The increasing IT skills of marketing professionals and general office workers, coupled with the ease of use of modern technology is creating new and worrying ‘micro-silos’ of data amongst UK SME business, putting productivity, compliance and the bottom line at risk.
The research, from database experts FileMaker, highlights that whilst the technology available to UK businesses has never been better, end users are taking IT policies into their own hands.
In doing so they are creating dangerous micro-silos of data within their organisations, typified by crucial documents being locked away on individual PCs / email accounts and creating a wilderness of data outside existing policies and processes.
The ‘Business Information Silos’ research report from FileMaker also found
· Marketing professionals create compliance chaos – 42% of marketing professionals were seen as the worst offenders of customising critical databases that lead to serious workflow/compliance issues
· Poor IT planning – 64% of respondents believe their business suffers from a micro-silo mentality when it comes to company information, with almost half (45%) believing this is a result of poor IT management
· Diluted IT skills – It appears that the most junior and most senior employees have the lowest IT skills, with this situation increasing as the business size grows. Only 1 in 5 of business directors in companies of 20+ people stated having high IT skills
· IT free-styling – 77% of businesses think it is easier to create/customise critical business applications than three years ago, resulting in essential data residing with single users
· Self-taught IT – A third of IT managers (33%) have no formal IT qualifications, and are either self-taught or trained on the job, with 40% also coping with a dual role of director (41%) or operations manager (36%)
Silo mentality is a well-documented phenomenon within many businesses, usually referring to departmental barriers, however the new findings expose two new kinds of behaviour.
The first, evident in 60% of responses, is created by employees harbouring critical information in their email or on local hard drives, which left unchecked results in the value of company information being eroded or never fully realised.
The second is generated through user manipulation. Two thirds of companies admitted to creating new ad hoc files outside existing processes.
Regional manager Northern Europe, FileMaker, Tony Speakman, said, “This research highlights that critical information management is being seriously harmed. Not just by simple bad habits but also by users actively creating, and in some cases unintentionally distorting, information to suit their own needs.
“These findings should provide a real wake up call. Whilst increased autonomy and a greater spread of IT skills can lead to a more fluid use of business information, SMEs must quickly rethink their information needs and processes”.
How to avoid a micro-silo mentality developing in your business
1. Integrate the micro silos in your business: Encourage employees to save and share information centrally and promote collaboration both within and across departments
2. Identify common data management challenges at source: Is there a clear written policy in terms of what is and is not acceptable use of IT by employees or is data abused by poor IT management?
3. Understand user behaviour: Hoarding of information is often a symptom rather than a cause of silo mentality. For example a mobile workforce that is not served by the current IT system will often use email as a default business drive because accessing the network is too cumbersome
4. Target key areas as a catalyst for change: Who are the database rebels in your organisation and how can you better support them? If certain roles in the business place greater strain on IT controls, perhaps more support, education, or even restriction is required in these areas
5. Differentiate between data for sharing and data for individuals: Identify which data needs to be used either by more than one person or for more than one purpose. Choose the appropriate location and tool for that data and then do not compromise on the implementation of a process that protects that data. BUT do allow data used by only one person to be handled in the way they wish
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