There’s a huge amount of hype surrounding the potential of data analytics today. Big Data tools can crunch through thousands of rows of data and help you discover patterns you’d never have otherwise noticed. However, for many organisations, the ability to gain value from the information they hold is hamstrung by an enormous and sometimes insurmountable obstacle: data silos.
Data silos affect businesses of all sizes when mutually exclusive IT systems stop the free flow of information. As a recent survey from consultants Capgemini highlighted, almost 60 percent of business leaders cite organisational data silos as the biggest impediment to effective decision making. For your employees to feel confident that they are making the best decisions, they need to know that they have the full picture when using data to inform those choices.
Breaking down enterprise data silos is essential if you are to improve how decisions are made in your organisation. To achieve this goal, we first need to understand why data silos keep emerging, before looking at how you can resolve them.
Why do data silos occur?
Data silos arise when business data from the different systems an organisation uses cannot be connected. Typically, data silos occur when your organisation uses IT systems which are mutually exclusive, such as a CRM from Software Company A and a content management system from Software Company B. The technology is designed by different firms who do not wish to (or cannot, for technological reasons) make information held in their systems available in third party tools.
What’s more, we sometimes discover data silos within the same system. Take SharePoint, which can be designed to create many independent libraries. This leads to the creation of barriers to finding and sharing data between internal silos.
Data silos lead to a range of problems:
- Users are unable to discover parallels and links between topics
- There is a tendency to ‘recreate the wheel’
- Valuable time is lost as users hunt through different systems trying to make sense of their unique interfaces
Let’s look at three ways your organisation can overcome data silos and get the most out of the data you hold:
1. Connect with external tools
Most businesses use a central tool like SharePoint to manage all their content and operate as their company intranet. However, for a wide range of line of business tasks, they choose to use external tools, such as a CRM or an Oracle database. This means data cannot flow between the environments.
However, by connecting information held in external tools within SharePoint, you can present your users with relevant and contextual information. Rather than having to search through their various apps and tools, users can discover everything they need in one place, thereby eliminating a major cause of data silos.
BCS Meta Man provides you with a connectivity tool which allows you to drag and drop external content types from a range of sources into your SharePoint environment, including Oracle, Salesforce and Microsoft SQL, among many others. Alternatively, you could also use Microsoft PowerApps to draw data from various sources into applications your business creates internally.
2. Connect data from various sources
Modern businesses collect and store more data than ever. However, they tend to store this data in disconnected environments, meaning it is not possible to understand the links between data in an easy manner. The only real option for many users is to download data from various sources and attempt to structure it in an Excel spreadsheet. But yet again, this only serves to create one more hub of information—one more data silo.
By connecting multiple data sources into one central environment, you break down data silos once and for all. Information from multiple sources can be shown in a central place and be constantly updated when new information is placed into your different locations.
Data Viewer Web Part offers a way of integrating data from multiple external sources into a SharePoint view. You are able to insert, edit and delete data, drawing it from various internal and external sources.
3. Aggregate data from internal sources
Data silos can occur even within a unified internal system such as SharePoint. When users are forced to hunt through multiple different sites, lists and libraries to discover critical information, it can become confusing to remember what information is held where.
By aggregating useful data into a single view, users can discover parallels and notice patterns that they may never have spotted before, and again, break down data silos.
Lightning Conductor allows your organisation to retain your existing SharePoint site collections, while also letting users create aggregate content into the view which is most useful for them.
It’s time to end data silos
Data silos are the biggest impediment to businesses extracting value from the information held in their various systems. They stop businesses and end users being as productive as they could be, and create obstacles to using company information in the best way possible.
However, you don’t need to simply put up with silos or totally reorganise your IT infrastructure to deal with the problems they pose. Instead, by using a few simple tools to bring contextual information where it’s needed, you can cut data silos out and get even greater value from your information assets.
Learn more about how our tools break down your data silos here.