Companies are eager to use big data analytics to improve their business operations, but many have found that fully implementing the strategy is extremely difficult. Granted, big data can be complex, but many of the challenges businesses have encountered have nothing to do with big data itself. The real problem lies in the organizational structure of companies or, more specifically, the way businesses have constructed data silos. These silos can be a major hinderance to companies, keeping large parts of the organization from reaching their true potential with big data solutions. The goal should be to tear down the data silos and spread the valuable data collected by the company to the entire organization. Doing so, however, can often prove extremely difficult, usually because data silos have become so ingrained within businesses. For companies hoping to get the most out of big data by breaking down these data silos, the following tips can prove the most useful.
1. Change the Company Culture
Silos are constructed because that’s how the company culture operates under normal circumstances. Marketing has its own department. The same is true of sales. Executives sit atop the C-suite, while HR has its own areas of concern. And then there’s the IT department, which is often looked at as more of an annoyance than an asset. With this type of culture, is it any wonder why data becomes trapped within silos? If the company’s intent is to break down those data silos, the company culture needs to be changed. That requires businesses to encourage more collaboration between departments. While some departments may be reluctant to do so, they need to understand that other areas of the company may hold valuable data which can benefit them, not to mention the company as a whole. Cultural change also requires seeing the IT department as a worthwhile collaborator and critical to the success of the business.
2. Make it Part of Business Strategy\
If there’s one way to get everyone on board with the idea of breaking down data silos, it’s to expressly integrate it with a company’s overall business strategy. Big data projects will be how a company makes the most use of big data, so ensuring those projects cover a wide range of departments and personnel will force people to share data and collaborate. This is an initiative that should be enacted from the top down, starting with company executives. That helps set the example for everyone else. Working the deconstruction of data silos into a business strategy also helps put everyone on the same page by setting a common goal. All of this should be done in a way that’s measurable, so the company can always note how progress is coming along.
3. Use an Open Data Platform
It’s easy to say that the whole company should be willing to share data; it’s another thing entirely to put that idea into practice. Legacy systems and technology can make data sharing a chore. That’s why businesses intent on breaking down data silos need to be open to using an open data platform, to help with this endeavor. An established open platform allows for the use of new big data tools as well as the integration of older tools, giving businesses the space they need to collaborate and share what they have with the whole organization.
4. Deconstruct Slowly
The process of breaking down data silos shouldn’t be hastily implemented. Oftentimes, data silos are the result of years and possibly decades of operations that worked well enough before big data came along. Tearing down an established structure shouldn’t be done through hurried actions but rather through deliberate, steady strategy. Employees need time to acclimate to these changes since many departments are used to collecting and using their own data. As businesses get used to the idea of a silo-free organization, they’ll be more open to larger changes and more aggressive big data strategies.
Data silos can be detrimental to the success of a company. That’s why businesses should make it a priority to tear them down and enable the sharing of data across the organization. It’s not always easy, but it’s a strategy that will prove worth it in the end. The above tips can help companies overcome the most common challenges and achieve the data-driven culture and business that will help them become a success.