Written by: Colin McEvily
How Did We Get Here?
Data silos are common amongst many organizations and are a natural result of the evolution of Marketing, Sales, and IT technologies and overall business goals. Historically, solutions have been implemented by departments in a singular manner for the exclusive use of that department and to meet specific requirements and functions. When assessing the technologies available to meet these requirements and functions, it is likely there were no discussions or analysts at the time to research any ancillary benefits the solution(s) would have if leveraged by other departments. This is natural – each division has its own processes and ways of working and is traditionally led by a stakeholder with only that division in mind. In a nutshell, data silos are a direct result of a very simple reason – the departments themselves have been singularly focused on their own particular goals and KPIs.
Now that we’ve established a major factor in data silos, what other common themes are shared amongst organizations experiencing this obstacle?
Common Themes Amongst Organizations
Below is a small list of the common themes many organizations face regarding data silos – more context into how it happened and the issues or barriers businesses are facing.
How it happened:
Solutions were selected by teams or stakeholders no longer with the organization
The original ideas or thoughts on how to utilize the solutions are no longer applicable
Lack of end-to-end understanding of the functions that are out-of-the-box or readily available via current solutions. Many solutions are only being leveraged for a small percentage of their overall capabilities
Minimal cross-team (IT – Marketing – Sales) communication regarding how current systems are being leveraged and whether or not they meet cross-team requirements (potentially leading to duplicative solutions)
Issues or barriers to overcome:
Data governance is extremely difficult and leads to potential gaps and risks regarding compliance or regulatory processes
Lack of key stakeholder buy-in that particular technologies should be integrated, sunset, or that external consultation should be undertaken
Partitioning of data is not something available within a solution or is currently unable to be instituted due to the absence of a full-stack developer
Perceived lack of budget to implement the appropriate steps or solutions. It can be a costly investment upfront, so a strong use case must be made to the business that outlines the potential ROI and benefits
How to Address These Themes
As a first step and at a very minimum, the business should have an architectural diagram readily available, or created if one does not exist, that visually depicts all the different platforms/solutions currently being utilized by your organization. For most organizations, seeing this documentation is the light bulb moment that gets the gears moving to address duplicative solutions as well as the ancillary details attached (licensing costs, maturity level of the solution, skills required, related staffing costs, etc.). The key takeaway is that this document should get teams thinking and (more importantly) collaborating about opportunities or gaps that should be addressed with the current architecture.
Once this foundation has been identified, the next step is compiling the right team to keep moving forward. The ideal team to address solutions can vary, but what we at Celerity have seen work best is one comprised of a small, select number of stakeholders responsible for each department (too many cooks in the kitchen can derail progress and efficiency). These stakeholders would have had prerequisite meetings with their department to talk through the solutions leveraged with the support of those who are in these tools regularly and can communicate pros, cons, gaps, and other details that could affect downstream decision-making. This will enable and empower the chosen stakeholders from each department to both voice the details of a particular solution as well as answer questions that the broader group might have when going through the analysis process.
This overall communication is a major pillar to break down data silos and will spur discussion into how the organization can centralize and integrate data to prevent future silos.
Another milestone that should be addressed and can often be more difficult and time-consuming is establishing data governance. Who will control the data? What policies or legal protocols must be adhered to? How will permissions be managed? Once all these details have been ironed out, implementing the solutions will be the next major hurdle but where the most progress can be realized.
The End Goal
Until data silos are addressed, it is unlikely your organization can become truly automated and digitized to stay ahead of industry changes that will never cease as the world evolves. Solving this common challenge leads to the realization of the overall benefits of your disparate solutions. The business will be able to tangibly see results as solutions work collectively in a more automated manner, saving your staff bandwidth and opening up new opportunities regarding the direction and goals of the business.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to data silos; however, we at Celerity are seeing major benefits to recently launched cloud solutions that can be the catalyst to breaking down data silos. One such solution that is being implemented by some of the nation’s top companies for marketing-related data management is the Adobe Experience Platform. It is a fully open system, able to integrate with a multitude of leading and bespoke solutions with real-time capabilities. This is the exact sort of technology a business should assess as it can be the foundation of your Martech stack and alleviate the pain points caused by data silos.
This is an extremely complex topic, and we’ve only highlighted a small set of details here. If you’d like to discuss this in further detail, we at Celerity would love to hear from you!