Information silo
An information silo is a management system
Management system
A management system is the framework of processes and procedures used to ensure that an organization can fulfill all tasks required to achieve its objectives....

 incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related management systems. A bank's management system, for example, is considered a silo if it cannot exchange information with other related systems within its own organization, or with the management systems of its customers, vendors, or business partners. "Information silo" is a pejorative
Pejoratives , including name slurs, are words or grammatical forms that connote negativity and express contempt or distaste. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social groups but not in others, e.g., hacker is a term used for computer criminals as well as quick and clever computer experts...

 expression that is useful for describing the absence of operational reciprocity. Derived variants are "silo thinking", "silo vision", and "silo mentality".

The expression is typically applied to management systems where the focus is inward and information communication is vertical. Critics of silos contend that managers serve as information gatekeepers, making timely coordination and communication among departments difficult to achieve, and seamless interoperability with external parties impractical. They hold that silos tend to limit productivity in practically all organizations, provide greater opportunity for security lapses and privacy breaches, and frustrate consumers who increasingly expect information to be immediately available and complete. Although much has been written about them, information silos are becoming far more recognized as the major reason why organizations are unable to take full advantage of the Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

's power to interconnect business processes.

Silo effect

the phrase "silo effect", popular in the business and organizational communities, refers to a lack of communication
Organizational communication
Organizational communication is a subfield of the larger discipline of communication studies. Organizational communication, as a field, is the consideration, analysis, and criticism of the role of communication in organizational contexts....

 and common goals between departments
Departmentalization refers to the process of grouping activities into departments.Division of labour creates specialists who need coordination. This coordination is facilitated by grouping specialists together in departments....

 in an organization
An organization is a social group which distributes tasks for a collective goal. The word itself is derived from the Greek word organon, itself derived from the better-known word ergon - as we know `organ` - and it means a compartment for a particular job.There are a variety of legal types of...

. It is the opposite of systems thinking
Systems thinking
Systems thinking is the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. In nature, systems thinking examples include ecosystems in which various elements such as air, water, movement, plants, and animals work together to survive or perish...

 in an organization. The silo effect gets its name from the farm storage silo
Storage silo
A silo is a structure for storing bulk materials. Silos are used in agriculture to store grain or fermented feed known as silage. Silos are more commonly used for bulk storage of grain, coal, cement, carbon black, woodchips, food products and sawdust. Three types of silos are in widespread use...

; each silo is designated for one specific grain.

A lack of communication causes departmental thinking to lack ideas from other departments. A notable example of the silo effect in the real world is the beer distribution game
Beer Distribution Game
The Beer Distribution Game is a simulation game created by a group of professors at MIT Sloan School of Management in early 1960s to demonstrate a number of key principles of supply chain management. The game is played by teams of at least four players, often in heated competition, and takes from...

, whose goal is to meet customer demand for cases of beer, through a multi-stage supply chain with minimal expenditure on back orders and inventory. Communication is against the rules so feelings of confusion and disappointment are common.

Another, slightly more academic, suggestion as to the term silo effect focuses on the gradual draining of the entire silo's grain from a remarkably small opening in the bottom. The homogeneous state of the entire volume
Volume is the quantity of three-dimensional space enclosed by some closed boundary, for example, the space that a substance or shape occupies or contains....

 of grain makes it highly susceptible to small changes as they occur further and further down. This is because gravity, although apparently "unimportant" to a fully contained silo, suddenly shows itself to be an underlying force binding every single grain—something which becomes apparent when an "anomaly" occurs at the bottom. Moreover, the nature of grain makes it an excellent example of a "poorly connected" substance, prone to cascades of extreme collapse when they occur in favor of the systems overriding unified force. In this case, gravity. If the grain were more like a soapy foam
-Definition:A foam is a substance that is formed by trapping gas in a liquid or solid in a divided form, i.e. by forming gas regions inside liquid regions, leading to different kinds of dispersed media...

, or even a gel
A gel is a solid, jelly-like material that can have properties ranging from soft and weak to hard and tough. Gels are defined as a substantially dilute cross-linked system, which exhibits no flow when in the steady-state...

, such a terrible collapse would be intrinsically averted, by means of the distributed multidirectional stability of its parts.

Information silo technologies

From a technology viewpoint, silos are managed by computer systems that do not provide efficient machine communication systems to other computers. In this view, "silo technologies" limit what software developers can do, and are the reason organizations must employ middleware
Middleware is computer software that connects software components or people and their applications. The software consists of a set of services that allows multiple processes running on one or more machines to interact...

 and web service
Web service
A Web service is a method of communication between two electronic devices over the web.The W3C defines a "Web service" as "a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network". It has an interface described in a machine-processable format...

s to overcome the limitations of disparate systems. While effective for addressing specific needs, middleware and web services are considered stopgap measures because they must be applied on a case-by-case basis and cannot achieve business process interoperability
Business process interoperability
Business process interoperability is a property referring to the ability of diverse business processes to work together, to so called "inter-operate"....

 among all disparate management systems worldwide.

Silo technologies restrict the capabilities of the applications which manage much of the world's structured information. Databases are the time-tested way of storing, using and safeguarding vital enterprise business procedures and data. Most of every organization's computerized information is controlled by database applications, including all the "back end" data on the web. While many applications are very capable, even the most sophisticated are built with silos in mind, all but assuring that the business procedures and data in one maker's system will be unable to interact with similar—or even identical―business procedures and data in another maker's system. The vast number of incompatible database applications in use perpetuates the existence of silos, making it impossible for run-the-business software to take full advantage of the Internet.

See also

  • Enterprise application integration
    Enterprise application integration
    Enterprise Application Integration is defined as the use of software and computer systems architectural principles to integrate a set of enterprise computer applications.- Overview :...

  • Data warehouse
    Data warehouse
    In computing, a data warehouse is a database used for reporting and analysis. The data stored in the warehouse is uploaded from the operational systems. The data may pass through an operational data store for additional operations before it is used in the DW for reporting.A data warehouse...

  • Metadata publishing
    Metadata publishing
    Metadata publishing is the process of making metadata data elements available to external users, both people and machines using a formal review process and a commitment to change control processes....

  • Walled garden
  • Islands of automation
    Islands of automation
    Islands of automation was a popular term used largely during the 1980s to describe how rapidly developing automation systems were at first unable to communicate easily with each other. Industrial communication protocols, network technologies, and system integration helped to improve this situation...

External links

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