Consolidating data silos: What enterprises need to know to harmonize data

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As the amount of data enterprises deal with daily continues to explode, so does the number of different repositories — such as network folders, SharePoint, CRM and ERP systems —creating data silos across an organization. The more disparate silos an organization has, the more vulnerabilities are likely to exist across the organization.

Legacy enterprise content management (ECM) systems and other traditional approaches to managing information have proven to continuously fail in practice. To keep up with the growing abundance of data, enterprises need a strategy that will unify the user experience across all these repositories and helps users find the right data at the right time and in the right context.

As organizations seek a way to unlock the value of data across an organization, while meeting stringent compliance and regulatory mandates, they must focus on eliminating data silos to have full access to data and interrelated information across the enterprise.

Disadvantages of Multiple Data Silos

It’s difficult to manage the abundance of data in disconnected systems, and an inordinate amount of time and effort is spent on locating the right document. On top of that, users typically must navigate through multiple different interfaces within these systems, decreasing efficiency and productivity. In addition, multiple data silos hinder central control and security policies, leaving organizations exposed to substantial risks.

In conjunction with Dimensional Research, M-Files conducted a global survey on the proliferation of information silos and the impact they pose to organizations. The results directly show the drawbacks of data silos, as 85 percent of respondents reported they can’t find a document or file on a regular basis. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) said they feel their company struggles with managing information silos, and 67 percent cited that navigating through different systems and locations to find and verify the most current versions of documents or files negatively affects their productivity.

Siloed teams can create risk by circumventing the company’s corporate systems with personal solutions, such as Dropbox and Box accounts. Although these personal solutions may be easier and more familiar for the users to navigate, they ultimately lead to version control issues and documents left residing in unsecured locations. These outdated and inaccurate documents can result in negative outcomes for the company – i.e. lost deals, contract breaches/problems, customer satisfaction issues, etc.

What is Slowing Data Silo Consolidation?

In the past, ECM systems and other traditional methods used a single, closed repository approach. To reap the full benefits of legacy ECM systems, users had to migrate all their data, applications, workflows and processes to the new system. Many consolidation efforts failed because such migrations are expensive, cumbersome and provide little value to the users. This often presented a huge challenge as these projects were not executed due to reasons like lack of time, personnel or technical issues. As a result, new systems would be stacked on top of existing systems, creating more data silos.

In addition, users seeking more modern ways to work with information often defaulted to personal accounts on alternative, easy-to-adopt, cloud-based systems, such as Dropbox or Box, adding even more new data silos at a speed that outpaced all consolidation efforts.

Another reason for the delay in data silo consolidation relates to people and change management. Once people learn a system, commit to it and are used to it, they are less receptive to change or to adopt a new approach. They become complacent with current tools, which leads to being resistant to change. Furthermore, different departments adopt new technology at different rates.

This data chaos cannot be solved by adding another traditional repository or system. Organizations need a more sophisticated, less invasive approach that can leverage existing repositories and cater to those processes and users, as well as provide modern, unified access and control to allow new use cases for new user groups. It’s all about enabling certain departments to move quickly while allowing other departments to continue using existing silos without letting the technology block innovation or exclude users from the benefits of the new solution.

How to Approach Data Silo Consolidation

There are three key factors to consider when approaching data silo migration and consolidation. First, deploy a technology that allows users to consolidate the data silos in such a way that minimizes disruption for existing teams that are reliant on that information. Modern connector technologies can provide unified access and control of existing data repositories without disrupting users, processes and systems using it. This decouples innovation from the roadblocks of existing systems and infrastructure. Departments and users with fresh ideas and innovations can support their business the way they need to – leveraging the existing data in a way that was not possible before.

Next, by interrelating all existing data and enriching it in a uniform way with metadata to build rich context and offer unified access with modern user experiences, the ideal solution provides a level of value that will drive user adoption. This will eliminate various change management issues since users gain additional value from the new solution and will want to use the new system instead of the old silos.

In addition, this process of adding context to every bit of information in the organization is key for the consolidation of the data itself. Duplicates and mismatching versions will be removed in the process – either automatically or by the user in real time.

Third, while the consolidation of the data continues, the infrastructure of the old silos is naturally consolidated in the background. For example, when file servers providing network shares reach the end of their life, the optimal approach is to automatically migrate to the new solution. Reevaluate applications, workflows and processes on the old silos and decide – at your own pace – to develop new solutions using the modern stack of tools provided by the new platform.

This mindful approach to data silo consolidation will ensure that innovations and new solutions can be deployed from the very beginning while maintaining and even improving productivity of existing processes.

The future needs for information management cannot be fulfilled with data and processes spread across various silos. In the past, information management was much more about storing and archiving information. This has changed, and today information management thrives on using, analyzing and leveraging interrelated information in the right context. This cannot be done on a silo-based foundation. The ability to get this right will be a competitive differentiator for businesses in the future and should be prioritized in 2019.

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