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The Problem of Information Silos

The very solutions that were meant to help enterprises tackle the information management challenge led to a multiplicity of tools and, thus, silos, say Sumeet Anand & Nafay Kumail

Information management faces the twin-challenge of information overload and information being locked in disparate systems, commonly known as silos. Enough has been said as to how fast information is stacking up and how the resulting clutter is posing a serious challenge. So, here we will focus on the problem of silos.

That silos exist in the information management system is an established fact. That it hurts organizations by preventing quick problem-solving is also a reality. The existence of silos also betrays a false sense of satisfaction that information is being gathered and is available while it remains locked in disparate systems. Hence, the very idea of collaboration and free communication is being challenged by products and solutions that in fact claim to solve the problem.

Interestingly, solutions applied to solve the information challenge and for information discovery and collaboration led to multiplicity of tools, which resulted in silos. Solutions such as social networks, search appliances, micro blogging, content management, document management, file sharing, wikis, blogs, RSS, bookmarking and analytics ended up creating silos and failed to bring everyone on the same proverbial page.

Further, wiki pages/spaces also remain as separate silos and do not get into a unified knowledge base—a case of silos within silos. Also, in some traditional products, a user needs to make multiple copies of the same post under different forums or wiki spaces. This further segregates the knowledge base and creates more silos.

In fact, traditional products that currently dominate the market are still modules based products and hence by design create more information silos.

A unified approach
What we need is a unified paradigm for capturing, storing, organizing and searching content as well as people. We should avoid focusing on individual features or hurried cobbling together of features such as wikis, blogs, forums, bookmarking, Q&A, micro blogs, networking and folksonomy separately. People are one and their needs interdependent. Hence, a dozen different silo capabilities are not the answer.

We should also avoid a feature-based comparison at the time of deciding about a particular product or solution. We should rather look at compliance to overall requirements. As we already suffer from a complex stack of applications, all as separate silos, going forward, we must look at unification, simplification, usability and interoperability of the technology platform. It should be a platform solution that also gives us the power to customize and create a solution more relevant to each individual scenario.

Also, in today’s era of real-time communication and collaboration, it is an imperative that products and solutions offer real-time content organization and management to curb silos which hamper knowledge enhancements, responsiveness and productivity.

Even if we evaluate the current scenario from the limited perspective of knowledge creation, the available solutions clearly fail to avoid creating silos. We should remember that creation of knowledge is all about the process of learning and related mechanisms and not treat e-learning, KM, collaboration, etc., as separate silos. A platform technology with embedded best practices related to KM and collaboration and a unified framework is the answer.

Sumeet Anand is Founder CEO and S.M. Nafay Kumail is Co-Founder of Kreeo (i-nable Solutions), a technology startup in the Enterprise 2.0 and collective intelligence space.

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