Do you ever look at your company and feel like your different departments aren’t communicating well? Do your analysts tell you they don’t have the data to run reports that you feel like they should be able to run? If any of this sounds familiar, you may have a problem with data silos in your company.
Data analytics can be crucial to helping your company become all it can be. And while data silos stand in the way of that, there are steps you can take to break up these blockages in communication. Read on to learn more about data silos and how good data visualization can help you get rid of them.
What Are Data Silos?
Big data analytics can work miracles in the modern world; it can tell you how to optimize your processes, connect more effectively with your customers, improve your marketing efforts, and more. But in order for this miracle process to work, you have to have access to the data you need.
Data silos occur when data analysts can’t get hands on the data they need to run certain analyses. This may happen for a variety of reasons, as we’ll discuss later. But no matter the cause, data silos can cost a huge amount in lost productivity and efficiency.
Where They Exist
A few years ago, the sources of data silos were pretty obvious. Typically one department in an organization had the needed data and either couldn’t or wouldn’t share that data with a different department. But as organizations have gotten more complex and data has become more pervasive, those boundaries have started cropping up in all sorts of places within companies.
In some cases, the experience and training of different data analysts, even within the same department, can cause data silos. A newer analyst may not know about a source of data or how to access that data. While this data silo is unintentional, it slows down productivity nonetheless.
Why They Matter
One of the biggest problems with data silos is that they can both stem from and exacerbate a lack of team cooperation. All of your teams need to feel that they’re working towards the same larger purpose in order for your company to succeed. Data silos can divide your team and create animosity among different departments.
Data silos also slow things down because every time an analyst needs to run a report, they have to go chase down the data. A normal report may take just a few minutes or hours to run under optimum circumstances. But when you’re dealing with data silos, before that report can run, the analyst needs to figure out what data they’re missing, determine where that data is housed, submit a request for the data, wait for a response, and then finally analyze the data in question, by which point it’s already obsolete.
What Causes Them
So how do data silos happen in the first place? The two main reasons that data silos pop up is rapid growth in an organization and issues with technology.
When an organization grows, it can become difficult for different departments to communicate. There may be geographic or language barriers, there may be a lot of red tape to navigate, or teams may start to feel like they have to compete on behalf of their department instead of on behalf of the entire company.
Different people or departments may also wind up using incompatible technology. Certain apps can’t manage quick exporting and transferring of data or can’t work with the programs different teams are using.
Choose a New Platform
Because issues with technology compatibility are such a common cause of data silos, one of the most straightforward approaches you can take is to change your platform. Ideally, you want your entire company running on the same (or at least compatible) software. If your company has grown quickly, you may not have had time or resources to standardize your platforms.
If this is the case, now is the time to undertake that standardization. It may be a big project, but it’s not going to get any easier as your company continues to grow. Find a platform that can handle your company’s needs and that scales well, and start implementing it across all departments in your company.
Change Company Culture
You may find when you’re investigating the source of your data silos that the issue is your corporate culture. Different departments may feel like they’re in competition with each other, rather than with your competitors. They may not want to share what they see as a tactical advantage with a different department.
If this is the case, you need to do some work on changing your corporate culture. Take steps to make sure every department and employee feels valued and secure in their work. Then start fostering a culture of collaboration and teamwork, rather than a “dog eat dog” attitude.
Sort Through Outdated Data
In some cases, the problem with a data silo isn’t that no one wants to share the information. It may be that the information is there for the taking, but it’s so old and outdated, no one knows what to do with it. Like switching platforms, resolving this issue can be a major undertaking, but it’s more than worth it.
Have your team start working through that old data, weed out anything unusable, and put anything relevant into your new system. This can also serve as a team-building exercise among your different departments. Ask different departments to collaborate to take care of the old data together.
Importance of Fostering Understanding
One of the most important things you can do is make sure your different departments understand both each other and the data they have available to them. For one thing, better understanding fosters more teamwork and can help prevent groups from withholding data from other teams. This is why strong company culture and great teambuilding are so important.
But it’s also important that your teams understand the data coming out of other departments. The accounting department needs to understand the data coming out of sales, sales needs to understand the data coming from ordering, and ordering needs to understand the data coming out of marketing. This is where data visualization comes in.
What Is Data Visualization?
Data visualization is the process of taking information and placing it into a visual context. This can include maps, graphs, charts, or any of the other ways to visually represent a series of numbers. If you’ve ever made a pie chart in school or generated a bar graph from an Excel spreadsheet, you’ve participated in data visualization.
The big advantage of data visualization is it allows people to get a feel for data trends at a glance. It’s one matter to look at a series of numbers and try to get a sense of how those numbers interact. But when you’re looking at a line graph with a series of dramatic rises and falls, it gives you a good sense of what that data means.
How Data Visualization Can Help
Data visualization is all about helping people understand data sets more easily. For one thing, this understanding can help employees from different departments get a handle on what data is available from other departments. But it can also help identify data silos you may not have realized were there.
When you look at data visually, it becomes much easier to see trends and holes. Your team may be working inefficiently or may be sitting on a data silo without realizing it. You can find connections between different departments so you then know which analyses need to be run to solve the problem.
How to Manage Good Data Visualization
When you start making data visualizations, be sure they are answering specific questions. They should be easy to understand, honest, and user-friendly. These visualizations should be succinct and easy to generate on a regular basis.
You also need to make sure your entire team sees these visualizations. The entire point of running data visualizations to break up data silos is to help get everyone on the same page. Schedule regular production meetings to review these visualizations and try to find solutions together as a team.
Learn More About Breaking Data Silos
Data silos can slow down your company’s efficiency a hundredfold, but proper team management can help break up these silos and keep everything moving smoothly. Good data visualization can help foster inter-departmental coordination and create a greater understanding of your company’s data needs. Be sure you have strong lines of communication across a standardized platform and you’ll see stronger company growth every quarter.
If you’d like help eliminating data silos and making the most of your data, check out the rest of our site at Boost Labs. We can help you uncover hidden meaning and draw insights from your data that you didn’t know were there. Learn more about our services and start making the most of your business today.