Breaking Down Silos - Should You Do It?

Almost every conference related to collaboration and knowledge management has at least one lecture dedicated to breaking down silos. Has it become a buzz-phrase? 


It’s evident that in any organisation there are bound to be organisational silos. Usually, they are created by the same organisation to protect sensitive data, keep their employees focused on accomplishing the goals, and keep them away from irrelevant activities that are happening on other projects that can become distractions.


Silos serve a valid business purpose, so why should we get rid of them?



We can identify types of silos by the action they impede:


Collaboration on projects : Project silos obstruct sharing best practice information between teams working in similar ways towards similar goals. There is a valid need to break down these silos as there is a reasonable concern that vital information held by department A, which would make a material difference in a key decision, may not be taken into account because department B is not aware of its existence. These departments may end up competing instead of collaborating.


Collaboration across boundaries: Geographical silos impede collaboration across parts of an organisation that are in different geographical locations. If clear communication is cut off between distant units, people might start collaborating only with those around them. 


Collaboration between the same functions: Functional silos create an uncertainty about people’s roles, duties, and tasks. In companies that have not dealt with this type of silos, we have, for example, two salespeople who approach the same client unaware of each other’s actions. This may result in overlapping functions, increased costs, duplicated efforts and inconsistent decisions.


Access to information: These silos are created by barriers in sharing information. The most obvious example would be a hospital where health records of a patient are held in multiple databases which may cause the quality of service to drop (or something worse). 


Access to confidential information: Privacy silos are essential because they impede access to sensitive data by showing each person the information they have the rights to see. A specific set of access rights is required to create a workspace in which sensitive information is shared, kept and used. 


Access to technology: These silos fail to allow innovative technology to be shared freely across an organisation and reach other members that could benefit from it as well. Maximising resources can have a tremendous impact on productivity and bring leaders the tools they need to awaken the potential of their team.

What are the benefits of removing silos?


As you can see, it’s not that easy to say “ All we need to do is remove silos and collaboration will flourish”, as some of them are absolutely necessary. 


However, the benefits of removing unnecessary silos are huge, and a few come to mind such as enabling cross-functional collaboration, reducing duplicated efforts, benefiting from collective potential and innovating faster, but the most important one is knowledge retention.

Many collaboration software companies advertise all of these benefits as achievable, while simultaneously hindering knowledge retention. Knowledge is not being shared across multiple workspaces and consequently, enormous amounts of useful information are being trapped in informational silos.


The combined knowledge of employees is an invaluable asset and the engine that drives results but fails to collect and contextualise knowledge is the biggest waste of resources. We say collect, as the employees do share their knowledge, they just share it on platforms they feel most comfortable with. 

How do you remove silos?


The answer to this question is: “Don’t”. 




There is a big chance that by removing Silos you will dumb down knowledge to an information-centric approach, and information without context is not worth a lot. The right answer to this question would be linking and connecting between silos in real time, with clear context. This requires a specific technology architecture, algorithms, and approach that we believe we’ve managed to achieve. Ask us for a demo and find out how


Leave a comment

6 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

© 2024 Copyright TallyFox Social Technologies AG, Zurich, Switzerland | TallyFox complies to Swiss law and the Swiss Data Protection Act