Data Silos FAQ: What Executives Need to Know
Blog Post | January 4, 2022

In companies of all sizes, it is common for individual teams to make decisions based on data only accessible to them. We call these data silos, separate collections of information available to a particular group of employees that are hard to access by others in the organization. While these divides are common, they are not advantageous to operations. 54% of companies identified data silos as the top reason they could not make data actionable, according to a recent survey.

These silos cause confusion and inconsistent decision-making throughout companies. It can be hard to know why other departments make certain choices without looking at the same information. Plus, one team may be keeping vital data away from another department without even realizing it.

As a business leader, you may be seeing these data silos emerging within your organization. In some cases, these walled-off sets of data may have even been there before you joined the company. In this article, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about data silos. By the end, you’ll know how these silos emerge, their disadvantages, and how you can encourage a more open and consistent flow of information throughout your company.

Why Do Data Silos Occur?

Data silos often emerge when individual teams discover they need specific information related to their initiatives. By itself, this is not a problem. However, they failed to coordinate this effort with other departments. Plus, there is often no company-wide data platform where they can input their collected information. These circumstances, a less-than collaborative work environment and the lack of a definitive data platform across departments, are a perfect environment for data silos.

This often leads to one of two outcomes. First, the team could create a set of data that is largely a duplicate to one another department already had. This is a major blow to efficiency, wasting hours or even days on redundant tasks. Plus, there may be consistency issues between the data points each team collected, hurting future integration efforts. Last year, over 60% of data scientists, c-suite executives, and others told O’Reilly that their organizations suffer from inconsistent data.

In other cases, the team might collect mostly original information. While this sounds like a better scenario, it means this department now has exclusive access to data that other internal groups would also want to leverage. By compartmentalizing access to insights, your company limits the potential benefits.

Dedicated team

Why Are Data Silos Bad?

As you likely can already tell, data silos are a major setback to innovation in many companies. With each department operating with its own information, it is difficult to come together to make macro-level decisions that set your company apart. “As a business leader, you have very limited capability to make good decisions and drive results,” Vyaire Medical CIO Ed Rybicki told Forbes.

If each team is embarking on duplicate efforts to gather and input data, this also costs your organization massive amounts of time. A more collaborative, company-wide effort to collect and sort through data would help efficiency.

These silos also lead to splintered decision-making. With little universally agreed-upon data within a company, it is hard to form a consensus between departments. One team may not understand why another one operates the way they do or why they’re advocating for certain processes at a company-wide level.

How Do You Solve Data Silos?

There are two important steps to dismantle data silos. The first is creating a more collaborative work environment, and the second is consolidating data into one definitive platform.

Let’s start with the former. Your organization can spend time and resources creating a database where everyone can enter and access the information they need. However, if your company does not have a culture of open and frequent communication, teams will still leave insights hiding away in spreadsheets.

Ensure departments have plenty of opportunities to come together and share their latest projects. And, when those meetings happen, empower each team to communicate fully and honestly. Here’s a great TEDx Talk about fostering collaboration, even when it’s not easy.

Dedicated team

As your organization begins addressing cultural silos, you can also respond to the physical data silos. The best option is to create a centralized platform where all employees can access, input, and edit the data pertinent to them. That way, all departments make decisions and resolve disagreements using the same data source.

Programmers has the expertise necessary to build these integrated data platforms for your organization. We structure your systems in the way that best fits your company’s needs, whether it be a Data Lake, Data Warehouse, or even both. Learn more about how Programmers helps you effectively leverage insights throughout your organization.