We live in a data-driven world. It's impossible for organizations to come to conclusions without the use of accurate data. This is because we can no longer make decisions based on what we believe to be correct. Everything must be rooted in fact and backed up by numbers to support the changes we make.
However, what do you do when your data can't be trusted? This is a result of a data silo.
What is a data silo?
A data silo is a group of raw data that is accessible by one department but isolated from the rest of that organization. This results in a severe lack of transparency, efficiency, and trust within that organization.
Data silos can occur for a number of reasons. The two main causes of data silos are:
1. Growth in Organizations
Sometimes, when an organization grows too large, it becomes difficult for there to be an easy passing of data throughout the organization. There may be far too many departments, offices throughout the nation or world, or employees, that result in a feeling of isolation from the rest of the company. Also, when organizations become too large too fast, there may be structural issues. It may require several steps for data to be passed down the hierarchy.
In addition, as organizations grow in size, there may be an increase in competition between employees. Certain teams might not want to release data to other teams if they want to maintain control.
2. Issues with Technology
Data cannot easily pass between departments of organizations that don't have access to proper technology. Companies need to own high-quality applications that can handle quick transfers of information and cross-references. Also, some teams may be better trained in using the technology for data transfer than other teams, which could lead to problems in the latter being able to access the same information.
Why Are Data Silos Bad?
Whatever the cause may be for your organization, it's clear that data silos aren't good. But, what is truly so wrong with them?
1. They create a less collaborative environment.
Each team ends up working independently in the presence of data silos. They only have access to their own data, so that is the only data they work with. This creates a divided organization. Teams do not collaborate with each other on projects, which makes it near impossible for the company to share a common vision.
2. They slow the pace of your organization.
It's a waste of time to have data silos. Rather than being able to automatically streamline data across teams, data is isolated within teams. This means teams have to wait until they realize they need data they don't have, find where the data lies within the organization, manually gain access to it, and then analyze it for their own purposes. By the time you collect the data, it may no longer be valid.
3. They waste storage space.
If every single employee who needs the same data saves it to their company storage folder, that wastes precious storage space. This, in return, wastes your budget on storing data that you neither need nor want. It would consume a lot less space if the data were streamlined onto one platform that was accessible by all employees within that organization.
4. They threaten the accuracy of your data.
As mentioned above, the longer the isolated data sits around, the more likely that it becomes outdated and, thus, inaccurate and unusable. In addition, every team may have access to their own set of the same data. This leads to objectivity in data that skews in favor of the team that owns them.
Now that you know how bad data silos are for your organization, follow these steps to eliminate them.
3 Steps to Get Rid of Data Silos
1. Choose a new platform to unify your data management.
The most important step is to find the right platform for your company on which you can streamline all your data. That means no more loose Excel spreadsheets and random software shared only by individual teams. Consolidating all data onto one platform will make it easier to share that data between departments. You won't have to dig through your own private records upon request; everything will be accessible by everyone.
2. Create a more collaborative company culture.
It's important for the executives of a company to create an organization that embraces company culture. At HubSpot, we have a Diversity & Inclusion team that works hard to create a culture that brings together all employees, no matter if they work in Cambridge or Dublin or are interns or C-level executives. Planning company-wide events, creating a Culture Code like ours, and, overall, welcoming all the traits that make each employee special can create a company that is more accepting of each other and collaborative -- making it much easier for employees to want to share data with people outside of their teams.
3. Take the time to sort through outdated data.
It can seem very daunting to go through, what may be, years and years of outdated, isolated data. However, in order to create a data management system that is actually usable, you want to ensure that all the data in it is current and accurate. So, have your company slowly work through all the data stored and weed out anything unnecessary. This can double as a team-building activity -- it's a win-win.