Charl Stoffberg

Man posing for the camera

Keeping valuable, dynamic data segmented so that only designated departments or individuals can access it is inefficient, time-consuming and a huge business risk, says Charl Stoffberg, Regional Partner, EMEA

What are data silos?

There is huge value in combining data sources, but it’s challenging to accomplish, especially if you work in a large organisation that has many departments, scattered across the globe. This data disconnect is often called a data silo, which is a collection of information in a department or an application that is not easily or fully accessible by other departments or applications.

Data silos create a barrier to a holistic view of company data, prohibiting an enterprise-wide view of hidden opportunities or threats.

How data silos are created

Silos occur naturally over time and can mainly be attributed to:

  • People

Company culture and organisational structures are the biggest challenges. Departments could be isolated and far removed from each other, especially in larger enterprises.

And while this could be necessary and natural for companies to operate, the problem is that information ends up being tied to a specific department or team, with limited or no access for other teams or individuals. No one knows who else in the organisation could use or is looking for that data, and if there is no culture of collaboration it could just make the problem worse.

These days data equals power, and those people with a competitive mindset could purposely be getting in the way of data democratisation.

  • Technology

When you have different teams using data for various purposes, you are bound to have an overload of tools, applications and technologies in use.

Departments tend to support their operations using different technology solutions. Each solution could store and manage data in different ways – many of which are proprietary to the vendor that created the solution.

For instance, perhaps your sales team uses Salesforce, but your marketing team uses HubSpot, yet Salesforce might contain valuable information that your marketers could use.

It’s also important to note that many legacy systems were not designed to share data easily. So the tech tools many organisations use every day have pushed them into data silos based on the proprietary nature of their data-management processes.

How to break down data silos

Data silos don’t resolve themselves without top-down change. A few ways this can be accomplished is through:

  • Management encouraging cross-team collaboration
  • Reducing unnecessary interdepartmental competition
  • Aligning employee incentives with the overall company vision and not that of an individual or department.

However, team-management changes alone won’t solve the problem.

You may choose to deal with data silos through application integration, which is the process of enabling independently designed applications to work together. One way to do this is to manually programme interactions between two or more applications. When there are dozens of applications, a better approach is the use of middleware – software that sits between the front-end request and the back-end resource.

Another way to break down data silos is with data integration, which is the process of replicating data from databases, SaaS platforms and other sources into a single centralised repository, such as a data warehouse, where it can be shared and analysed across the company. If you need to make all of your data available for analytics and BI systems, data integration is the best way to deal with data silos.