Information or data silos are a challenge faced by many organisations, particularly those with large teams and various departments. This is often an unintentional result of a business’ growth as more people come on board and teams end up doing their own thing.
Although it is beneficial to have dedicated departments and teams working on specific functions, it does become an issue when different teams don’t share information.
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about organisational data silos. We’ll explain what data silos are, how to identify them, and how to break down silos. This will help you ensure better distribution of relevant data across your company.
What Are Information Silos?
Information silos are separations in communication and data access. They happen when different departments ignore knowledge sharing, thereby enabling isolated data sets to develop.
Employees don’t forward or distribute information to other teams, leading to various issues in the business’ performance. This includes data duplication, inconsistent data, and outdated data – all of which waste storage space and hamper productivity.
Also known as organisational, knowledge, or data silos, this information disintegration often speaks to problems in institutional culture and infrastructure.
Your employees may view ‘other’ teams as competition, thus hoarding and hiding information that can help everybody succeed and forming a data silo. Or, you may not have the right data management systems to encourage knowledge sharing, data integration, and communication.
How To Identify Data Silos
It’s important to keep tabs on your departments, respectively, and collectively. That way, you can identify the symptoms of disparate systems early on. These are some of the signs you can look for if trying to see whether your organisation has information silos.
The root cause of data silos is often that departments have distinct viewpoints and goals. Each team has its own set of goals that sometimes don’t contribute to the greater need of the company.
Enmeshed in these separate goals may also be a tendency to see other teams as competition, especially if your company offers incentives and bonuses based on individual team performance. Without a common vision, data silos occur.
Stakeholders Are Unaware Of Critical Initiatives By Other Departments
Yes, company departments can function autonomously without having to constantly clue in other teams. However, in the case of big projects or initiatives, all departments must be informed.
When senior staff members, supervisors, and stakeholders don’t know what is happening in other departments then you know that you’re dealing with siloed data.
Poorly Prepared For Project Hand-Offs From Other Departments
One department can rarely execute a project or initiative from start to finish without inter-departmental collaboration. For example, if your business is putting together a product launch event, the product development, events, accounting, and marketing people have to get involved, amongst others.
When data silos exist, the marketing department may receive a brief from the event team about the upcoming event yet feel they are under-prepared or clueless. In this example, all the above teams should have been included right from the beginning and kept looped in about the event’s progress. Poor hand-offs point to problems in the communication pipeline.
Lack Of Recommendations From Lower-Level Management
If all communications in your organisation come from upper management, there are clear blockages to business growth that develop. It also leads to a company culture where knowledge-sharing isn’t the standard.
All communication should flow freely and across directions, depending on relevance rather than who the source is.
Increase In The Number Of Redundant Projects
Siloed data is also evidenced in redundancy and duplication. When you notice that teams are doing the same work as each other, or have the same data stored separately, it is a sure sign that there is no communication or data sharing taking place.
This is also linked to the first symptom above. If employees don’t share the same goal or clarify common goals, they cannot collaborate on projects. Instead, each group identifies its own goals and develops systems, internal documentation, and projects accordingly. As a result, you end up with different teams doing the same work.
When you spot such redundancies, you can often point it back to information breakdowns and lack of communication between teams or departments.
Blaming Other Departments For Inefficiencies And Mistakes
Disjointed goals, communication, and redundancies all affect performance and productivity. This separation and the potential competitiveness also nurture a blame-game ethos. If teams that should be working together resort to pointing fingers, this may be an opportunity to improve how they work by improving data transparency and communication.
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The Advantages Of Dismantling Data Silos
Some of the benefits of eliminating data silos are that it:
- Increases employee productivity. Removing data silos facilitate efficient working and makes it easier to complete tasks without delay.
- Supports quick and informed decisions. With access to information at their fingertips, employees can make good and data-driven decisions.
- Reduces duplication of effort by bringing all information in your organisation together.
- Improves organisational ROI. Better performance, increased efficiency, and higher productivity all mean your company can function at optimal levels. You also save on documentation and software costs by centralising information instead of having separate systems in place.
- Allows cross-functional collaboration. Departments work together actively, supporting one another in projects and initiatives.
- Fosters creativity and effective teamwork. When employees have all relevant information, they can come up with creative and innovative work. Gaps in data make it almost impossible to create viable solutions and plans or work effectively.
- Saves storage space. By reducing duplicate work and files caused by data silos, you can save a lot of precious storage space.
9 Steps To Permanently Break Down Data Silos
To dismantle and avoid data silos in your organisation, follow these steps:
1. Determine Your Organisation’s Vision
The first step in getting rid of siloed data, therefore, is deciding on your organisation’s main vision and goals. What are the aims of the organisation overall and how does each individual contribute to the big picture?
This creates an ethos of unity towards the business’ broader picture, success, and vision. It positions the organisation as important and not separate teams.
2. Set Shared Objectives
You can take this unifying effort further by designating shared goals, projects, or objectives between departments. Doing so gives your employees a foundation where they can work together towards something.
3.Make Employee Incentive Plans Available
Employee incentives can be a hit or miss. They can either promote collaboration or cultivate an every-person-for-themselves silo mentality. When introduced with thought into an organisation with clearly-defined shared goals, it can be a great way to improve efficiency.
4. Have Team-Building Exercises And Events
Use team-building exercises and events to nurture unity in your company. Have inter-team exercises where existing teams work internally, but also mix up employees from different teams and have them work with each other.
5.Encourage Cross-Departmental Cooperation
Remove or discourage a dedication to department separation. Show the value your company places in openness, support, and collaboration. You want to ensure there remains no hesitation for employees to share their own data and work with others.
6. Delegate Cross-Departmental Liaisons
To ensure that cross-departmental information-sharing and collaboration take place, you could assign one person to the task. Appoint someone as the go-to person for other department members to speak to. They become accountable for the flow of information to and from their team. They can also help identify and resolve issues that result in communication problems from inside their team.
Without good and transparent communication, it’s inevitable you’ll end up with data silos. Communication is key to opening up info access and encouraging collaboration.
When trying to improve internal communication, make sure that your employees have the necessary communication tools and channels in place. You want to make it easy and convenient for team members and departments to collaborate.
8.Use An Internal Knowledge Base
One business tool you can use to ease inter-departmental working and information access is internal knowledge base software like Document360. This is a centralised database of all vital resources that all employees can access at any time.
You can include all key resources and information on important initiatives in this database, including:
- Formal policies and procedures
- Objectives and vision statements
- Company values
- Product updates
- Hardware updates
- Onboarding instructions
- Software-use instructions
- Troubleshooting instructions
- Ongoing and past campaigns and promotions
- Important dates
This becomes the first touch point when employees have a question, allowing them to work without delays. It also becomes the primary, go-to source of information for all departments.
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9. Continue to track progress.
It’s not enough to just make changes to how you operate, communicate, and manage knowledge. You have to monitor the impact of your efforts to break down data silos. Gather feedback from your employees. Gauge your productivity and performance levels.
Tracking progress will give you an objective look into how to keep improving your systems.
If you find that you have a data silo, now is the time to fix it! With this in-depth guide to help you understand, identify, and break down silos, you are well-equipped to get that done today.
Bring your employees together and encourage a productive and efficient workplace. Document360 can help you do just that by setting up a comprehensive knowledge base that facilitates transparency. Your business and company culture will be all the better for it!