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Application silos are easy to build – Nadhan’s top 5 reasons

In this post on Moving apps to cloud: What to do with piles of legacy code, HP Blogger Nancy Lichtle talks about application silos gathering dust on the shelf. Application Silos - this is an often used term to indicate a pervasive problem that has steadily expanded across enterprises over the years. Given the high frequency of the application silo rearing its ugly head in multiple strategic discussions around enterprise transformation, I am thinking that it must be relatively easy to put one in place.


Individual business units with a degree of autonomy harbor an excellent environment for birth and nourishment of application silos. Thus, the typical scenario is that of a business unit working to do what they think is best for their unit – rather than what is right for the enterprise at large. Why is this the case? What are the reasons that drive business units to create these application silos?


Here are my thoughts on the top 5 reasons why application silos are more the norm than the rare exception that they should be:


Process. Business Units looking to implement the next application are typically dealing with the enablement of business processes pertinent to them. While doing so, business units tend to define or create new processes that best cater to their needs without looking to reuse or align with similar processes in other parts of the enterprise. This approach establishes a fertile ground for the growth and nourishment of application silos.


Strategy. The Business Unit defines the strategy that best meets its own needs both from a business and IT standpoint. This may or may not be in line with the strategy at an enterprise level. Short term gains for the business unit are given precedence over long-term challenges for the enterprise.  


Application. Existing applications within the enterprise with similar functionality are not given any consideration. Enterprise level applications that enable these processes are not considered either. This is based upon concerns that other applications may not effectively meet the specific requirements for the given business unit. Let us do things our way for what is right for us – not the enterprise.


Data. To ensure that data is generated and consumed in a manner that is most conducive to the given operations of this business unit, other systems and applications that work with the same or similar data are not taken into consideration. Data duplication results across the repositories in the enterprise resulting in ambiguous data. There is no clear definition of the repository that most accurately represents the value for any given data item. System of record becomes a casualty within the enterprise.


Governance. The governance is driven within the business unit with limited to no participation by the stakeholders from peer business units or the enterprise at large.


These are the reasons why application silos have steadily surfaced over the years – and continue to do so. The pattern spreads and with the repeated manifestation of such silos, the CIO is suddenly faced with the challenge of multiple disconnected applications with redundant functionality and data. Hello, Enterprise Transformation GPS, show me the way!


But then, enterprises have now seen this happen repeatedly over the years and realize that they have to:

  • conform to the standardized business process
  • align with the corporate business and IT strategy
  • re-use existing application solutions
  • avoid duplication of data and
  • ensure there is appropriate governance in place.

Or, will they? What do you think?


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