What Are Data Silos and How to Avoid Them

Data is central to any business process, especially in information-heavy industries like insurance. Unfortunately, getting the right data can be a challenge, even when an organization has already done the work of collecting it. When companies consistently struggle to access data internally, they may be facing data silos. Data silos are one of the greatest sources of inefficiency in organizations large and small, and avoiding them is key to making fast, informed decisions. 

What Is Siloed Data?

A data silo is a repository of data that is controlled by a single department and isolated from the rest of an organization’s database. Typically, this is because the siloed data is stored in a standalone system and often is incompatible with other data sets. 

There are many reasons that data silos can occur. For instance, unless a specific data integration platform or strategy is used, all collected information may be stored locally by the person or team that collected it. While this may seem like the simplest way of collecting data at first, each of these respective stores of information must then be integrated into a single location or data silos will soon form.

To avoid silos, the instinctual solution is to simply have all parties input all data into a single system, but there are several reasons that this may not be the best strategy. Often, information is collected from multiple sources, each with its own unique system requirements. In larger companies using multiple incompatible systems, integrating may not even be feasible, to begin with. In other cases, depending on the nature of the data being collected, having all users access the same system creates more issues than it solves. Problems might include disorganization, privacy issues, and the security vulnerabilities of giving so many users access.

In some cases, there may even be a particular need for separate data storage centers. Specific conditions may necessitate that certain data is not available to all parties at all times — for example, privacy laws like HIPAA. Even when this is the case, however, standalone data silos are problematic because they prevent this information from being easily accessed, limiting its usefulness to those who do need it. 

Managing Multiple Data Sources 

While most companies recognize the need for some form of data integration, managing multiple data streams can be a real challenge. Some companies rely on employees to understand where they can access information and accurately maintain multiple databases. Others may attempt to avoid this by requiring a central database to be updated each time new information is obtained. When done manually, this can be an extremely time-consuming process, tying up employees with menial administrative tasks or requiring new, dedicated staff to handle tasks like data entry. 

While there are times when human data entry positions are a necessity, in general, this is still an extremely inefficient way of aggregating data. In addition to costing companies money, the added time required to keep complex, multi-sourced data constantly up to date slows progress, requiring teams to wait while the data they need is validated against the most recent updates. 

Data Aggregation and Integration 

In the insurance world, just like in any complex industry, data is often collected from a number of different sources. Because of this, data silos are a common problem, with employees often spending valuable time hunting down the information they need. Not only is this ineffective, but it also introduces a huge potential for human error. If data is not consistently collected and updated in all locations it can be found, those seeking answers may find themselves utilizing out-of-date information. This can lead to a multitude of issues, with cascading effects on organizations as a whole. 

The best solution for preventing data from either becoming siloed or bogged down by slow, unreliable manual processing is to develop a comprehensive data aggregation strategy. Specialized IT tools are available to quickly and accurately collect and aggregate new data into your company’s pre-existing systems or to create an entirely new source of central information storage. In fact, data entry and cross-referencing are some of the areas most suited for business process automation. This allows specifically designed programs to either aggregate data from multiple sources into a single location or automatically sync relevant data across multiple platforms. 

While the development of and operation of smart, automated business applications is challenging, working with an experienced partner can allow you to choose from any of a number of pre-built systems. Businesses looking for the best solutions often choose apps created especially to cater to the needs of their industry. Or, for an even better fit, custom-designed programs developed by experts can be tailored to the precise requirements of your company, without needing to rely on mass-market applications. While these may require a more significant layout, as time goes on, the gains in efficiency and accuracy far outweigh the initial cost. 

Data Integration with Populus

Whichever tools your business chooses, finding the right data integration strategy means finding the right integration partner. While many companies rely on outdated systems for managing their data, these systems are often inefficient and inaccurate. Taking the step to embrace automated data integration can transform an organization, saving time and money and avoiding costly errors from incomplete data. 

When done correctly, data integration can provide businesses with a 360-degree view of their customers, operations, and performance. As a result, it can improve customer service, optimize marketing campaigns, and make better decisions. Avoiding data silos is a key strategic element in business intelligence and should not be overlooked. 

Populus offers various services, from data integration and analytics to fully customized applications to manage your business processes. If you’re interested in implementing automated data integration for your business, Populus can help. 

Populus Technology is experienced in providing technology solutions to our partners. We help support their growth by managing partnerships and directing our clients to the best third-party vendors in the industry. We also assist organizations in updating and automating their business processes, even creating custom software solutions for unique workflows.
If you need help transforming your organization’s data processes, Populus has the solutions you need. Contact our team to learn more!

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