Good decisions require good data.

With so much data-tracking technology available today, we should be making better and better calls, right?

It’s not quite that simple. While we certainly have more ways to collect and analyze data (by some estimates, there are more than 700 tech providers in the sales industry alone), there’s one behemoth that stands in our way of truly understanding what that data is telling us:

Knowledge silos.

Why do they happen? Let’s count the ways.

Knowledge silos make it impossible to surface all the information you hold within your company. They form when people, departments, and systems keep and use locked-in knowledge that isn’t accessible to those on the outside.

Sometimes they’re a result of management that looks up and down only within their slice of the company, without thinking about how their function impacts other departments and teams.

It may be a corporate politics issue, where groups want to establish control or credibility (or job security) by withholding information from others.

It could be a symptom of long-term growth and change, where generations of leaders, ideologies, and technology clash and create incompatible systems.

It might even be the technology you use, whether it’s a hodgepodge of different systems that don’t connect, or “walled garden” systems designed specifically not to connect.

No matter the cause of your knowledge silos, the problems are the same:

  • Competing data from various systems makes it hard for employees to figure out what information they should trust, wasting time and causing frustration.
  • Employees don’t know certain knowledge exists at all, and can’t tap into its value to do their jobs.
  • Duplicated work wastes time as people across departments work individually to solve the same problems, or as people manually enter the same data into multiple systems.
  • Team morale suffers as people feel like they’re not contributing to the larger team, or are treated unequally to others.
  • Customers suffer as they’re taken from one part of the process to the next without a unified view of their interactions, profile, and specific needs.

If any of this sounds familiar, don’t worry. Here’s how to fix them.

Here are 5 ways to break down knowledge silos and make data available to everyone.

Make it a cross-functional priority.

Knowledge silos affect all areas of a company, whether it’s Sales, IT, Marketing, or Customer Service. Bringing the leaders together to talk about your common objectives, and how sharing knowledge can further your goals as a company, is a good first step.

Consolidate your tech.

Wherever you have the opportunity to integrate your systems so they share data, do it. Not just the systems you have on your sales team – we’re talking across the company, so everyone can share a single view with complete data, not just the bits and pieces they dig up. (Just say “no” to Frankenstein tech stacks.)

Bring content together.

Knowledge management systems help tie disconnected pools of knowledge together, and make it easy to access information you didn’t know existed at your company. Look for one that integrates into your chat, like Kiite, so you can capture and share the dark knowledge that lives in your employees’ heads.

Read the fine print.

Going forward, make a pledge: if that service you’re purchasing makes it difficult to migrate data or connect to other applications, sign with caution – or look for a service that will. This is especially important as more and more specialized apps geared for more and more specialized functions pop up.

Encourage communication.

Promote open dialogue between employees across teams, from entry-level roles to the CEO, to identify gaps in your knowledge capture and identify where one group may have a stash of useful information the other doesn’t know about.

Not all silos are bad.

Organizationally, they help group together centres of knowledge and expertise, create accountability for certain tasks and functions, and divvy up responsibilities.

We also create customer silos, or segments, to help understand, service, and sell to them better. Without those, we couldn’t deliver personalized messaging that can win their business – and earn their loyalty.

But when it comes to our ability to make great decisions for our teams – and the company as a whole – we need to break down those silos and make information available to everyone… for everyone’s benefit.

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