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Breaking down data silos: recognizing, understanding, and eliminating them

By April 10, 2024FME

Data stands as one of the most invaluable assets for any organization. Yet, merely possessing data isn’t adequate. To harness its full potential, effective management is paramount. Among the challenges that arise in data management, data silos loom large. In this article, we delve into the concept of data silos, their consequential issues, and strategies for their eradication. Let’s start with the basics!

What are data silos?

A data silo is a collection of data controlled by a specific group within an organization, hindering seamless accessibility for other departments or teams. To breach these silos, employees often find themselves navigating through cumbersome processes, either seeking assistance from colleagues or resorting to unfamiliar systems.

These silos can stem from organizational culture or arise due to the employment of disparate applications. Even within smaller enterprises, a multitude of IT solutions may be in use, spanning from customer management to warehouse logistics, project tracking, invoicing, and communication tools. Unfortunately, these applications frequently operate in isolation, devoid of cohesive integration.

What are the consequences of data silos?

Data silos are related to several data management issues:

  • Data fragmentation occurs when data are scattered across different silos, impeding comprehensive visibility and control over organizational data assets.
  • Data duplication occurs when storing the same data entries across multiple silos within the organization.
  • Outdated data occurs when silos operating in isolation result in disparities among databases, causing discrepancies in information across the organization.

While these may seem like technical nuances, their ramifications extend far beyond. These issues impede business operations and growth.

How do data silos disrupt business operations?

Data silos act as barriers to seamless collaboration across departments, necessitating manual data transfer processes related to various challenges. Consider the following scenarios:

An agreement between the sales team and a client undergoes modifications unbeknownst to the legal department, resulting in the preparation of outdated contracts and invoices.
Project setbacks are experienced, yet the customer service team remains oblivious and inquires the client about their satisfaction.
Valuable insights, such as increased engagement from a potential client, fail to reach the sales team due to the absence of data-sharing mechanisms, resulting in lost opportunities for client engagement.

Furthermore, data silos impede effective decision-making and company growth by limiting access to comprehensive insights for decision-makers.

Moreover, valuable employee time is squandered on tasks that could be automated. For instance, the sales team manually relays information about new clients to the legal department and project managers, who in turn must manually notify subsequent stakeholders. These repetitive processes consume precious time that could otherwise be allocated to strategic endeavors.

What are the key indicators of data silo problems?

One of the most common signs of data silos are repeated data errors. The most common data errors include:

  • Duplicated data records,
  • Outdated information across silos,
  • Conflicting data.

These issues point towards underlying issues in data storage and processing within the organization.

Additionally, challenges may arise in reporting and analysis creation within siloed environments, manifesting in the following scenarios:

Preparation of reports and analyses becomes laborious and time-intensive.

Data incompleteness leads to discrepancies in reports submitted by different departments.

Furthermore, observing the level of collaboration between departments provides insights into potential siloed structures. Data silos hinder seamless collaboration, necessitating manual effort to access information stored across disparate teams or applications, thereby impeding agile problem-solving processes.

Given that decision-makers may not possess direct visibility into inter-departmental collaboration, establishing procedures to monitor collaboration or conducting employee interviews can offer valuable insights into organizational dynamics.

How can you spot a data silo issue?

Pinpointing data silos necessitates a thorough examination of data storage and processing practices within the organization. Here’s a checklist of questions to aid in identifying potential issues:

  • Are data confined within databases accessible solely to specific department members?
  • Is information pertaining to a single client dispersed across various systems, applications, or files?
  • Are changes initiated by one department regarding a client not visible to members of other departments?
  • Must changes made in one application be manually replicated across other systems?
  • Do instances of duplicated information exist across databases or applications?
  • Is Excel utilized as a primary tool for data storage?

The presence of affirmative responses increases the likelihood of encountering data silo issues within the organization. For precise verification, it’s important to conduct a detailed analysis of data storage structures and inter-departmental data flow.

How can you eliminate data silos?

To eradicate data silos within an existing organization, a comprehensive analysis of the current landscape is imperative. Delve into the intricacies of applications, databases, and processed information to gain insights into your data ecosystem and devise a structured data flow plan.

While some may advocate for consolidating all information into a single, large file to combat data silos, this approach is flawed. The true solution lies in establishing interconnected databases that facilitate seamless, automated information flow.

Choosing the right tools is paramount. Cloud technologies offer a robust solution for integrating data from disparate applications, systems, and files. Through the cloud, changes are instantly shared online, accessible to all authorized personnel.

Subsequently, implementing automation mechanisms is essential for optimizing data flow within the organization. Automation streamlines processes, freeing up valuable employee time previously spent on repetitive tasks while concurrently reducing the risk of errors.


Harnessing FME to address data silos

FME is a versatile data integration and process automation platform, compatible with over 450 data sources and applications. Its flexible APIs empower users to tailor custom integrations, eliminating the need for extensive modifications to existing processes or wholesale software replacements. FME can seamlessly connect all your applications.


FME’s capabilities extend beyond data integration. It facilitates data processing, validation, and manipulation, thereby enhancing data quality. The platform empowers users to design intricate workflows and manage operations through an intuitive graphical interface, obviating the necessity for coding expertise.

Illustrating FME in action

Consider the process of onboarding a new client as an example. Upon closure of the deal by your sales team and inputting of information into your CRM system, FME automation is triggered. This automation swiftly disseminates data to decision-makers and the legal department for agreement preparation. Simultaneously, corresponding records about the new client are automatically generated and linked across systems. Upon completion of tasks by all teams involved, requisite information seamlessly flows to the accounting department and project manager.

This streamlined process exemplifies how FME can significantly reduce the time required for client onboarding. What once entailed a week’s worth of formalities can now be finalized within a single day, courtesy of automation and system integration facilitated by FME.

With FME implementation, you not only acquire access to tailored support and training but also the means to swiftly eliminate data silos within your organization. If you recognize the potential benefits for your company, do not hesitate to reach out to us!