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Are Information Silos Killing Your Firm’s Productivity And Potential?


Information silos and data silos are generally seen as negative today.

It’s easy to forget that silos were a virtue in corporate culture in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s, when people were taught to keep their content within the department or project team. The reasoning was that by never allowing information to be mixed or shared with other departments you protected the security and confidentiality of the information.

Knowledge silos tend to grow organically as a byproduct of the way people work in organizations. But now, these silos are generally recognized as detrimental to knowledge sharing, efficiency and innovation.

Breaking down these information silos has many potential benefits for professional services firms. Here are five worth considering:

  1. Better client outcomes: In a professional services firm or project-based organization, you’re often given a finite amount of time to achieve clearly defined outcomes and success factors for clients. Breaking down silos increases efficiency, saving time that could be used to deliver better outcomes to clients.
  2. Efficient problem solving: Different teams in your firm may be working on similar problems for similar projects — it doesn’t make sense for everyone to have to come up with their own solutions. Breaking down silos and improving knowledge sharing allows these teams to share lessons learned or steps they’ve taken, resulting in better, more efficient problem solving.
  3. Fostering innovation: When it’s easy to share ideas and lessons learned across the organization, it encourages people to develop new ideas and innovations. Employees start thinking outside the box when they aren’t constantly reinventing the wheel.
  4. Sharing expertise: Especially in professional services firms, people are your main assets. Information silos make it difficult to take inventory of all the strengths and experience people bring to the table, and those attributes are always changing and growing.Collaboration solutions help to break down those barriers between different departments and teams, making it easy to see who has expertise and experience with a certain industry, client or project type. This ability to identify and manage their expertise to the best effect makes a big difference.
  5. Bottom-line growth: Capturing any combination of the above four benefits would have a meaningful impact for a professional services firm. The ability to get more done in less time improves productivity and customer satisfaction, driving the firm’s profit margins and overall success.

Breaking down information silos requires improvements in technology as well as company culture.

In terms of technology, the metadata capabilities of many collaboration solutions are important in breaking down silos. With metadata, you use a common set of terms to classify content and people across the entire organization. This common vocabulary allows people to search for information and one another in the familiar terminology used at your firm. The technology serves as a conduit, allowing you to tag and search for information across any silos that exist.

Collaborative technology alone isn’t enough to create a digital workplace at your firm. Even when you make it possible for people to search across the information silos, it doesn’t mean people are going to change their habits.

To truly share ideas across the company, the culture has to shift, and come from the top down. Without support from the firm’s leaders, employees are often reluctant to share. No one wants to stick their neck out and get blamed for making information vulnerable to security risks or other problems.

When you improve the collaboration tools and culture, you’re building a network, where people and knowledge are connected to each other rather than distinct. Think of the firm’s knowledge and people as a collection of separate dots. Then, start connecting all the dots or people to each other, creating a spider web of interconnectivity and productivity.

Learn more about helping your organization leverage today’s digital workplace capabilities to improve productivity by contacting Portal Solutions 


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