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information silo

An information silo is a business division or group of employees within an organization that fails to communicate freely or effectively with other groups, including management. When an organization's culture does not encourage employees to share knowledge and work collaboratively, information silos can grow quite quickly and prevent the organization from responding to changing market conditions in an agile manner.

Although the terms information silo and data silo are sometimes used as synonyms, information silos are most often considered to be a cultural problem caused by people who fail to share information, while data silos are the result of technology that hinders collaboration. It is important to note that cultural information silos are often reinforced by technology and business processes that do not support collaboration.

In healthcare, for example, clinical, financial and operational data may be stored and managed by different business divisions in different buildings, each using different software and management tools. Because disparate data systems may have unique validation rules, formats and key identifiers, it can be very difficult for groups to exchange information even when they know that sharing information and providing all interested parties with the same comprehensive view of patient data will result in better care.

In software development, it’s increasingly important for organizations to break down the information silos that exist among the project teams responsible for different development functions. Now that cloud computing and software-defined networking (SDN) have removed some of the technical blocks to collaboration, it is expected that the DevOps movement will knock down the information silos built by task specialization and fundamentally change the way software is built and managed.

This was last updated in January 2016

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