Using Boomerang Flows to End Team Silos

Team silos are knowledge barriers that block cross functional sharing and collaboration. Boomerang flows are how you can unleash the potential of yourself and your teammates without any major shift in resources.

The Meetingnotes Team
March 5, 2019

What makes team silos so frustrating is how easy they are to fix.

Team silos are knowledge barriers that block cross functional sharing and collaboration. They build up when people have a hard time reaching the knowledge they need in order to work with their teammates. Team silos take on many different forms, but here are a few examples:

  • Documents hidden in complex file structures
  • Data spread across different tools, with varied access by teammates
  • Communication in private email or chat threads

These lead to an overall drag on teamwork. Think of playing football with a team that speaks all different languages - you know that you’re supposed to coordinate but it’s impossible to move in the same direction.

Did you know that the average company manages 150 to 200 different software tools, 90% of which are department specific? Despite the explosion of software in the workplace, young workers continue to struggle with their companies moving too slow and failing to prioritize the problems that they’re hearing on the ground.

The Story of Falkonry

To help you picture the problem, let’s look at a real company, not that dissimilar from your own.

We met Falkonry in early 2018. Based in the Bay Area, they sell a predictive operations technology to Global 2000 Industrial manufacturing companies that leverage machine learning to identify opportunities for their customers to increase production throughput, quality or yield. Selling a technical product means that their team is cross-functional, and the sales/implementation process high touch. Focusing on their Customer Success team helps since they are at the nexus of both the challenges and opportunities being faced by the business.

Falkonry’s Customer Success team engages with its customers during the pre-sales process, owns the relationship post-sales and is responsible for coordinating with the rest of the customers’ organization on an ongoing basis (Engineering, Ops, Product, Marketing and C-suite). The challenge for Falkory’s Customer Success team is to have an efficient way to provide transparent communication between Falkonry sales, system engineering, product, and operations teams as they the Customer Success team is the “voice of the customer” within Falkonry providing a continuous multi-directional conduit of critical information across the organization for the benefit of both its internal- and customer-constituents.

Only a handful of employees have access to Falkonry’s CRM, and those with access cannot  stay abreast of critical account activity with Salesforce alone because there is no easy way for notes taken within the Salesforce application to be shared with the rest of the Falkonry team. Coordination while growing through verbal updates or mass emails are insufficient, not timely, and ultimately lead to “those that know” and “those that don’t know.” To ensure information availability between Customer Success, sales, system operations, sales operations, and executive team members, Falkonry needed a method of note-taking and archiving that integrated with the rest of their software stack (CRM, Slack, GitHub, Zoom and others). Hugo makes that possible.

This story of Falkonry is one we hear all the time, and partly or wholly, it’s likely to be your story too. It’s common and gets worse as the organization grows from 50 to 150, or even 1500 people.

This problem is worse now than in the past

So why are we seeing this story more now than in the past?

If your company is anything like the ones that we’re talking to every day, there are between 150 to 200 different software tools being used across the business. To make things worse, 90% of these tools are department-specific. So the starting point is that everyone is looking through a keyhole, when trying to see the big picture.

On top of that, the explosion of SaaS tools in recent years has started to shape new ways of working, like remote teams and decentralized decision-making. In the US alone there are >17m workers that are part of the gig economy, and 60% of US companies already employ remote teams. At a superficial level, these trends make us seem more connected, but they actually make the problem of information silos even worse and will continue to do so in 2019 and beyond. This is why our definition of collaboration or collaborative tools, needs to evolve with the times.

These challenges can no longer be solved simply. A tool that lets everyone hop on the same document (like Google docs) or store sales data in the cloud (like Salesforce) is not going to solve the team cohesion problem. This is why a different approach to collaboration, one that solves for decentralized coordination, is the key to unleashing team potential. That new approach is called Boomerang Flows, and you need to start thinking this way to help your team move faster together.

Boomerang flows are how you can unleash the potential of yourself and your teammates without any major shift in resources. They sit at a level above any one tool, and as a result provide a framework that actually embraces the many tools being used between teams and flips this trend into being part of the solution rather than the problem. Boomerang Flows refer to broadcasting actionable information across teams, in real time. They leverage communication between tools (not just people) so that those who triggered the flow are updated when work is completed by another team.

Three principles of Boomerang Flows

1. Active sharing

  • There is a big difference between active and passive sharing.
  • Many solutions used today, like wiki’s or CRM’s are important for storing documentation and critical customer information, but they don’t solve for team alignment and collaboration.
  • For example, giving Salesforce credentials to the Product team won’t lead to customer insights driving the roadmap next quarter.

2. Share cross-functionally

  • The more teams that are looped in, the easier it is to operate as a decentralized team by making faster decisions, coordinating around customer needs and cutting down on unnecessary oversight.
  • Rather than information moving from team to team in a curated way through top-down meetings, cross-functional sharing empowers teams to handle raw information faster and make quick decisions.

3. Attribution between conversations and work

  • Conversations are where teams generate their most proprietary information, such as what customers want, what problems they’re prioritizing and how they’re solving those problems.
  • These conversations happen in meetings, chat channels and more. The better that teams are at linking these conversations to the work that they schedule, the better they are and the faster they are at making decisions.
  • Creating a link between conversations and work ensures that teamwork keeps humming at scale.

Information silos put drag on teamwork and are the reason that our customers most pressing needs don’t get shipped in time. They exist because we have too many tools across the business and we only have access to a select few from the pool.

Boomerang Flows provide a solution by way of a new form of collaboration, one that elevates communication between tools as much as communication between people. Creating a link between conversations, and the people who need to know in the tools that they use everyday, you will solve the team cohesion problem - destroying information silos that prevent collaboration and fast decision-making.

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