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Silos Causing Chaos in Your Day to Day?

by Josh Goldstein 03/25/2021

A salesman in doubt can not find the solution to the problem concept with curvy lined arrows and question marks drawn on urban wall-1

Getting ready for work in the morning, I often find myself running through my list of tasks for the day and mentally figuring out which systems and tools I must use to get everything done. There are the repositories I must search to retrieve the information I need, communication tools to connect and collaborate with colleagues (all virtual at the moment), and productivity tools where everything comes together to create new assets and new knowledge. If you find yourself doing the same thing and feel overwhelmed by the complex maze of disjointed tools and systems, you my friend are caught in the silo rabbit hole.

According to a Symantec report, the average large enterprise has over 900 cloud applications in use. Even when I talk with friends at SMBs, the list of tools they use regularly quickly adds up to dozens. And for all the power offered by these tools, most agree navigating among them is a joyless tax on productivity. Especially when it comes to search. Trying to find the information we need across countless repositories is a time-consuming process. In the past I struggled to find my own documents let alone documents created and shared by colleagues. No wonder we still spend so much time searching and too often recreate existing work. It’s just too difficult to find what we need. But what if we could just “Google it” to find enterprise information? What if the information we need was easily and instantly available? What if it navigated to us? That would be perfect.

Let’s dive into this vision of a perfect digital workplace. Historically, the logic has been that to deliver great search and a unified experience we need to, well… unify everything. We need to move and aggregate data from disparate information sources into a single repository, index it all, and finally have everything searchable in one place. Then we can integrate this search within other tools. And if we’re big enough like Microsoft, we can aggregate productivity apps, search, and communication into a unified experience. It makes sense. It sounds like it should work. But the cracks appear when we put the theory into practice.

Here’s an analogy for enterprise search: Imagine you are painting a red house. You know you have the tools and supplies necessary for the job. But when you open your garage, it’s a mess. You have three cabinets with paint, multiple storage rooms for tools, ladders scattered everywhere, etc. All you need is to find the red paint. The enterprise search approach is to move everything in your garage and place a copy in another, neater garage with a well-organized inventory. This takes a lot of time and effort. And there’s probably an old closet that wasn’t worth carrying over. And over time new tools are purchased that don’t fit the initial inventory. And maybe the red you need isn’t in your garage but at the hardware store – or your neighbor has some. So, after all that time and effort, you still can’t find the red paint.

This is the problem with the one place for everything approach. It focuses on the means of organizing content and tools rather than the ends of empowering people with what they need. Everything people need cannot be contained in a single place. Period. There will always be essential information and tools which fall outside the orbit of the one place rules them all paradigm. So, what’s the alternative?

Let’s go back to the red paint. What if we had an assistant who just knew where everything was? They don’t just know where everything is in the garage but also under the sink, and the local hardware store, and maybe even our neighbor’s garage (Don’t forget to ask!). All we have to do is call down from our ladder. Or better yet, what if that assistant just handed us the paint when we needed it.

This is the silo-agnostic model. It pursues user empowerment through a significantly different approach; instead of asking how we can unify users’ experiences in one space, it asks how we can make users’ experiences universally better in any space. It leverages cloud and connected technologies to deliver a digital silo-agnostic gofer which liberates us from all that time searching for and managing knowledge and information so we can focus on achieving the critical tasks we need to complete today.

Here are four key differentiators that separate silo-agnostic solutions from the legacy silo-centric approaches.

  1. Digital transformation without data migration: Enterprise search projects move, index, and reindex data. As data grows exponentially and new silos appear, this are ongoing tasks to maintain and expand the search silo. In addition to the time and expense to move data, there are the inevitable choices of what to include and exclude. Unlike enterprise search, a silo-agnostic search broker can connect to sources faster without moving data, and this enables a broader reach to connect legacy sources as well as public and even paid sources in a single universal search.
  2. Complement and Supplement rather than Compete and Replace: Organizations spend a lot of time and effort to implement enterprise search tools, but often employee satisfaction with even the best enterprise search tools erodes as maintenance lapses and new topics and information sources emerge. There is understandable fatigue and skepticism that yet another search undertaking will solve the problem. Silo-agnostic solutions add value to existing tools and tap into that under-realized benefits of existing investments with better user experiences and employee engagement.
  3. Ubiquity vs Monopoly: Silo-agnosticism is all about liberating rather than mandating how people work. The value proposition of a unified “one platform for all your work” depends on adoption and conforming workflows within the bounds of the platform. If, however, the value proposition is independent of any one platform, the technology delivers value by adapting to users – not the other way around.
  4. Illumination of user activity data: Silos are a double-edged sword that affect both the user and the technology. The user only gets value when they go to the silo; the technology only learns about the user when they go to the silo. Legacy enterprise searches do not know or learn the context of the search, what other sources were also searched, and what result was ultimately best. In contrast, silo-agnosticism delivers broad value and gains a broad understanding of users. Compared to enterprise search, a silo-agnostic search conducted in the flow or work builds a rich canvas of context, content, sources, and activity to paint a picture of users and create a rich data graph to drive personalization.

With no data migration and a user-centric architecture, silo-agnostic tools make it easy to scale solutions across many systems and sources while delivering a more engaging and seamless experience. As touched upon above, this has the positive side-effect of generating user activity data to drive personalization and propel a virtuous cycle of ever more engaging and personalized digital workplace experiences. We will dive further into this personalization in another post. For now, we would love to hear from you and share how we are putting silo-agnosticism into practice at Keeeb.

Reach out to start a conversation.