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[ Insights from the SAP-Centric EAM 2013 Event – Huntington Beach March 2013 ( Part 6 of 12): This is part of a blog series brought to you by Norm Poynter and Paul Kurchina, designed to inspire and educate by sharing experiences with the SAP Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Community. For the past nine years, the Eventful Group’s SAP-Centric North American Event ( Supported by SAP and ASUG ) has brought together the EAM community to network, share ideas and experiences, and explore solutions for Enterprise Asset Management.]

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This post is based on a presentation ” It’s Not the Silo’s: Its the Bridges ” by Natalie Christensen, SAP Project Manager of the City of Abbotsford, British Columbia, at the Huntington Beach SAP-Centric EAM 2013 Community event in March.

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“Break Down the Silos.” Adopted by business 20 or so years ago, that slogan whipped up almost as much fervor as Ronald Reagan’s historical phrase, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.” ( Notice I said “almost” ) Organizations have been have long been searching for ways to get organizational departments (and SAP modules) to play nice with each other. If you ask some business leaders, tearing down the wall was easier.

According to Natalie Christensen, SAP Project Manager of City of Abbotsford, British Columbia, the way to break down silos is to empower employees. Not that silos don’t have benefits. Christensen said that silos bring together specialized talents, provide accountability and contribution to the business, offer a sense of belonging, and create a “team-within-a-team” environment.

Indeed, it’s not the actual silo that’s the problem, said Christensen. It’s the lack of communication between silos, and the inherent inability to harvest what is in those silos. This is why creating bridges between them is critical.

Christensen explains BRIDGES like this: Be a Leader; Right People; Involve them; Direct them; Guide them; Equip them; and Support and recognize them.

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Christensen said that not only will empowering people help bridge business silos, but it will also help address the silos that crop up within an SAP system. “SAP is a tool that gains value and power from the strengths of those who use it. Any organization that commits its time and efforts to empowering its people will be able to maximize the power of the SAP system,” said Christensen. However the key is to empower the Right people. The saying  ‘your people are your greatest asset’ is false; in reality it is the truly engaged and talented people who are your greatest asset. Identify them, empower them and be willing to do whatever it takes to get things done right for your organization, regardless of the time or the cost. An organization must be willing to pay the price today and make the tough decisions in order to assure success in the future.

Of all of those steps toward bridge-building, I see the lack of leadership as the biggest challenge. Silos are inherent in organizations large and small. They just happen. In my opinion, the way around them is to rotate people through positions and keep rotating them. This is what organizational effectiveness and fast-tracking new people through various departments is intended to do: provide cross-functional training. But it’s even more than that. You must cross-educate. This education is lacking with respect to maintenance, reliability, SAP, IT, people, and the list goes on.

The problem is, we are not educating employees to be leaders. We’re promoting employees who are good at programming into IT/managerial roles, good welders into maintenance superintendents, and strong technical reliability root cause analytics engineers into managers. We’re not educating potential leaders cross-functionally.

If the leaders can’t speak to the individual silos, communications problems will worsen. And if a leader doesn’t stay in the same position for 5 to 10 years, you won’t see much progress.

The point is, change management is a huge area these days, with great opportunity for improvement, but it doesn’t come easy. It’s kind of like change in a family: it takes time and has to be worked at in order to succeed.

To learn more, read Natalie Christensen’s PowerPoint presentation.

For more information, here’s a post with all of the links to the published blogs in this series.


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