Overcoming Information Barriers: Data Silos in the Cannabis World

Overcoming Information Barriers: Data Silos in the Cannabis World

As the cannabis industry rides the waves of rapid globalization and acceptance, it is evolving into a multi-billion-dollar sector. And with this sudden influx of money, has also come an influx of data. 

Unfortunately, the industry is evolving and growing faster than many businesses can keep up with, leading to roadblocks and obstacles that many businesses don’t have the infrastructure in place to adapt around. One such pressing issue is the compartmentalization of data within businesses, or “data silos” 

When these silos occur, information is isolated from other systems, limiting accessibility and collaboration, and making it nearly impossible for data-driven decision-making. 

The implications of siloed data 

Data silos often appear when various departments within a cannabis enterprise, from cultivation to processing, distribution, and even retail, employ distinct information systems. Different facets of a business often utilize different tools and solutions, each with their own data infrastructure and programming. Although taking on multiple solutions can ease the initial burden for businesses trying to build their tech stack, this approach can lead to major processing hurdles later down the road. 

The biggest drawback of this isolated data environment is limiting cross-departmental collaboration. Let’s paint a scenario: without a unified data system, cultivators might not be able to synchronize their production schedules with the sales trends identified by their retail and distributor outlets. This misalignment can lead to stock shortages, resulting in lost sales and disappointed customers. Conversely, it might also lead to overproduction, and in turn expired products and heavy storage expenditures over time. 

Root Causes of Data Silos in Cannabis 

To tackle this challenge head-on, it’s essential to first understand where it comes from. There are several major factors that contribute to the emergence of data silos: 

  • Segmented Business Models: As cannabis businesses expand, they often segment into specialized units. Each of these units, with their unique operational needs, can inadvertently craft their own data management methods, leading to isolated data pools. Dispensaries may be employing different systems for their point-of-sale (POS), inventory management, ordering, and digital marketing. Without integrating the above systems, managers and C-suite individuals can’t properly align their supply-chain with sales strategies. Likewise, suppliers and distributors often lack transparency between the products they’re pushing out and what’s actually selling on retail shelves.
  • Regulatory Complexity: The cannabis industry is heavily regulated, and these regulations can vary widely from one jurisdiction to another. A lack of central federal guidelines means each state is left up to its own devices to determine how businesses remain compliant, and this problem is only compounded as we delve down into individual counties and territories. Different stages of the supply chain also have different data they must report, making it extremely difficult for vertically integrated businesses to ensure they’re covered on all fronts. With these varying regulatory demands, different departments may adopt distinct data tracking systems, further deepening the data divide.
  • Industry Infancy: The relative newness of the cannabis industry means there’s a continual influx of specialized technological solutions. Very little in the industry is standardized at this point, meaning each solution has its own approach to both data governance as well as data definitions. While these tools might be tailored to address specific needs, they can sometimes exacerbate data isolation if not chosen with integration in mind.

Challenges presented by data silos

Persisting with data silos introduces several operational hurdles. On a macro scale, isolated data complicates streamlining processes across the business chain. It introduces inconsistencies, creating a ripple effect that might not only compromise the quality of end products, but the efficiency in getting them into consumer hands. 

Additionally, the overhead of managing multiple data systems can strain resources, both in terms of manpower and finances. Within the tightly regulated framework of the cannabis industry, these inconsistencies can magnify into compliance violations. This can lead to hefty fines, reputational damage, or in extreme cases, business closures. It takes just one failed audit to incur devastating losses, especially for smaller businesses that lack the capital to cushion heavier blows.

Strategies to overcome data silos

Bridging the data divide demands a two-pronged approach—technological adaptations coupled with organizational cultural shifts. 

  1. Promoting a collaborative data culture: The first step is to build an organizational ethos that places immense value on data-driven decision-making. Staff and management alike need to prioritize the value of data and adopt the mindset that “data is key.” 

Such a culture should incentivize cross-departmental collaborations, fostering an environment where data sharing becomes the norm rather than the exception. 

  1. Unified data systems: Technological investments play a pivotal role. By adopting systems like industry-specific ERPs or advanced data integration tools, businesses can usher in a centralized data management paradigm. Such platforms not only facilitate data integration but also enhance analytics capabilities. 
  2. Data governance: Instituting a robust data governance framework ensures there are clear policies regarding data access and manipulation. This promotes data integrity and accuracy, striking a balance between facilitating data accessibility as well as maintaining regulatory compliance. 

The role of data analytics 

In today’s digital age, analytics may just be the cannabis industry’s biggest ally. Contemporary analytics solutions, especially those leveraging cloud technology, offer robust platforms to centralize, integrate, and analyze data. This allows businesses to harness insights from seed-to-sale and empower their overarching business strategies. By breaking down data silos, the cannabis industry can ensure operational agility and enhance customer satisfaction, positioning itself for sustained growth in a rapidly evolving landscape.


John Kievit

John Kievit is Vice President of Goods and Services, Industry Strategy, and Business Development at CannaBI® Analytics, an end-to-end data solution built specifically for the cannabis industry. Built on Dimensional Insight technology (an industry leader in wine and spirits for the past 30 years), CannaBI delivers integration, analytics, and KPIs for cannabis businesses at every level of the supply chain. On top of providing a 360-degree view of your entire business, CannaBI is also METRC-certified and provides live data from LeafLink and NABIS.

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