The workplace is changing quickly and in an effort to better market to the millennial generation—now the largest subset of the American workforce—businesses are adopting an ever-growing avalanche of new social, mobile,  and collaboration tools. But does adoption equal efficiency?

In short, no. According to Altimeter Group, employees use fewer than half of installed enterprise collaboration tools on a regular basis. Similarly, Gartner projects that by 2017, 25% of companies will lose their market position as a result of digital business incompetence and an ineffective response to how consumerization trends have changed the way work is best accomplished. It’s clear that businesses need to rethink their fundamental approach to the future of work.

Instead of departments pushing one-off adoption of tools for their own team, businesses should focus on creating a holistic digital view of the company that spans across all work threads. Put another way, it’s time for the “death of the department.”

Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts

The death of the department will enable businesses to reconstruct data sharing so that it’s more intrinsic across all departments. With data at the core, everyone from a sales manager to the chief marketing officer could easily improve how work is done, understand where disconnects exist among departments, and better support employees in realizing their value to the larger business. Once this ideology penetrates an organization, there are three ways it will improve business performance: better customer service and higher retention rates; efficient resource allocation; data-driven decisions; and a unified view of disparate data.

Better Customer Service

With the emphasis being placed on delivering stellar customer service at an all-time high, the need for business-wide data integration to improve business performance cannot be ignored. Yet departments like sales, services, and accounting lack any cross-sectional insight despite constant customer touch points. It can be a big mistake.

Unfortunately, sales, customer support, and finance teams often rely on separate technologies that create siloed views of the customer, making it difficult to improve service and satisfaction. In the past year, 52% of consumers have switched brands due to poor customer service and 68% of consumers will not go back. Teams could avoid this with greater access to data, enabling them to provide better attention to customers and improved responsiveness to management.

Imagine if accounting could add special offers for maintenance or training based on the service department’s understanding of that customer’s needs. This is what it it means to break down the “walls” between departments.

Efficient Resource Allocation

Too often, employees are either overworked, under-allocated, or not utilized for their particular skill sets—ultimately, missing the target on consumer needs. The rise of the distributed, global workforce exacerbates this problem, as it complicates how teams and resources are aligned to ensure operational efficiency. This is the result of companies’ lacking visibility into potential projects, real-time employee capacity, and new candidate pipelines. But if management brings together the right data, then companies will be able to sell what they can deliver and deliver what they can sell.

For example, Jacobus Consulting is a leading health-care consulting firm working to continually improve patient care and quality while solving complex challenges in health care. When the company had outgrown its traditional IT processes, its reliance on applications like Excel made managing employee data and capacity planning very labor intensive.

But after adopting a singular ERP solution, the company automated many manual and cumbersome HR processes; ultimately, gaining better insight into the unique skills of its workforce. The HR team was then empowered to focus on strategic matters as a result of streamlined recruiting, HR, and workforce planning processes. The more visibility executives gained into all facets of the business, the better they could proactively manage the people powering their business.

Informed Financial Decisions

Today’s CFO is a strategic business partner, guiding companies through smart growth and shifting business models. Increasingly, their finance teams are tasked with providing strategic guidance that goes beyond simply getting the invoices paid. To ensure that CFOs and their teams have the resources they need to be strategic, companies should look to equip them with visibility and customer context. Only then can situations like one in which sales is finalizing a new upsell but finance jeopardizes the deal by chasing on a smaller cost be avoided.

Social project management is a key component in making this possible. By consolidating a range of cross-department data into a single view, finance teams have greater visibility into the organization’s functional needs and work patterns. As a result, businesses can take faster action to manage their finances. Further, social collaboration tools allow businesses to foster cooperation among team members and partners, increasing efficiency in managing customer expectations. Teams stay engaged, project goals are met, and customers remain satisfied.

When businesses unleash information that is usually siloed, they break down the artificial walls between departments. When this happens, organizations provide better customer service, allocate resources efficiently, and benefit from a singular view into business data. With millennials changing the workforce, now more than ever enterprises need to take a step away from fragmentation and a step towards this tech-enabled transparency. Now is the time to embrace change or risk becoming irrelevant.

Kevin Roberts is director of platform technology at FinancialForce and a founding member of the company.

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