In business management and information technology (IT) an information silo is a management system that is unable to operate with any other system. It’s closed off from other systems, creating an environment of individual and disparate systems within an organization. Because of these conditions, information is not adequately shared but rather remains secluded within each system or subsystem. Data silos can create roadblocks for businesses wanting to use data mining to make productive use of their data.
The term originated from the agricultural silo in which bulk materials such as grain or fermented feed are stored.
How silos happen
Silos occurs because of how an organization is structured. The same priorities, goals, or even tools aren’t shared, so departments operate as individual business units or entities within the enterprise. Managers are responsible for one specific department within an organization and each manager has different priorities, responsibilities, and vision. Often, managers are not aware of the priorities and goals of other departments and there is little communication, collaboration, and teamwork between these business units. A silo can be created unknowingly or deliberately.
Problems with information silos
While a silo can protect critical information, it creates more problems than it solves, such as redundancy, confusion, and misinformation:
- Duplicate data copies: Multiple silos means multiple copies of the same content. This creates storage issues, skews data sampling efforts, and causes complications in finding the original or most up-to-date version.
- Incomplete view: Each silo spawns a distinct view of data that is unique to a particular business function’s needs. This creates the issue of departments favoring their own (skewed) data. Important decisions might be made off faulty or assumed information.
- Different priorities: If information isn’t shared, there is no consensus on what the priority is. What is a priority for one department may not be a priority for another, leading to frustration and missed deadlines.
The silo mentality
The silo mentality is an organizational reluctance to share information with employees of different divisions within the same company. Typically, the protective attitude towards information begins with management and is passed down to individual employees. The silo mentality negatively impacts operations, reduces employee morale, and may contribute to the overall failure of a company or its products and culture.
Fixing information silos
Getting rid of silos can be done efficiently if it is treated as a top priority. Siloed data can be consolidated or prevented by:
- Using integration software
- Encouraging a collaborative workplace
- Simplifying and consolidating tech infrastructure
- Developing new processes for storing data
- Consolidating data in a data lake or data warehouse