Silo-bashing is alive and well in both the ECM and Enterprise 2.0 spheres. Some great thinkers in content management are putting some well deserved boots to organizational and technological barriers to collaboration.

Silos

But...

I grew up on the Prairies. Silos were good things, not bad things. Been thinking about this topic a lot since my presentation at Gilbane San Francisco last month... trying to put my finger on what has started to bug me about this renewed silo-bashing movement.

What was the original purpose of a silo? It was to preserve and protect valuable goods - grains, food, even fuel. A safe dry place to keep stuff that was vital for survival. A secure location to put away nourishment and commercial goods for a harsh winter or until the market was ready to accept the goods at a fair price.

Haven't seen the negative part yet...

I think it's time to stop bashing the silos for what they are, and recognize where the real problem lies - it is with our inherent inability to properly harvest what is stored in the silos. Not the silos themselves.

My worry is that "silo" is becoming lazy shorthand for a set of assumptions that aren't entirely correct when looked at closely.

The root problem is not vendor lock-in or application lock-in, it's content lock-in. It is in the failure to appropriately find, move and consume content residing in some type of corporate system. If we define a silo in our ECM or E2.0 world, it's probably a repository of some kind. It's a self-contained collection of content and data that doesn't easily integrate to other self-contained collections to support the inherently horizontal flow of corporate information across its natural business lifecycle.

But we have hope today. With the rise of web services, of more open API layers, of open standards - particularly CMIS, we are at last approaching harvest season. And as we get there... won't we all be happy that our content is safe, and dry and ready to be used, protected by those silos...