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Siloed Data: What it is & How to Deal With it

In 2019, data has become an integral part of any successful business. The collection, storage and analysis of information is critical to how an organization functions, and how they leverage the data at their fingertips. But what happens when you can’t access the data you need or the time it takes to access it starts hampering your productivity? Data silos can be a pesky thorn in the side of any organization, and it is important to actively prevent and resolve any issues that result in siloed data.

The cause of data silos can be broken down into two parts— Silo Mentality, and Structural Silos.

Silo Mentality

Simply put, Silo Mentality is the unwillingness or reluctance to share information across different departments within an organization.

It is important to remember that silo mentality is employee-centric as opposed to tool-centric – meaning the root cause for Silo Mentalities lie with the staff within an organization. This type of philosophy can be detrimental to your business, so you want to address these mentalities whenever they arise. Rather than fostering a culture of division between departments, management should encourage a unified environment, one where all departments are playing for the same team.

Structural Silos

Unlike Silo Mentalities, Structural Data Silos are tool-centric, and as the name would imply—usually stem from structural issues as opposed to philosophical ones. Data silos occur when information is stored in a manner that makes it inaccessible to data tools and other company departments.

In many instances, organizations possess various systems and software that are department or role-specific, which makes sense from a functional standpoint. However, when other departments or roles must access the data stored on these systems it may become difficult for them to obtain it when they need it. Marketers for example leverage data across the organization (sales, HR, accounting etc.). By not being able to access the right data, it can become challenging to create marketing materials that align with company goals, capacity, and budgetary constraints.

A survey conducted by TeraData found that 80% of marketers claimed data silos within marketing obscure a “seamless view of campaigns and customers”.

Effects of Siloed Data

Reduce Productivity & Efficiency

When your data is housed in isolated applications, it impacts your ability to leverage the full value of that information for decision making, operational insights, as well as departmental transparency. When data must be shared through manual means such as emails, Excel spreadsheets or group chats, it creates extra work for employees who could be focused on more goal-oriented tasks.

A report from Adaptive Insights found 40% of respondents claimed they manage 3-5 data sources, while more than 20% said they're managing  5-10. By narrowing these numbers down to a singular data source, productivity and efficiency could be significantly enhanced. 

Eat Storage Space

When data storage is not centralized, staff usually create and save their own copies of the data to maintain quick and easy access. It may not seem like it, but this can become an expensive solution— primarily because there are multiple copies of the same data-set all stored separately, taking up unnecessary storage space. The secondary issue that accompanies this workaround is that it can become challenging to determine which copy is the most up-to-date, bringing us to another impact of siloed data.

Decrease Quality/Credibility of Data

By having multiple versions of the same data across various devices, it can become challenging to determine which is the most up-to-date and accurate, undermining data integrity. With a centralized data pool, it is easier to control the quality and credibility of your data as opposed to having a bunch of copies floating around different systems. Furthermore, separated data can quickly become forgotten about and outdated, skewing any analysis and undermining the value of the insights that can be gained from it.

How to Deal With It

Integrate or Consolidate Your Systems 

The average small-business possesses roughly 14 applications throughout their organization for various functions, with enterprise-level organizations possessing just shy of 500. Imagine the value of consolidating all that information under one “roof”. That is essentially what software consolidation is – taking all your separate systems and unifying them under one centralized platform, which makes it significantly simpler to access and analyze the data you need.

Software integration, however, is the practice of allowing your separate systems to communicate with one another. So rather than accessing just shy of 500 separate systems, you can log into one and have it pull the rest of the data you need for your task. For a deeper dive, feel free to check out our blog on fully integrated software and what it means to your organization. Both integration and consolidation are powerful tools in any organizations arsenal for tackling structural data silos.

Change Company Culture

According to a study conducted by eConsultancy: 40% of respondents claim different departments have their own Agenda, with only 29% stating pursuing organizational aims is a collaborative process.

In an organization, it is important to remember everybody is playing for the same team, and although different departments should certainly have different roles and tasks, they should all be in pursuit of the same goals and objectives.

If your organization currently has a philosophy in place that doesn’t foster collaboration and unity, then it may be time to shift the organizational philosophy. To do this you will need buy-in from management and all high-level employees. It is important to be consistent, you can’t encourage collaboration in some areas while maintaining division in others. Break down the barriers between different departments and support cross-departmental communication and initiatives. Encourage transparency and information sharing as opposed to internal competition. By shifting behavior and attitudes from a departmental mindset to an organizational one, you will find the Silo Mentality will slowly dissipate.

Closing Comments

Data Silos and Silo Mentality are tricky challenges to overcome. However, by better understanding their origin and what drives them, it is easier to address the problems caused by their presence. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that you have one. Identify whether your organization is experiencing Structural Silos, or Silo Mentality—or both, and then begin planning out the steps needed to address the issue.

With 30+ years of experience in software development, the team at CoreSolutions has the knowledge necessary to help you break down your data siloes until they’re nothing but a distant memory.

If you would like to chat with one of our representatives about how you can start addressing your silo challenges, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we would love to hear from you!

And as always,

Thanks for reading!

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