Your sales team relies on datasets in Salesforce. Your marketers track figures in HubSpot. And accounting won’t budge on using Oracle. But no one is sharing valuable information and insights across departments. Sound familiar?
The average business now uses 90 workplace apps, and large enterprises rely on closer to 200. While the expansion of cloud-based apps and platforms — and the massive volumes of data that come with them — has improved organizational capabilities and decision-making, the influx of solutions can be a double-edged sword. When not properly orchestrated, companies struggle with in datasets not accessible to other departments and spread across too many tools to count.
Data silos don’t just lead to frustration and inefficiencies. They create barriers that prevent teams from uncovering a more complete view of their business and unlocking the full value of enterprise data. In today’s data-driven business environment, these obstacles can make the difference between capitalizing on data insights or contending with missed opportunities and misguided decisions.
Why do data silos run so deep?
Enterprise data no longer comes from a single origin. Instead, it’s generated, managed and stored among a wide variety of apps, platforms and networks that differ across every level of an organization.
At the enterprise level, nearly all companies rely on a hybrid or multi-cloud environment. At the department level, best-in-breed apps provide unique functionalities and features — and what works best for finance may not be the same for HR or other departments. Even at the team level, individual employees may use dozens of different tools to help with monthly reports, quarterly KPIs and other parts of their jobs.
The rapid expansion of data sources has created deep data silos that increase stress on IT teams (which are already short-staffed and stretched thin). Although IT departments traditionally manage most aspects of data governance, they’re now struggling to keep up with teams and departments in need of faster, more seamless ways to access, share, and connect to critical datasets.
Data that is interdepartmental
With data creation projected to grow tenfold by 2025, more than half of businesses say they aren’t ready for this increased volume of enterprise data. These barriers don’t just contribute to an IT backlog, they prevent teams from collaborating and regularly sharing valuable insights across the organization.
Consider how potential departmental data silos play out between marketing and sales: Both departments share goals to attract customers, secure business and generate revenue. Sales is likely tracking leads and opportunities via a CRM, while marketing may gauge digital engagement through a separate platform.
But if these two data sources aren’t connected — and teams lack access to the data the other creates — they likely miss out on valuable insights, like demographic targets for the next marketing campaign or brand messaging that’s more likely to convert one-time buyers into loyal customers.
Departments like sales and marketing are closely related, as they should be. Yet without interdepartmental data access and collaboration, it’s difficult for businesses to set cohesive, consistent goals — and carry out the work required to accomplish them.
5 steps to foster collaboration and data transparency
The places your data originate from and reside shouldn’t limit the value you derive from them. When cubicle walls turn into virtual firewalls, you miss out on useful information about your customers, your business strategy and areas of your organization ripe for innovation and improvement.
What untapped potential is waiting?
Whether it’s enabling more accurate reporting, enhancing analytics or strengthening data-driven decision-making, closing the gulf between departments and connecting data silos throughout the organization will help you achieve your top goals. As you work to foster greater data collaboration and transparency, follow these five steps to get your entire business on the same page with data.
1. Determine where data lives
From customer information to inventory data to financial figures, your company generates massive amounts of data. Before teams can leverage these datasets, you must assess what data your business already creates, where it’s stored and who holds access to it. Start by mapping out every data source across your company, the departments directly responsible for securing and maintaining that information and how it fits into your organization’s overall structure.
2. Consider how datasets are connected
After you know what datasets exist in your organization, you can determine how data points are connected — or should be connected — from one department to another. For example, the email addresses attached to a help desk ticket stored by your customer support team are also helpful to your marketers. With today’s data analytic platforms, it’s easier than ever to pinpoint key attributes that tie information together and show shared areas of interest.
3. Identify gaps in data collection
Once departments discover what data exists and where it resides, ask yourself what data is missing. Does your supply chain team have access to all of the manufacturing and warehouse information they need? Does HR collect all the employee information necessary for the C-suite to make decisions around salaries or hiring? Consider what additional data you need to provide a more complete picture of your organization, and how you can start collecting and sharing that information.
4. Build a collaborative data ecosystem
All employees should have seamless, streamlined access to every data source they need, no matter where that data resides in your organization. The cloud — and the technology tools that support it — allows departments and teams to easily share datasets and collaborate on data-driven initiatives without IT gatekeeping at every step of the process. Provide the tools, training and authorization for nontechnical employees to create their own data solutions so IT can focus on data governance, security and other activities they do best.
5. Aim for universal connectivity
Businesses often try to solve data silos on a case-by-case basis rather than ingraining connections as an essential part of their IT infrastructure. Fortunately, more data connectivity solutions are hitting the market that enable universal connections between legacy systems and cloud platforms for every department and team. Combined with real-time analytics platforms that directly move data from sources to functional applications, connectivity solutions offer employees up-to-date information about your business. Strive for the greatest breadth and depth of data connectivity — with universal connection as the ultimate goal.
As your company relies more heavily on data to inform and improve decision-making, you require a robust, integrated approach to cross-departmental collaboration and data transparency across the full enterprise.
With the right balance of technology, tools and strategy, you can break down data barriers and close the information gap between departments — without taking away the apps and platforms your employees know and love. How is your organization working together to make that possible?
Amit Sharma is CEO of CData.
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