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The Problem with Silos Is Politics
I read with much interest the Dodge Retort about silos ("Don't Bet the Farm on Silos," Feb. 2003 BiooIT World, page 82). I am new to bio-IT but not to silos. For years I worked with government agencies to help "un-silo" their legacy applications. The problem wasn't a technological barrier — it was pure politics.

Here's an example. A state's Medicaid analysts are looking at treatment efficacy and would like to examine the vital records of the state cross-matched with the treatments in a selected target set of patients. Unfortunately, the data is on three different systems. That's not the problem; the state owns a massive data warehouse with most of the Medicaid data already stored there. The technology for moving the data there is well understood. The problem, however, lies in who owns the data and how their system was funded. It comes down to who will pay to extract the vital statistics data and who will monitor adherence to the rules surrounding the data.

The challenge falls on the IT department. Now they must get someone to interpret the arcane federal and state rules surrounding the data sets and determine what type of security is involved before they can proceed.

I can sympathize with frustration over silos, but for the most part it isn't the IT world that created them that way; the IT staff created them because their users wanted them that way. More often than not, the strategy for a "de-siloed" environment must come from the top, from someone with the authority to say "make it so" and then take on the costs. Most IT departments I have worked with would love to play with the new tools but have been burned before. So don't blame the IT staff. They didn't create all those rules and budgets. They just implemented what they were asked to do.

Rick Rabe
Business Development Manager
Bull Services, USA

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