No one needs to tell you that silos in the workplace can be bad, but figuring out how to include the right people at the right time--to reduce costly information gaps and get the inputs you need for successful outcomes--is tough. And there's no magic answer; every organization is different. Even the world's most successful companies are struggling to achieve productive collaboration without getting into the precarious territory of over-involvement.

To shed some light to how companies can minimize the threats caused by rigid internal silos, Teradata recently partnered with Forbes Insights, the strategic research and thought-leadership division of Forbes Media, publisher of Forbes magazine and, to issue the "Breaking Down Marketing Silos" report. Among the recommendations listed in this study is to replace competition and isolation among silos with communication and cooperation. For many organizations, this is much easier said than done.

To ensure you involve the right people at each step in your process to get the support you need without creating inefficiencies, ask these three core questions at pivotal points:

  1. Whose perspective can significantly improve the outcome of the initiative?
  2. What buy-in may help move the project forward and ease implementation?
  3. Who is likely to sabotage the initiative?


One: Whose perspective can significantly improve the output?

If you're trying to better integrate communications processes or rollout a new marketing program, you need to make sure that the results of your efforts meet actual business needs within real-world constraints. After all, if your sales team, operations group or other internal stakeholders can't actually use the program, materials, information and other resources your team is producing, then you may as well not spend time and money to produce them. In other words, if you're not producing practical solutions for your organization, you're wasting resources.

Yet meaningful results requires more than awareness of marketplace dynamics. By identifying and involving the people and groups that really know what's happening in the market--at critical stages in your process--you can improve the outcome of your work and earn valuable support of the extended team. Without these elements, even the best ideas and programs will likely fail.

For example, incorporating insights from sales and other front-line team members can ensure a new messaging strategy addresses real customer issues. By talking with the people who know what's really happening in the field, you can ensure that your strategy aligns with meaningful market dynamics, resonates with buyers and achieves desirable ROI.


Two: What buy-in may help move the project forward and facilitate implementation?

To keep a project moving forward, figure out who needs to be involved at each step and how much influence they need in order to champion the outcome of your work. Think about people who have the most stake in the project's success: your boss, the sales team, executive leadership and even external partners such as your creative agencies. Get them involved at pivotal points in your project and ensure they feel heard.

Keep in mind that involving too many people in a project can hinder progress. So try to gather general input when defining objectives and brainstorming concepts, and use a more targeted group for reviewing creative development. Be sure that representatives of those who will handle the rollout are involved with implementation planning. In some cases, you may want to reconvene the larger group for specific execution tactics.


Three: Who is likely to sabotage the initiative?

Don't forget to consider the people and groups who may sabotage the success of your initiative--due to competing initiatives, resource-allocation issues or some other reason. And try to involve them early. By uncovering and addressing the intentions and objectives of potential rivals within your company, you may be able to turn opposition into advocates.

Wondering how to convince the unwilling to participate in your project? Carefully consider how the initiative may directly impact the person's area of responsibility, professional reputation and career development. And use an approach that appeals to his or her cultural style. In other words, if a friendly after-work meet-up over a beer is likely to bring down guards, then schedule that type of meeting instead of a formal PowerPoint presentation in the boardroom.

Even without a specific need, make a habit of talking with people throughout your organization to find out what they're working on, what they need and what obstacles they're facing. There's really no downside to becoming familiar with what other groups in your company are trying to accomplish. It can help you stay relevant and well-connected, and limit the damaging impact of silos on your entire organization.