FAQ: What Are Information Silos and How Do You Fix Them?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 27, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Having information silos can result in a lack of data access for various departments within an organization. Regardless of your role in the tech or management team, knowing what information silos are and how to fix them can significantly improve your career prospects. Being familiar with information silos can be a valuable skill, but it requires research. In this article, we discuss the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding information silos and outline some steps for how to fix them.

What is an information silo?

An information silo is an accumulation of raw data that's accessible to a single department within an organization, but inaccessible to all other departments. The most common consequences for this issue are lack of operational efficiency, transparency and good communication between different departments of the same company. Information silos tend to grow as more data accumulates, creating more communication and efficiency issues. Although uncontrolled communication silos can affect a company's operations, there are several ways in which the organization can prevent their occurrence and eliminate the existing ones.

Related: 9 Steps To Building a Successful Culture of Collaboration

What causes information silos?

The exact reasons behind the occurrence of information silos are different and depend on multiple factors, such as the industry in which a company operates or various internal procedures that enable it. Some of them are:

  • The company uses inappropriate technology. In some situations, various pieces of equipment that were relevant at the time of their purchase become redundant, leaving departments unprepared for sorting and storing constantly growing amounts of data.

  • The company culture isn't oriented toward collaboration. Some companies have departments that don't naturally collaborate on various projects and tend to work in isolated settings, without having common goals.

  • The company quickly grows. Information silos are also one consequence of scaling up a company in a relatively short time, as the introduction of new technology, procedures and personnel typically creates large amounts of new data.

  • The company uses its technology incorrectly. Even when the organization's equipment is relevant to its tasks, information silos can occur when it's used incorrectly or when employees aren't encouraged to collaborate when using various pieces of equipment.

Related: 34 Words Describing Company Culture

Why is it important to get rid of information silos?

Eliminating information silos can benefit an organization in a number of ways. Some of the most important are:

  • Improves collaboration between departments: Departments often work independently, collecting, processing and using their own data sets. This can create a competitive disadvantage, as companies with teams that actively collaborate on various projects tend to perform better.

  • Helps management use and organize data efficiently: Management teams that make major strategic decisions usually need data that was gathered and processed by multiple departments. When they receive isolated data based on each department's independent point of view, it can make it difficult for them to create a long-term plan for the entire organization.

  • Saves time for employees: Information silos can isolate data, causing departments that need external information to have to locate it within the organization, then access it and finally analyze it. Alternatively, a company without information silos can usually automate data transmission across teams, making it accessible for any department.

  • Improves customer interactions: Marketing, sales, billing, technical support, customer support and other departments often have direct communication with customers. An organization that eliminates information silos can offer the customer a streamlined experience, where every department is aware of customers' previous interactions with the other departments as well as their outcomes.

  • Improves data accuracy: Having accurate data is vital for the quality of an organization's decision-making process. Eliminating information silos and having all departments freely share information with each other typically results in relevant and accurate data.

  • Increases storage space: Having each department collect and store its own data is typically an ineffective way of storing information. Keeping your organization's data organized and accessible makes it more efficient for every department to have what they need to do their job successfully and also reduces the space needed to store information.

Related: 10 Types of Organizational Structures (With Pros and Cons)

What are some ideas on how to fix information silos?

There are multiple practices used to remove information silos while also making sure that new ones don't occur. Some of the most effective are:

  • Use interdepartmental CRM software. You can eliminate information silos by using modern technology in the form of a CRM software system that integrates user data from multiple departments.

  • Determine what data each department needs. An organization in which all departments know exactly what information they need and where to get it is usually one that doesn't have information silos. However, this is an ongoing process, as informational needs tend to change over time.

  • Encourage communication at every level. Organizing employees into different departments can create information silos, so putting an emphasis on constant communication across the organization can keep everyone oriented toward the same goals. This includes communication between employees from different departments as well as communication between employees and management.

  • Put an emphasis on collaboration. Establish a company culture that values collaboration between employees from different departments. Implement this by scheduling regular interdepartmental meetings and encouraging all employees to collaborate with their colleagues and also by actively rewarding collaboration that leads to achieving common goals.

  • Constantly eliminate outdated data. Having large amounts of redundant data can lead to the formation of information silos, so performing regular cleanup operations is usually an effective way of preventing the occurrence of new ones and eliminating existing ones.

Related: How To Break Down Silos Within an Organization (With Steps)

What industries experience information silos most frequently?

Information silos aren't restricted to certain industries. They tend to appear when an organization that's large enough for its departments to function independently doesn't take the proper measures to ensure data circulation and transparency.

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