An information silo, or a group of such silos, is an insular management system in which one information system or subsystem is incapable of reciprocal operation with others that are, or should be, related. Thus information is not adequately shared but rather remains sequestered within each system or subsystem, figuratively trapped within a container like grain is trapped within a silo: there may be much of it, and it may be stacked quite high and freely available within those limits, but it has no effect outside those limits. Such data silos are proving to be an obstacle for businesses wishing to use data mining to make productive use of their data.
Information silos occur whenever a data system is incompatible or not integrated with other data systems. This incompatibility may occur in the technical architecture, in the application architecture, or in the data architecture of any data system. However, since it has been shown that established data modeling methods are the root cause of the data integration problem,  most data systems are at least incompatible in the data architecture layer.
In understanding organizational behaviour, the term silo mentality often refers to a mindset which creates and maintains information silos within an organization. A silo mentality is created by the divergent goals of different organizational units: it is defined by the Business Dictionary as "a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company". It can also be described as a variant of the principal-agent problem.[clarification needed]
A silo mentality primarily occurs in larger organizations and can lead to poorer performance and has a negative impact on the corporate culture. Silo mentalities can be countered by the introduction of shared goals, the increase of internal networking activities and the flattening of hierarchies.
Predictors for the occurrence of silos are
- Number of employees
- Number of organizational units within the whole organization
- Degree of specialization
- Number of different incentive mechanisms.
Gleeson and Rozo suggest that a silo mindset "does not appear accidentally ... more often than not, silos are the result of a conflicted leadership team. Creating a "unified leadership team" is seen as a key remedy which will "encourage trust, create empowerment, and break managers out of their 'my department' mentality and into the 'our organization' mentality".
The term functional silo syndrome was coined in 1988 by Phil S. Ensor (1931–2018) who worked in organizational development and employee relations for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and Eaton Corporation, and as a consultant. "Silo" and "stovepipe" (as in "stovepipe organization" and "stovepipe system") are now used interchangeably and applied broadly. Phil Ensor's use of the term "silo" reflects his rural Illinois origins and the many grain silos he would pass on return visits as he contemplated the challenges of the modern organizations with which he worked.
- Bounded rationality
- Business process interoperability
- Closed platform (a.k.a. walled garden or closed ecosystem)
- Data architecture
- Data integration
- Data warehouse
- Disparate system – Data processing system without interaction with other computer data processing systems
- Enterprise application integration
- Interdisciplinarity – Combination of two or more academic disciplines into one activity
- Islands of automation
- Metadata publishing
- "Incompatible Data Silos". Retrieved 2018-02-19.
- Quoted in Gleeson, B. and Rozo, M., The Silo Mentality: How To Break Down The Barriers, Forbes Magazine, published 2 October 2013, accessed 20 November 2020
- "Silo mentality in companies". Archived from the original on 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-05-26.
- Ensor, Phil (Spring 1988). "The Functional Silo Syndrome" (PDF). AME Target: 16. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
- AME Study Group on Functional Organization (Summer 1988). "Organizational Renewal – Tearing Down the Functional Silos" (PDF). AME Target: 4-16. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
- Pullin, James (Winter 1989). "Breaking Down the Functional Silos: Motorola Paging Division "Bandit" Plant" (PDF). AME Target. Retrieved 2013-10-19.
- "Of Silos and Stovepipes". Language Log. University of Pennsylvania. 2006-03-27. Retrieved 2013-10-19.