When business teams talk about “silos,” they’re usually referring to organizational constructs, bemoaning the presence of business teams that keep to themselves. Siloed teams can unintentionally (or intentionally) hoard information and business insights like precious grain in tall farm towers, not feeding the rest of the company. And sometimes in extreme cases, outside stakeholders that depend on them to share their goods don’t get nurtured with the business intel they need.
Over time in diverse industries, we have seen that communication silos are gradually breaking down. This trend has accelerated during the pandemic, thanks to business tools like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams, which allow people around the world to “sit together” in virtual rooms to communicate with each other and share information with the press of a button and a glance at the camera.
Not so fast though. The bad news is that data silos still exist despite those advancements. As organizations try to use more data for both strategic and tactical purposes, they’re struggling with their ability to manage the torrents of new data that’s flowing in and unlock data that’s been siloed away. Add in cybersecurity challenges and the business will have to strengthen their position in a stronger way.
What are data silos and how are they created?
Data silos are independent pockets of data within an organization. Often aligned to either business functions or IT systems, data silos are accessible to a limited group of people. Companies that experience this maintain separate sets of data for functions such as customer service, product development, marketing, manufacturing, and HR. Because data is separated and fragmented, decision makers at all levels of the organization are prevented from seeing the holistic view of how their assessments, actions, and decisions impact the company – and more importantly, how it impacts their customers. Even companies that have invested in data warehouses often report data silo issues, which are caused when multiple warehouses contain duplicative data.
Data silos come about a number of different ways. Most often, they’re an extension of how organizations are structured and managed as a whole. Mergers and acquisitions often create separate structures with units operating independently and maintaining their own data sets. Some corporate cultures create disincentives for data sharing, while others set up decentralized IT purchasing mechanisms. This leads to the deployment of databases and business applications that aren’t compatible with or connected to other systems.
What happens when data is trapped in silos?
Data trapped in silos limit organizations’ ability to get the most from operational workloads that cross over departmental boundaries, drive automation, and aid decision-support and situational awareness (human and machine). Digital transformation of business operations cannot reach total efficiency if the data pipelines that support them are brittle and run on incomplete and stale data.
Data silos exert a long list of hidden costs. Managers that can’t access employee performance records while scheduling shifts will encounter reduced productivity. Leaders that can’t mine customer insights before a key product launch will miss out on business opportunities. Customer service departments lacking cross-channel data on customer transactions will struggle to reverse churn. And a general lack of trust in data itself limits its use and its business benefits.
If data is stuck in silos, it creates pain points for the professionals who manage data as well. Maintaining multiple databases that don’t communicate with each other leads to spreadsheet sprawl. Having separate tools for the access and preparation of each dataset forces teams to learn and maintain more tools than they prefer. Complexity in the process can also cause IT bottlenecks for data access, ingestion, and preparation of corporate data, particularly from the enterprise data warehouse, mission-critical enterprise resource planning systems, and external datasets.
Start with our organizational culture to break down data silos
Companies that place importance on instituting data governance initiatives while forging a data strategy that aligns with their own corporate goals will fare well in breaking down silos and bridging together business teams. Once these forward-thinking companies overcome the hurdles of making that possible and develop a business strategy with a tech stack to ignite that – more possibilities open. They’ll be able to connect, manage, and analyze data to serve the best interests of their businesses. This is where Actian can help.
Actian’s Data Platform empowers LOB management and their business technologists to break down silos and use real-time data and analytics to extract maximum value from their SaaS, BI, and advanced analytics tool investments.
Breaking down data silos fuels faster innovation across a broad range of initiatives including product advancements, research, services, trends in risk, demographics, and other external factors. Whether ambitious companies want to grow their target revenues or drive stronger product adoption amongst their user base – having access to reliable and fresh data can accelerate their efforts at scale, and perhaps even shift business direction quickly if needed.