Data silos have become the scourge of the 21st century. Besides the costs of eventually having to undo silos, having data separated in various databases and programs rather than fully integrated also significantly hinders efficiency and productivity.
When your company’s data lives in separate, non-communicating systems, you are hampering your company’s ability to get the most out of your information and to use it for things like operational insights and transparency. You’re also creating extra work, because when it comes time to actually put the data to use, you will find that the only way to share knowledge with other departments is via manual, inefficient methods such a spreadsheets, email or chat.
To solve the data silo problem, you need fluid, adaptable processes and a unified system of record that provides complete transparency and accountability while promoting collaboration and allowing secure access.
Here are the five main things companies can implement to better manage and use their data:
1. Question the status quo
The first step to unsiloing your data is asking the hard questions as to why you’re using a particular system in the first place and gauging how well it’s working for you. How are your different systems using their data? How old is the data? And who created the storage system for that data? Quite often leadership changes occur without system changes, and when a company has gone through a certain number of leaders, they suddenly realize their systems are in dire need of updates.
2. Streamline operations via paperless data collection
Getting your data off paper and away from time-sapping, manual-based processes is absolutely key. Manual processes such as spreadsheets are incredibly time-consuming and also create work redundancy when inter-departmental access becomes impossible. In going digital, you are immediately putting your data in a much better position to be analyzed, cross-referenced and used to create the kind of transformative insights that only data-sharing can create.
3. Find ways to work more flexibly, openly and collaboratively
A big part of improving the way you store and manage your data actually doesn’t have to do with your data but your people. When you create an atmosphere of inter-departmental cooperation and collaboration, you are setting the stage to unsilo your data. As teams meld, share goals and create cross-functional initiatives, they will need to be able to use each other’s data to achieve these initiatives, which means breaking down those data silos.
4. Champion digital inclusion inside and outside the organization
Also on the people side is championing digital inclusion throughout the organization, including on the part of your customers and your supply-chain vendors. A change in systems should be seen as a holistic endeavor. You can’t change one part without changing the rest. When you embark on your mission to release data silos, make sure your vendors are aware of what you’re planning to do so that they will be able to keep up with the new pace you will create from going digital and unsiloing your data.
5. Get rid of legacy systems
Old systems can become obsolete really fast. But what’s even scarier is when they don’t become obsolete — when they continue to drag the rest of your organization down simply because that’s the way you’ve been doing things and that’s the way things run the smoothest. Free employees of legacy systems or work streams that limit the way they consume and respond to business change. Take risks on newer technologies and roll them out in a phased approach to ensure employee adoption and curtail fears of change or transformation. When you’re willing to break with the mold, your options increase exponentially, and you will equip your company with the ability to protect itself from digital disruptors.
Unsiloed Data is Powerful Data
The most important thing to remember is that when you unsilo your data, you are empowering it. You’re freeing it up for analysis and the creation of powerful insights such as discovering faster and more efficient ways to deliver services, scaling up or down with minimal impact, adjusting to emerging business needs as they’re happening, improving the safety of your work environment, providing better customer experiences and boosting your bottom line.
April Rassa leads product marketing and growth at Progressly, the world's first cloud-based operational performance management solution. Rassa has more than 15 years of management experience across various industries and is a strong advocate for the overall customer experience.
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