Breaking Silos

Yesterday’s post was in response to a colleague who’s been asked to speak at an upcoming conference panel. Part of the title of the panel is “Breaking Silos,” and I love that phrase.

Silos are the things that our organizations have built up over time, where we segregate people by discipline: network engineers, developers, server admins, InfoSec people, whatever.
These silos make no sense.
Information technology produces products and services. Too few businesses think about it that way, although they love to refer to the consumers of IT as “customers.” That infuriates me for one big reason.
When I walk into 7-11 to by a Slurpee (I love them), I do not walk up to the cashier and ask how the sugar cane yields have been for the year, nor do I ask the cashier to place an order for a cup. I’m. Buying. A. Slurpee. That’s what I want. And the 7-11 is set up for it: the machine, cups, lids, and straws are all in one place. 7-11’s organization is set up to deliver the product I want to purchase. I don’t have to go to one end of the store for a cup, another for the slush, and a third for the lid and straw – they’re delivering what I need in one place.
I can’t comprehend why businesses refer to their IT users as “customers” but never sit down to think about what “products” those customers are “buying.”
Oh, sure, if you really make them drill down, maybe they’ll say, “oh, well this in-house application is a product.” Okay, fine. Good for you, you’ve got a product. But you probably don’t have a product team supporting it. You’ve got developers in one chunk of the org chart, database admins in another, server admins in a third, and security people off in a fourth, running around irritating everyone in the first three. The org chart does not reflect what is being sold. You’ve got pieces of the “product” spread all over the store, and it makes no sense. 
DevOps is really about nothing more than putting all those people onto one team. Your org chart should reflect your outputs. If nobody in the businesses is running around saying, “you know, tracking static IP addresses in a n Excel spreadsheet really adds value to the business,” then you shouldn’t have a team of people doing that, period.
Watch this:

That’s my boss’ boss, talking about how we reorganized the team I’m on to focus less on features and technology disciplines, and to focus entirely on the experiences we deliver to our customers. Our teams contain a healthy mix of software engineers, product designers, UX experts, DevOps engineers, you name it. Everyone needed to deliver an experience, which is the product we sell, all works together and for the same leaders. Everyone starts their day moving toward the same goal, and they end the day closer to that goal.
“Breaking silos” is about tearing your org chart up and throwing it in the trash, and then thinking about what you actually sell to your customers. You then create teams that deliver those products to your customers. You “segregate” teams by the value they being to customers, not by their job titles.
Go break some silos.

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