In this article with Brand Reveal collaborator Nigel Wood, we explore some of the common hurdles linked to data sourcing, analysis and communication. In this week’s instalment, we share 4 tips to mitigate the tendency for Company departments to hold information to themselves, a.k.a. “Data Silo Syndrome”. After all, data helps make informed decisions, and if you don’t know what you can easily know, then the data your Company collects - and pays for - is wasted.
“… During a Data and Reporting Review for a new client, we were mid-way through the fourth interview of the day. The Category Manager we were interviewing clearly had a good grasp of the required information. Suddenly, she started talking about the data and reporting that would really help when discussing with a key customer... Had we heard right? As discretion is the better part of valour, we moved the conversation on. However when comparing notes later, we both reached the same conclusion: the data and reporting needed by the Category Manager, already existed! It had been shown to us earlier by the Marketing Manager…”
This is not an imaginary case. It happened not once but twice on the same day. As a Company, the client had great data and reports, but they were held in functional silos as discovered in the interviews. This happens regularly in many of the sectors we work in, and it perhaps happens to you. Are you aware of the data and the reporting used in other functions and how it can help you? Conversely, what can you do to help share information with other teams? The most common explanations for this state of affairs are:
- Fragmented reporting: often observed in smaller or fast growing companies where reporting develops in an unstructured way – the case study above is a great example of this.
- Function driven reporting: takes the form of limited need or opportunity to share. You will often find that central reporting systems are structured and made available only on a functional structure (e.g. marketing only, sales only...). The majority of companies that we have worked for and with have this issue
- Out of date reporting: where new data and reports are developed by functions, but integrating them into the central reporting infrastructure takes time. Here, the functions have no compelling need to drive this integration as they already have the information required. This tend to happen in large organizations.
These explanations are sensible and plausible. Fundamentally this is a human, not a technology problem. The challenge is what can you do to address data and reporting silo’s? In our experience, this issue can be solved in 4 ways
1. Create clear accountability in your team for liaising with and understanding developments in other functions. This is effective not only in terms of addressing data silo’s and is also a development opportunity for the individuals.
2. Create a data knowledge hub supported by cross functional experts. At its simplest, there is a forum in which representatives from each function meet and update on developments to ensure awareness and alignment.
To achieve this goal, a new team can also be created with responsibility for data and reporting, understanding the needs of users, facilitating their delivery and ensuring organisational wide awareness of data and reporting developments.
3. Foster a culture of inquisitiveness and learning. Eventually, sharing information in a company is about being genuinely curious and willing to learn beyond one's immediate remit. This is a strong management lever and it can have a great impact and motivation on your teams.
4. Create information sharing moments, beyond the usual moments, like a market research presented to a marketing or brand team. For instance, consider sharing market research highlights with your sales team or another brand. (NB often brands in a same company are not aware of what each other is doing !). This is a very good exercise to explain facts to others and trigger questions worth considering to deepen knowledge.
The reality of each Company is often complex and made of moving parts. Keeping track of what is happening in an organisation and ensuring it actually matters to your job, can be challenging. The right thing to do is to step back and analyse the current situation – and this is exactly what the opening case study consultancy project was about. Our role was to help identify opportunities to improve their ways of working, reporting and benchmark against best in class. This company should be applauded because they saw an opportunity to be “better at Data” and did something about it.
If you feel you have a lot of data and it is not fully leveraged as it should because of Silos, speak with us. We are a network of Marketing experts and can help you to better use information to deliver growth. [email protected]