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How to Avoid Silo Thinking


Some time ago at the State of Nebraska, we recognized it was inefficient for our technology resources to work in IT silos. Prior to consolidation, an IT silo existed in every individual agency. As any productive business would do, we began working to break down each legacy silo across the enterprise through organizational and technological change.

Yet even after a successful network consolidation, organizational silos still existed in the larger enterprise. ‘Silo mentality,’ or what I call silo thinking, is when a department or group focuses solely on what they control and contribute and not on where they fit into the enterprise-common goal.

In IT, a silo is a system or application that is isolated from other systems. Such a system does not contribute to other systems. Consequently, this is true of organizational silos too. Silo organizations lack collaboration because they create an environment of individual and disparate systems within an enterprise. Certainly, silo thinking causes division within organizations and prevents them from successfully contributing to the goals of the enterprise.

Symptoms of Silo Thinking:

Symptoms of Silo Thinking:

  • Using different processes and/or tools for similar business functions
  • Preparing similar reports in isolation without sharing data
  • Distrust and placing blame between departments or agencies
  • Lack of cooperation or joint ownership of issues
  • Lack of true innovation


One of the primary reasons for changing the State’s decentralized IT infrastructure was to integrate the different agency goals and objectives across the enterprise. Now, it falls to each organization to break down the silos. As a result, consolidation helped us form strong cooperative and collaborative management between Enterprise IT and Agency IT Management. Sometimes collaborative thinking simply means to stop defending the way it has always been and to start imagining the way it could be.

 6 Strategies of Collaborative Thinking:

Using a Single Service Management (ITSM) tool

Collaboration in enterprise service management means to have parallel customer service processes within each individual Agency. Support teams operate more efficiently when following a common process.

ie: Using Service Portal to request and process Incident Requests, Service Requests, Problem Requests and Change Requests.

Measuring and Sharing Metrics

The data we are gathering from our ITSM tool is updated and shared with our team members in real time. Since we started doing this, we can determine our strengths and challenges, then redistribute resources more effectively.

ie: “I have 15 tickets from 15 different agencies with the same problem. What do we need to change to improve the service?”

Enterprise Software Purchasing Agreements

As the complexity of software applications increases, so does the cost of licensing and maintenance to keep them running. Enterprise applications represent some of the most common business operations. When technical teams are allowed to hone their skills toward supporting one common application together, the depth of support for that tool increases, as does the efficiency of the tool itself.

ie: Taking single-agency software purchases and making it available to the enterprise – Citrix ShareFile. One solution, used by many.

Group Problem Solving  

Simply having the ability to ask for help indicates teamwork. Group problem-solving means our strategies are fully developed in discussion prior to production. It allows developers, advisors, product owners and decision-makers to consider the best options before determining the resolution.

ie: Contacting the appropriate OCIO support team in case of a network, server, storage, desktop or software issue.  


This is synonymous with collaboration and slightly different from group problem-solving.

ie: Putting employees from different agencies that do the same task on the same team.

Shared Security Processes

The ability to implement “shared security processes” in all areas is important for compliance reasons and also helps the enterprise to balance security management with daily operations.

ie: Development and Operations (DevOps), Voice, Network (All Infrastructure) working together toward a common goal.

Because of IT consolidation, we broke down many of the silos that previously existed. We combined agency resources to work together on the same team and were much better for it. We are becoming more innovative with ideas provided from different agency vantage points. Now, we have a better understanding of why things were done in the past and we can position ourselves to define better solutions for the future of State business.

Ed Toner is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). See more Featured Contributor posts.

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Catherine Andrews

Thanks, Ed! We mostly definitely hear constantly about the challenges of silo in government – siloed thinking, siloed data, siloed departments… fascinating to see how you are overcoming it!

Declan Riordan

After hearing you speak in the virtual summit keynote today, it sounds like these strategies have also been effective on a local level in Nebraska! The collaboration between state and local government seems to be very positive.

Ed Toner

Thanks Catherine and Declan, Nebraska has certainly benefited by being open to a collaborative approach across all public entities. I am excited to be invited to speak on this topic, ” providing services to local governments” at the NASCIO Annual Conference in October. Ed