What Is an Information Silo?

An information silo is an information management system that is unable to freely communicate with other information management systems. Communication within an information silo is always vertical, making it difficult or impossible for the system to work with unrelated systems. Information silos can exist within a variety of businesses.

Information silos are created when management does not believe there to be enough benefit from sharing information, and access to information might not be useful to personnel in other systems.

Key Takeaways

  • An information silo is an information management system that is self-contained and either can't communicate with other systems or can only communicate with great difficulty.
  • Information may be in a silo because a company's management doesn't see the benefit of integrating the system with others, or because it does not want to foot the bill to make the necessary changes.
  • Silos can protect critical information, but can also create redundancy, confusion, the spreading of misinformation due to the lack of transparency, and ultimately inefficiency.

Understanding Information Silos

Information silos may also exist because managers control the flow of information and access to the silo, meaning that they have an incentive to maintain the status quo. Additionally, the costs associated with integrating the information systems may not justify a change.

An example of an information silo would be the electronic management system used for medical records. Hospitals within a network may be able to exchange information on the patient, but out-of-network facilities may not know of pre-existing problems that could help with the diagnosis because the medical record system is not designed to "talk" to other information systems.

How Information Silos Work

An information silo is created when departments or groups within an organization choose not to share information or allow for knowledge to be exchanged through information systems with other groups of individuals in the same organization. When different departments in a business do not share the same priorities and work with different sets of data, management may create an environment that discourages communication and collaboration between groups.

Problems Created by Information Silos

An information silo can result in problems such as a duplication of effort and redundant job roles. Silos may lead to the development of contrasting systems that can lead to an increase in costs and a lack of synergy. A bottleneck in information results in inefficiency as different departments may be working with a series of alternate understandings for completion of a project. This can easily lead to a number of missed opportunities for the business, or in the worst case, contribute to the overall failure of a company.

As groups work separately and continue to restrict shared access to information and systems, it becomes more difficult to create a consensus on priorities for the entire company. This could lead to employee frustration and result in missed deadlines, misplaced priorities, or an outright failure to achieve business goals. When information is not readily available across the organization, it can result in faulty decision-making based on inaccurate or out-of-date data.