Negative Aspects of Information Silos

Information management seeks to remove a silo culture but why? What are the negative aspects of information silos?

The term ‘silo’ is used to refer to individuals or groups working in isolation, being independent, and self-contained. In practice, information silos capture and maintain data for the sole use of those in the silo, preventing other areas of the business from accessing and using the data collected. Small amounts of data are allowed to trickle into silos. This causes a number of problems for information management in organizations. For example,

o   Data duplication, as different areas of the business capture the same data, incurring unnecessary costs to capture, store and maintain the data.

o   Data inconsistencies, as data in one silo may be different to data in another silo due to differences in the data collection and data definition processes.

  Data inaccuracies, as data are updated in one silo and the same data in another silo is not updated.

o   Inaccurate and inconsistent data leads to poor quality information with which to make decisions.

o   Data aggregation is difficult, which hinders the ability to assess the performance of the organization as a whole and to integrate data from different areas of the business.

Most of all silos can adversely affect customer service. A customer views the organization as one entity with which the customer interacts. If the subsystems of the organization work in isolation this presents a fractured view of the organization. Customers have to continually provide different areas of the same organization with the same information. One department is unaware of the communication between the customer and another department.

Attempts to address these problems have led to a customer-centric approach to providing a single interface between the disparate organizational systems and customers. This avoids the need for a customer to repeat information as a full record of their interactions with the organization is accessible whenever they contact the organization.

Before attempting to breakdown silos it is important to understand what led to their creation and sustainment in the organization. Information silos may have been formed due to:

o   Inability to rely on corporately held data (this problem is made worse by silos).

o   Inconsistent data, perhaps caused by inconsistent or conflicting data definitions.

o   Lack of access to central data caused by unreliable or poorly designed information systems.

o   Technical issues such as incompatible data formats or interoperability issues.

These problems need to be identified and addressed before trying to eradicate a silo culture: physical silos can be dismantled but a silo culture can only be addressed by providing an information management architecture that promotes accessibility to consistent reliable data that can be trusted.

Further Reading: information silos are discussed in Chapter 7 and a customer-centric approach is defined in Chapter 4.

Please use the following to reference this blog post in your own work:

Cox, S. A., (2014), ‘Negative Aspects of Information Silos’, 15 August 2014,, [Date accessed: dd:mm:yy]

© 2014 Sharon A Cox