Imagine needing but not having a piece of data or insight to impact a decision within your business that has been under your nose this entire time? This is the case with most businesses in today’s day and age. With the growth of various talent pools and departments, the creation of these internal silo’s within a business is at the highest it has ever been.

There are now departments within departments catering to different business needs so that teams can focus their attention and thus work effectively. And whilst these silo’s are a beautiful thing for process management and seamless strategies, it can create a black hole within the business whereby key data pieces and insights get lost. Without the ability to access and analyze all of your data in a fluid manner, it becomes very difficult to deliver exemplary customer experiences and uncover what your customers truly want. 

Merging silos instead of breaking it down 

For years, the battle—or at least, the discussion—has centred on two approaches: “tearing down silos” and “creating a data-driven culture.” Most organizations have struggled on both fronts. Strategically, the silo struggle has somewhat missed the point though. Yes, data that is locked in one application or database or department, inaccessible to other uses, is a problem.  

The key, however, to innovation and competitive success is in finding insights from the intersection of traditionally isolated data streams, and we must break our data out of solitary confinement. But the solution is not to tear down, or radically reinvent the organizational structure of our data. Information tends to reside in the location and format relevant to its primary use. That won’t, and shouldn’t, change. What needs to change is organization-wide access to that data. Que in the merger of departmental silos.  

Across industries, data is becoming the most valuable corporate asset, playing a central role in every decision and action a company makes and takes. Even so, many companies are prevented from realizing data’s full potential because of technological and cultural barriers. A recent survey of 560 business executives by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services found that while 83% of companies stress the importance of turning data into actionable insight, only 22% feel their company is successful at doing this. 

Overcoming barriers to create a data-driven culture 

Now that we have understood what to do with business silos, I want to turn your attention to the second challenge I brought to light: A “data-driven” culture is one in which data is used to inform every decision, in which every action is a strategic choice using the best available insight. Ultimately it is this insight that drives swift and effective action.

You can’t use data to drive every action until you give every decision-maker hands-on access to data and the tools to act on it. It’s not a chicken-and-egg question; the data must come before the adoption. And this is where that transformation should take place. As businesses, we need to start approaching data strategically, in a way that makes it available across departments and that drives the transformation of the decision-making culture. I talk about the transformation of decision making and what I believe causes a lack of it in my most recent piece published on Digitlab.co.za titled Conquering the Decision Gap.

This combination of an organization-wide data platform and a culture that actively embraces it is how businesses thrive in our increasingly data-rich, ever-accelerating world. We need to guide the evolution of technology and culture in parallel, so that we can use data across our organizations to discover new insights that guide business strategy, ignite innovation, and redefine how we achieve success.