The dangers of data silos
Too many organizations go day to day without an overall strategy for how to handle their data. If a business unit wants to gain a particular insight, they send a request to the IT department. IT, in turn, reacts to each of these requests on a case-by-case basis. Once the business unit gets the data they requested, they are content to mince, slice, and dice it in Excel while IT waits for the next request.
This approach leads to fragmented efforts without a cohesive strategy for success.
Regrettably, when individuals and departments are given the freedom to work on Excel spreadsheets in isolation from one another, the data and analysis become confined within these separate silos. Spreadsheets are duplicated, modified, and exchanged between departments.
This not only leads to rapid data obsolescence but also results in a loss of control over data accessibility and accountability. Once data is brought into Excel, there is no realistic way to govern who has access to that data, which represents a risk for the organization. Most business applications (ERP, CRM, etc.) allow administrators to limit who has access to certain information.
There is no equivalent restriction on sharing Excel files. This opens the door to potential risk to the organization, particularly for financial institutions which have strict regulations over segregation of duties (SoD) risk and the mishandling of personally identifiable information (PII). Inappropriate access to or treatment of data can end up costing the organization extensive fines. Moreover, the risk doesn’t end there. Once an organization loses public confidence in their data practices, it is an uphill battle to regain that trust once it has been compromised.
The benefit of centralized data management
Organizations that create a centralized data strategy can avoid many of these problems. Unfortunately, IT rarely owns the organization’s data strategy. By involving IT executives and their staff, who understand the business systems under their control and the insights that can be gleaned from them, to help formulate how data will be managed across the organization, data can be aggregated into a central system and all the business units can extract the data they need from that single source in real time.
This approach has several benefits:
- First and foremost, it will reduce the potential for SoD risk, because only users with the proper credentials can access data from the data repositories
- It will also reduce the “spreadsheets gone wild” problem and the associated data silos
- It also has the added benefit that everyone will have access to up-to-date, real-time data, increasing productivity in the business units
- It will also help IT keep up with data requests, increasing productivity within the IT department
The significance of a data strategy cannot be overstated. When a well-defined data strategy is implemented, it enables business users to recognize the vast potential for valuable insights, while facilitating quicker provision of solutions by IT. The days of waiting for months to fulfill new requirements are gone.
This is the pivotal point where businesses can truly embark on a journey of innovation, gaining a competitive advantage over their rivals. The organization’s agility is amplified, empowering the executive leadership team to make increasingly data-driven decisions based on current data.
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