integrated business management process must be used to align the functions responsible for developing, launching and delivering products. This is transformative work and there needs to be committed leadership and sustained C-level support for driving the transformation.
With leadership in place and a vision communicated, the next order of business is focusing on the outcomes you are trying to achieve and establishing clear objectives. Set a few measureable goals that people can rally around: increase gross margin by 200 basis points, reduce customer quoting cycle times by 50%, increase new product launches per year by 30%.
Next, determine which functional teams need to be involved and what business processes will be used to drive those outcomes. This is a great opportunity to rethink how work gets done across teams, eliminate waste and lean out your business processes. Question everything you do today and streamline the work without sacrificing the integrity or quality of the process.
And then provide the right systems and information to enable the business processes and promote greater collaboration among teams. Use automation and information to supercharge the processes, improve efficiencies, promote greater visibility, support decision making and enforce governance.
That’s how we designed and built Directworks.
At Directworks, we serve manufacturers who build highly engineered products. The outcomes our customers want to achieve are developing, launching and delivering more profitable products. So we spend a lot of time with our customers and prospects learning what it takes to achieve those outcomes.
Achieving those outcomes requires close collaboration between lots of functional product stakeholders (e.g. engineering, purchasing, quality, supply chain) and the suppliers who provide the parts to build their products. The product stakeholders (usually) follow established business processes to achieve the outcomes, but their systems silos thwart effective collaboration and they revert to spreadsheets and email to engage one another and their suppliers. This approach to bridging systems gaps is inefficient and adds lots of complexity. It’s a collaboration fail and the very problem we set out to solve.
We’re solving the collaboration problem by providing a common platform where product stakeholders and suppliers can work together and exchange information to achieve the desired outcomes. Directworks is an enterprise system built for unlimited users (all functions and suppliers), configured to support our customers’ unique business processes and easily integrated with their functional-specific systems (e.g. PLM, ERP) to promote greater collaboration and secure sharing of important information.
This is not to say that functional-specific systems are not important or necessary. We understand the purpose and value of those systems, but winning in the market increasingly requires manufacturers to reach out beyond their four walls to engage suppliers and that is something that many functional-specific systems were not built for. We want to help our customers amplify and extend the value of their systems by breaking down silos and bringing together the right information and people in a very collaborative environment that helps them develop, launch and deliver more profitable products.
That’s our mission. And that is why we believe the selection of any system should be based on its ability to support your efforts to drive transformational change and deliver your desired business outcomes. Check out Directworks 4, our latest release, to see what you can achieve with a system built for today’s collaborative approach to product success.