Is Your Data Siloed? Six Key Signs and One Solution

Data Operations 5 min read

If you’re like most businesses, you’re probably drowning in data. At the same time, you can’t seem to access this information when you really need it. Though this may seem like a cruel paradox, it is actually very common.

Most businesses today are capturing data on a near-constant basis. Sales figures, conversion rates, website bounce rates, and personal customer details — you name it, it’s being collected and stored for future use. Unfortunately, while most businesses are good at capturing data, they aren’t always as good at using it effectively.

The sales department may be recording their conversion rates, but they’re not sharing them with the accounting team. Marketing isn’t passing along customer data collected during the lead-generation process. Engineering and design are not sharing their work-in-progress data, and marketing is being kept out of the loop on the new product that's about to be launched.

All too often, enterprises are set up so that each division stores and formats data differently, making it cumbersome to share it across different departments. Instead of being available to everyone who needs it, data gets locked away in silos and then, over time, this eats away at productivity and profitability.

Sound familiar? For anyone who can relate, we’ve put together a quick overview to help you determine if your company's data is being siloed and what you can do to fix the problem.

Six Signs That Your Data Is Being Siloed

1. You Can’t Get a Big-Picture View of Your Business

Can you summon up information on all the key projects underway across the business right now? Do you have access to the latest figures being generated by all of your departments? If you answered “no” to either of those questions — or if you felt a surge of anxiety at the very thought of trying to gather that data — then you may have a problem.

One goal to shoot for is to be able to get a bird’s-eye view of your enterprise at any given moment. Visibility is the name of the game. If you’re successfully sharing data across departments, then you will be able to “see” into what each division is working on and get a big-picture understanding of how the different pieces fit together. If that’s not happening, or if you’re having to arrange meetings with department heads every time you need a piece of information, then you’re stuck in a silo.

2. You’re Using Data That Doesn’t Live in the Central Database

If your data is being stored correctly, it should all be consistently formatted and stored in a central location. Having a centralized database alone won't prevent your departments from also maintaining data in their own preferred formats, but all of the company’s data should live in the central database.

If you constantly have to request permission to access files or call in a developer to retrieve information from certain databases, you have a problem. Sorry to say, your data lives in a silo.

3. Your Employees Are Squabbling and Hoarding Data

Sometimes, data problems are also human problems. It’s not uncommon for individuals within departments to begin hoarding data or only dole it out slowly, piece by piece, to one another. We're all a bit territorial, and to err is human, right?

While that may be understandable, it's still a concern. In this case, those human errors are an indicator of a bigger problem. If your staff is capable of locking down data like this, that’s a sure sign that your data is siloed and needs to be set free.

4. There Have Been Instances of Data Negligence at Your Company

If you’ve suffered a data breach recently, take a close look at exactly how it took place. Data negligence — an employee carelessly disclosing information or even leaking purposefully — can be a clear sign of siloed data.

That’s because silos can act as something of a shield for careless or malicious employees. Siloed data is also less secure data. Allowing it to exist this way makes it easier for a data breach to take place and makes it harder for businesses to set up effective safety measures.

5. Errors in Data Are Going Uncorrected

Let's consider an example: One team (let's call them "Team A") gathers a set of data, which then gets picked up by another team ("Team B"). Shortly after, Team A figures out that there was a problem in the data — but they don’t let Team B know. In fact, Team A never even realized that Team B was using the data.

Does this scenario sound familiar? If you’ve experienced this then, yes, your data is siloed.

6. You’re Unfamiliar with the Metrics Your Teams Are Using

Obviously, you’re not going to have your finger in every single pie. But you should have a sense of familiarity with the different kinds of records that your teams are keeping.

If someone brings up metrics you’ve never heard of — or if you notice custom fields that you’ve never seen before — then that’s an indicator of a problem. And, yes, you guessed it: This probably means that your data is siloed.

Solving the Silo Dilemma

Data silos tend to build up slowly over time. Like the famous frog boiling slowly in a pot of water, business leaders often get lulled into a false sense of security as the problem grows. It’s easy to forget the magnitude of the issue until, all of the sudden, a problem arises.

Sometimes, it helps to look at successful examples of data sharing. One interesting example of the use for this technology has been in food security, a field in which there’s a need to transfer information quickly from one system into another.

During a recent Walmart food trust project, the global retail giant and its vendors traced vast quantities of lettuce back to the farms where it originated to ensure that customers were safe from a possible E. coli outbreak. For this project, it was vital to be able to smoothly and instantly transfer data from one system to another so that it could be easily accessed by people operating all over the country.

Does your business have the capability to share data across its own departments at that speed? If not, then you can do better.

Data orchestration can be a game changer for your organization, uniting and synchronizing all of your databases and workflows. Changes made to the data in one application are instantly reflected across all of the databases where that data appears. There’s no more need for tedious, over-caffeinated data-entry sessions. There’s also no more need to comb through databases checking for human error.

Instead of dealing with all of the headaches that come with managing data, you and your employees finally will be free to concentrate on the real work of growing your business.

Want to learn how to set your data free from silos? Sign up for a free 14-day Shipyard trial. With the trial you can immediately build workflows that connect every step of your company's data operations, knocking down any data silos.

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Blake Burch

Blake is the co-founder of Shipyard, focused on the product roadmap and ensuring customer success. He's an enthusiast of new technology, data, privacy, automation, and board games.