Down with data silos

letstalk

Data silos

Organization today are using more data than ever. No matter the industry, data can be one the most powerful differentiators available. We continue to find more use for data and the amount of data continues to exponentially increase every month. The ability to use that data should be available and immediate for any organization who is looking for a competitive edge. Data silos are here and can be an unintentional consequence due to the expanding needs of any business. Key causes can be:

  • Rapid growth of the organization.
  • Quick adoption of new systems and technology.
  • Existing systems are isolated from one another.
  • The inability to aggregate the data into a single location.
  • A lack of confidence towards exposing the data to other systems.
  • A lack of resources to combine the data.

What is a Data Silo?

“A data silo is a set of raw data that is only accessible by a single department and isolated from the rest of the organization. This results in a lack of efficiency, collaboration, trust and a holistic view of the entire organization.”

As you can see there are many causes that contribute to a data silos existence. Even with our best intentions and planning, we can still find ourselves not having the data we need in order to make the best decisions at a specific point in time.

What are the issues caused by data silos?

Here are a few issues that arise from having isolated data across an organization.

  1. Collaboration is non-existent or hindered at best.

    Each team is only able to work independently within their own data silos. Since their own data is the only data sets to work with, they see the organization through a single lens. This creates a divided organization. Teams are not able to collaborate with each other on shared projects which makes it near impossible for an organization to share a common vision.

    If the leaders of each team can’t see the big picture and only have access to their own sub-set of data, their individual decisions will rarely be aligned with the global business goals.

    The lack of transparency and trust is very difficult to maintain when data is siloed. Instead, organizations created division and rivalry between internal teams that focus on their own goals.

  2. They provide a fragmented perspective of the organization.

    Leaders have the task to consolidate all the organization’s data. For leaders making the strategic decisions, they may know that the sales team will talk about new clients, marketing will share the number from social media traffic and ad campaigns, and the accounting team can provide a report of expenses and revenue. The one thing missing his how all this data is related.

    It is impossible to manage a business with isolated data as you will not have a holistic view of all the key points and metrics. Data silos stop you from having a full view of your business.

  3. Irritating customer experience.

    Many organization have multiple customer touch points. These interactions happen through a variety of ways and during different stages of the customer’s journey. That means that you’ll have members of several teams like support, billing, sales, or marketing interacting with the same customer. When data is isolated, an organization will lose track of their customer’s interaction.

    An example of this that we can all relate to is when you call into a company and you get transferred three or four times to different departments. Upon each transfer, you need to restate all of you information and the issue you are calling in for; very frustrating!

  4. Duplicate data becomes inaccurate and distrusted.

    Data is one of the most valuable assets of your business. Having many systems gathering information about your processes including markets, customers and vendors increases your company’s value. But when that data is outdated, inconsistent or duplicated, the value of that data is reduced since the reliability and accuracy is in question.

    Each team may have access to their own set of the same data. This leads to objectivity in data that skews in favor of the team that owns them. If the data is not integrated and shared, each organization will certainly see conflicting data when it is verified against the same information from different sources.

  5. Organizational pace is hampered.

    Data silos result in wasting time. Rather than being able to automate data across tools and teams, data is isolated at a single location. This results in teams being force to wait until they realize they need data they don’t have, find where the data resides within the organization, manually procure the data, and then analyze it for their own purposes. By that time the data may no longer be valid.

data silo

What can be done to reduce or eliminate data silos?

We need systems and we need data. As per the outline above, data silos create costly issues across the organization that range from poor customer experiences and slow organizational response time to incomplete strategic decision making. However, not all data should be farraginous (i.e. unsiloed). The next step is to chose which data elements should come outside the silo. Here are some

  1. Use a single, unified integration platform like Gearproxy.
  2. Only select new systems that are capable of integration.
  3. Provide a single tool for teams to process the data such as a Business Intelligence Platform (i.e. Tableua, Power BI, ClicData, Birst, YellowFin, Spotfire, MircoStrategy).
  4. Be sure a culture of collaboration is encouraged.
  5. Have all intergation points monitored for consistency purposes.
  6. Identify key data silos to start with first and transition one silo at a time.
To summarize

The use of data and new systems has outgrown the pace at which most organizations can keep up with. This has created data silos among users and departments that hamper their collaboration and their holistic view of the entire organization. This results in leaders not have the proper means to make the best strategic decisions fro the organization. A good example of data silos and how they can manifest themselves within organizations is illustrated in the book Team of teams.

  1. Data silos do exist and should be eliminated or reduced.
  2. Problems caused by data silos have real costs.
  3. Not all data elements need to be outside the data silo.
  4. A single, unified integration platform can alleviate issues caused by data silos.

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