Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why Information Silos Are So Persistent

Information silos are disparate entities that exist as rogue systems, utilities, spreadsheets and Access databases. Actually, an information silo might be anything that is not centrally managed or does not conform to existing design patterns. Silos may or may not be considered an official part of the enterprise...awareness about the silo doesn't change its definition.

Most of the time, these tools were developed to fill a gap. A gap between what the enterprise offers and what certain areas of the business actually need to function. They serve a purpose; and in many cases they are significant to the processes that they support.

Considering where technology is today, why are are information silos so persistent, more prevalent than ever? Why can't IT just build something into the enterprise architecture?

One reason (or cause) is because of the technology, which has become easier to work with and more accessible to people inside and outside of IT Departments. A person of any role can go on the Internet and figure out how to set up an Access database. In many cases, this is much easier than approaching a centralized IT department with their requirements. The Internet isn't going to say "no." By circumventing IT, nobody asks for funding, tries to minimize or question the need, or compromise the intention in any way. But, if the request did go to the IT department might, there might be resistance.

Secondly, a rogue solution is much less risky for a business person in terms of exposure and process transparency. By setting up a tool of their own, a business person may struggle a bit with configuration, but at no point is their process going to be visible to other people for criticism. If the person was to bring their requirements to the table and ask for help, then a lot of questions might be asked, putting guarded knowledge at risk. Unfortunately, for protective types, this means that the process would, in fact, become more transparent. The original process owner would become a "stakeholder" with influence rather than an "owner" with full control.

Beyond that, information silos also exist when an organization's methodologies and practices for providing holistic solutions are not mature enough to truly help. For example, IT organizations which are disorganized and reactive, might not be capable of helping the business person with their needs. There's no process, no authority, no plan to handle this sort of thing.

All of these situations challenge a centralized Information Management strategy.

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