Breaking down the barriers of data silos

by Estelle Sherlock | 

In business, a silo is a process, a system or even a whole department, that operates in isolation from others. 

More specifically, a data silo is a cache or bundle of data that is controlled, often within one department, and is segregated from other data within the company.  These separate data files can also be isolated from decision making as they are not part of the enterprise-wide data systems and are therefore useless to the company as a whole. They exist like an island, allowing no sharing or cross referencing.

Data silos are often created accidently, as different departments adopt various information systems that meet their own specific needs.  These applications are obviously really useful within the departments that use them, the problem lies in the lack of collaboration - the accounting data is held on a computer in the corner of a room, the CRM doesn’t speak to the email marketing tool and employee time tracking is held on an excel spreadsheet.  Each system deals with its own data, enclosed within “folded arms”.   This is how many companies have created their data silos, but importantly, departments can also create data silos, through a reluctance to share information, for example.

Identifying the problem areas

Before cloud technology came about, almost all data existed in some form of silo. The key is to identify the data silos hiding within the business. Try and determine which data is being used, by whom and for what purpose, this could be an intensive process dependent on the size and age of the organisation but it is important to be thorough. It takes effort to consolidate data that has never been consolidated before.

Some large enterprises that include subsidiary companies under their umbrella, will have inherited legacy data systems and this may be a major factor contributing to data silos.

Breaking down the barriers

Analytics are only as good as the data behind them – big data doesn’t provide big insights if you can’t pull it together.

Silos have historically made it hard to manage and analyse company wide data, inhibiting growth, to prevent this, look to provide the free-flowing exchange of data between multiple sources and departments. Ensure that any infrastructure put in place used for gathering data is configured in such a way that all the data stored is able to be used in future decision making. Even better, invest in cloud based software and apps that talk to each other, then you are working with truly integrated data.  Encourage, branches, departments and teams to share data, adopt an “open arms” policy, to allow the free-flow of information and analytics.

Of course, this rarely (if ever) happens within a short time frame, instead, drive your company forward with the long-term goal of integration in mind.  Each progressive step should bring you ever closer to an integrated stack of systems.

Not sure where to start? With over 15 years of experience optimising business systems, we can help! 

Contact LimeCloud for an appraisal today.

Drive Innovation by Breaking Down Data Silos with Apache Drill by Dr Kirk Borne, April 2015


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