If your organization has data or information that no other department can access, then you have a data silo on your hands. For many financial institutions, they are a huge headache. Sections of data that have been walled off from everyone else prevent company leadership from having a full 360-degree of their company’s performance, often resulting in ill-informed decisions.
Luckily, resolving these issues has become significantly easier thanks to technology. Here’s how you can end walled-off data and bring your company into the digital era.
It Starts with Culture
One of the most common reasons data silos come into existence is because of company culture. A company’s departments fail to see how their specific roles play into their company’s overall health, and don’t communicate with team members from other departments. Pretty soon, the isolation that comes from poor communication and an incomplete view of a company’s workflow spills over into a department’s data management practices. Data silos then begin to form, in ways that seem relatively innocuous at the time. Spreadsheets are formatted in a way that’s difficult to understand for new users, file naming conventions are department-specific, and so on.
Addressing this component of the multisystem problem is a very tall order, and it starts at the top. Company leadership must take the initiative to break down cultural silos and establish a new culture based on communication and transparency. It’s only once these walls between departments have been broken down that specific data silos can begin to be remedied.
Break Down Existing Silos with an Integration Software
Once a company’s culture has been reset, the next order of business should be to address any currently existing silos within the company. These can usually be found within mission-critical information that can’t be moved from one department to another. This inability to transfer data could have been caused by various factors. Differences in software packages, inconsistencies in file formats, file names, or formula structures, and good old-fashioned human error can all cause data silos in their own ways.
Attempting to reconcile all these differences even just a single time manually would be a painstaking process. Company-wide data reconciliation efforts that deal with multiple silos and departments would be even more challenging. The time and labor spent doing this could be used for more value-adding activities simply by implementing a powerful integration software. It should be able to bring together all of a company’s applications, whether that’s word processing software, spreadsheets, presentations, or even databases and regulatory reporting software. The exact features you get may depend on the vendor you purchase it from, but every integration software’s end goal is the same: the creation of a single format of data that cuts across a variety of applications and serves multiple functional departments.
Prevent Silos from Coming Back with an All-in-One Solution
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, some data siloing will occur. This is especially true if each department already uses an application that is designed for their specific needs but is incompatible with that of other departments.
For example, many corporate banks have a team of regulatory officers whose job is to ensure that the bank remains compliant with anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) protocols. Consequently, members of this team might use software that tracks the bank’s internal protocols and checks these against industry standards. On the other hand, a bank’s account officers might have access to prospective clients’ corporate data, along with their transaction history or past affiliations. They might use an application that tracks user identities and traces them to their transaction and credit history to determine if the individuals are good candidates for clientele.
The best way to protect your organization from data silos is to prevent them from being built in the first place. One way to do this is by using a unified, all-in-one solution, sometimes referred to as a platform. If all contributors and team members are looking at a single integrated application instead of individual systems designed for a single workflow, silos won’t even have a chance to be built and data can flow freely between departments.
Rethink Your Organizational Structure
Sometimes, data silos crop up because organizations simply grow beyond what was initially intended for them. This is most commonly seen in very large companies with multiple offices, sometimes in parts of the world that are very far from each other. The flow of information may be more restricted in organizations such as these because of differences in time zones or language barriers, leading to feelings of isolation or separation from the mother organization. Over time, satellite offices become more and more insular and cut off, forcing them to develop their own culture and systems separate from those of headquarters, and leading to even more data siloing.
Digital technology, especially in communications, has been the biggest salve to this major challenge. Simply being able to talk, meet, and interact with colleagues and collaborators from various parts of the world, despite physical boundaries, is vital to ensuring that silos are prevented.
While data silos may crop up from time to time, ways to eliminate and prevent them do exist. With some expert technical assistance and solid leadership, eliminating data silos could result in a big boost to top-line and bottom-line revenues.