Published: 2 June 2017

Reading time: About 5 minutes

Your company collects valuable data. It then pays to store that valuable data. But getting access to it? Well, that’s the often hardest part.

The potential value of data analytics for your business is one of the most exciting advances in data technology but only if you can get your hands on the data in the first place. Yes, we’re talking about the scourge of data storage: the Data Silo.

First things first, what exactly is a data silo? Strictly speaking, a data silo is a repository of fixed data that remains under the control of a single department and is isolated from the rest of the organisation. Which is a fancy way of saying ‘unshared data’. It can take the form of many things, files, emails, etc. But the key is that it is potentially useful information that remains unshared or hidden. Data silos are counter-productive at best and detrimental to Business goals at worst. But how can you solve your data silo problem once you’ve realised you’ve got one? Let’s take a look.

Understand Where Your Data Silos Come From

The first step to solving your data silo problem is recognising where they are hiding in your business. The thing is, most of us are so used to data silos in our working lives that we fail to identify them. As organisations have gradually digitised their information holdings the problem has only become more complicated.

Often data silos exist because the data format fails to match the corporate standard. This could be for a number of reasons; because it would require coding to integrate it, because it’s raw and full of discrepancies, or simply because it takes effort to consolidate data that has never been consolidated before. In large enterprises that have one of more subsidiary companies under their umbrella, inherited and legacy data systems might be the biggest cause of data silos.

Tackle the Source of the Data Silo

Before the advent of cloud technology almost all data (or information) existed in some form of silo. It required a large effort to understand exactly what information existed, where it was stored and how to access it. In many cases, not a lot has changed. In fact, a lot of the hard work that goes into getting data insight and analytics could be responsible for creating vast data silos.

To remove the barriers presented by data silos, your organisation needs to take a progressive approach. If the end goal is to create a company-wide ethos which is data driven (and that benefits from consistent data insight), it’s important to have a suitable infrastructure in place to meet this demand. For most organisations, however, the luxury of constructing a purpose-built infrastructure from scratch is a huge undertaking. Luckily, we can get there in different ways:

Profile Your Unstructured Data

The first step towards solving your data silo problem, is to take stock of what you have with a data profile. By profiling your data holdings, you can begin to build a picture of what data you have, where it is stored, and how you could improve accessibility. For example, when data that is being analysed is exported offline in large physical spreadsheets or PDF files you are creating silos. Their value is hidden behind a wall of inaccessibility. By using cloud-based applications to share your organised and structured data, you can avoid this kind of problem.

Encourage cross-department communication

Often, the main cause of data silo build up is a lack of cross-department communication. Whether this stems from distrust or simply because departments are unaware that the data they hold has the potential to be useful to other departments. By opening up the channels of communication, and making each department aware of companywide goals you can begin to clear up unintentional data silos.

The Benefit of Data Integration

For organisations who have a high demand for access to analytics, understanding the complexity of the data that needs to be analysed is key. After all, your analytics are only as good as the data behind them. If your analytics aren’t supported by an active data management architecture you aren’t going to be able to develop a competitive analytic strategy.

Preparation is vital if you truly want to solve your data silo problem. The best way to get insight from your data is to prepare it effectively. This includes cleansing, shaping and enriching your data to bring it up to the same standard. Often, data in a silo situation exists in a variety of structured and unstructured forms. Varied data means that more time needs to be spent preparing it before it can be put to use.

At AI we specialise in helping organisations take control of their unstructured data, reducing risk and increasing productivity. If you want to begin understanding your data, talk to us today about AI.DATALIFT. Start building a clearer picture of the unstructured data lurking in your data stores and begin the process of getting rid of your data silos today.

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