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Why It's Time To Bring One of the Most Loathed Buzzwords of the 2000s Into the Remote Era Offices used to house many departments and teams, but all were visible to one another. But, with remote work, we have very little visibility into what other departments are working on. This has reached a boiling point, where remote work has led to a lack of trust and productive collaboration across disciplines and teams.

By Tom Medema Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • - With offices, you could literally see what other teams were working on
  • - With remote work, you have zero visibility into other teams’ activities
  • - If your work is blocked because you’re waiting on somebody in another department to get you something, you have no idea if they’re actually working on it
  • - It’s time to “break down the silos” that have eroded trust between multidisciplinary team members

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Breaking down departmental silos was the hottest business trend of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

It was so cliche that it made regular appearances on lists of the most annoying corporate buzzwords of the time, but there was a reason why the business world fell in love with the concept. Previously each department was considered a separate entity, with only a handful of folks at the very top enjoying visibility into how each piece fit together.

Over time, however, it became clear that breaking down the walls between departments was necessary to share ideas, resources and tactics better, inspire innovations, provide more consistent employee and customer experiences, take a more unified approach to problem-solving and enable organizations to act quickly and unilaterally to solve new challenges. As the speed of business gained new momentum, organizations couldn't afford to be weighed down by interdepartmental misunderstandings and information gaps.

Related: How to Break Down Silos in Your Company by Building Lanes

As work moved from the office into the home in 2020, maintaining those cross-disciplinary communication lines fell off the priority list. In a rush to bring productivity into a new, digital space, there was the widespread adoption of collaborative tools that provided teams with everything they needed to work effectively within their departments. Developers are now likely to spend most of their time in an app like GitHub, sales teams in software like Salesforce, engineers in Jira, designers in Figma, and so on.

As team members spent more time on the platforms that were purpose-built for their specific function, they spent less time sharing and learning from other corners of the organization. Suddenly, all that progress toward breaking down silos took its first significant step backward in decades.

Nowhere is this challenge more pronounced than among those who, by definition of their role, need to work across departments. Functions like marketing, for example, need to maintain clear lines of communication with everyone from customer service and sales to product specialists and developers to do their jobs effectively. Knowing the status of various moving pieces, aligning internal goals and objectives to external communications, and maintaining a deep understanding of changing consumer preferences are all necessary elements of the job.

Related: An Asynchronous Workforce Is The Future. Are You Ready For It?

Sure, we have tools that can carry messages between otherwise siloed departments, but seeing the real-time status of workflows and progress toward objectives isn't the same as getting an occasional update via Slack or email. Furthermore, promptly getting that information out of various teams requires more intentional effort. All of those requests and follow-ups can also serve to breed tension, especially in a remote setting.

This is where collaboration tools like Bubbles come into play. The organizational-wide collaboration software provides an even playing field where team members from all departments can easily share content in various formats. It provides a meta-layer on top of the applications they are already using rather than being sandboxed within those applications. For example, designers can record their screen on Figma, and share it on the productivity application Notion, to discuss product requirements with a product manager that doesn't use Figma.

Engineers can do the same thing with ads in the project management platform Jira, where they can discuss requirements or clarifications with marketers who don't know how to use Jira. The same goes for sales teams, who can now share content from customer relations management platforms like Salesforce with product managers without requiring those product managers to be on Salesforce.

Our goal is to enable a flattening of the digital collaboration landscape and, with it, a collaboration between departments without requiring each to gain familiarity with (not to mention login credentials, onboarding, and training for) the platforms on which the other spends most of their time.

Related: How to Use Personal Brand Photos to Stand Out on Social Media (and Be Remembered)

Today most organizations rely on tools like Slack, Zoom and Email to provide some kind of bridge between various departments and their technology platforms of choice, even if it is a little shaky sometimes. Bubbles, however, was designed to be a permanent structure that can quickly and reliably carry information from one corner of the organization to the next.

The breaking down of silos between departments was vital in enabling agility and innovation at the start of the millennia when most operated in the same physical space. Now the buzzword everyone loves to hate is making a comeback, with the breaking down of digital silos key to enabling the next wave of innovation in a more remote environment.

Tom Medema

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Bubbles

Tom is the Founder of Bubbles, one of the fastest-growing remote work tools in tech— with a quarter of a million users. As a former CTO, he scaled his last company's remote engineering team from 1 to 150 in under two years. Those growing pains led to Bubbles, an async video collaboration platform.

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