According to the American Management Association, 83% of executives say that their organizations have silos and 97% think they have a negative effect.
Before we can understand why this is, first we need to explain what a silo is.
Think about the way rice or wheat is stored today. Typically, those small grains are housed in a stand-alone robust tower, called a silo, and contact between these storage towers is kept to a minimum so as not to breed infection or spread any problems from one to another. So too an organization stores its “grain” or as we know it “information” in silos, whether in individual departments, regional offices, different channels and sometimes even in different management levels within an organization.
Are data silos all bad?
The good news is that silos are not all evil; they can be beneficial when used properly and even provide organizations with a structure that works. Often they can foster expertise in different areas and promote a sense of individuality, accountability and responsibility. Silos can also act as a method for ensuring focus around specific business deliverables. So it begs the question, if these are good things, why do so many executives believe they have a negative effect?
So why are 97% of executives worried about silos?
Unfortunately problems normally arise when silo mentality runs unchecked in an organization. They often encourage behaviours that are beneficial only to the occupants and are often not in the best interest of the overall business or its customers. This also fuels corporate politics and helps people, departments and branches keep things private.
Silos restrict clarity of vision across the organization, breeding mini empires where people are less likely to collaborate, share information and work together as a cohesive team. Not surprisingly this leads to poor decision-making as well as impacting on morale within a company, its efficiency and profitability. More importantly it can often lead to Information silos, where a data system is incompatible or not integrated with other data systems. This incompatibility may occur in the technical architecture, in the application architecture, or in the data architecture of any data system.
Information is Power!
In an ideal world, there would be transparency in silos, allowing people to see inside each department or channel and enabling people to understand what that part of the organization is working on and reassure them the work is in the best interest of the whole organization. They would also need to be permeable – allowing information to flow in and out, while enabling other groups to leverage the expertise and information best across the entire enterprise and also allowing the silos to better understand their impacts on the organization as a whole.
How can you banish your silos and get your tech to work together?
Huddle.com has a great post, titled “Avoiding Operational Silos,” offering active, passive, formal and informal measures that your management needs to take in order to bust the silos in your organization.
The bottom line is that every organization needs to ensure that their data and information is transparent and understood and that there are processes, guidelines and often technologies in place to make sure those branches, departments and teams sharing data are working effectively together.