In any business, a silo mentality can be a problem. The term silo is used in business to refer to the corporate structure where groups of individuals doing a similar job role or in the same area of expertise stay in that area, and don’t communicate with other parts of the business.
For construction businesses, this can lead to mismatched data, duplicate documents sent to customers and even cause issues with compliance. Silo mentalities are damaging to productivity and can cause money to be lost.
But how do you know if you’re working in silos, and how can you, ultimately, break them down?
Does Your Business Have a Silo Mentality?
Silo working can be harder to identify if it is simply just the way you’ve always worked. There are a few key ways you can identify if you’re working in silos, which we’ve listed below:
1. Poor Customer Experience
If a customer receives three similar messages from different points of contact in the company, this can lead to a poor customer experience. If you regularly have customers reminding you that another contact point told them the same information previously to other key contact points in the business, it may be time to address your silo mentality.
2. Misinformed Communications
If your marketing or press teams are sending out content that doesn’t accurately reflect what’s actually happening on-site or in the company, silo working could be the cause. A lack of clear information across a company causes large swathes of misinformed communications.
3. Duplication of Work
Finally, if you find that processes are accidentally duplicating work, such as your payroll team manually calculating hours when hours are logged on site, then you may be working in a siloed company.
How to Break Down Silos
1. Digitise Your Processes
Many construction companies continue to rely on paper documents, rather than going digital. This can result in incomplete, incorrect or illegible forms and time wasted in chasing up or finding missing documents, all of which have an impact on productivity and profitability. It can also cause compliance problems with incoming laws, such as the Building Safety Act.
By digitising your processes and setting up a central database, you can provide a single source of truth for all authorised personnel. Within a few clicks, they will have an unobstructed view of key work documents relevant to their role, and you will know that all forms have been filled in correctly, in full and stored safely. Tools like RedSky’s document management system offer a user-friendly solution.
2. Empower Leaders
Leaders and managers need to be given the authority to remove silos. Without clear routes to integrate teams, or remove single person bottlenecks, a silo mentality can never be removed.
To address silo working, enable key stakeholders within the business to contact other teams and record the outcome of their discussions. For example, if your quantity surveyor reaches out to the manager of a completed project to find out how it all went, they should add a note of the conversation to the system, so that any pertinent insights are shared.
Similarly, encouraging collaboration on tender, procurement or other site documents can be hugely beneficial to ongoing projects. Digital storage enables vast quantities of data to be organised logically in a central location, to facilitate collaboration.
3. Encourage “Job Swaps”
C-Suite executives and senior leadership teams may have outdated ideas or little information about what it’s actually like to put their processes into place. As such, some construction companies, especially on grad schemes, will often offer twice annually or annual job swaps.
This is where head office teams will visit a site and see how company processes or digital changes actually work in practice. It may be something as simple as assisting with a delivery and goods received note to see how this works with a new software, or even seeing how works in practice.
Exercises like this can help to break down knowledge silos and encourage collaboration between head office and site workers.
4. Regularly Revisit Reporting
Reports can help to expose knowledge gaps and silo thinking within an organisation. They can also be used to check that any identified shortcomings have been addressed.
For example, a weekly site report provides all relevant stakeholders with the information they need to carry out their work. It also keeps teams informed of progress, in case they need to pick up work, adjust the scope or work on a project in the future.
It’s important to revisit regular reports to check that they continue to meet the needs of the intended recipients, as well as the business overall. One large report with multiple information points for different employees may be too daunting to read – so consider splitting it up into manageable ‘chunks’ instead.
That’s where digital dashboards like RedSky’s construction analytics come into their own. With RedSky you can use our off-the-shelf standard dashboards or create tailored, user-friendly dashboards in a matter of minutes, to provide valuable operational and business intelligence.
For example, a site manager would want to view data relevant to their own project, whereas a contacts manager would be interested in the overall performance of all projects, and may want to ‘drill down to the details’ for any anomalous results.
5. Eliminate Silo Thinking From the Outset
A construction project is always labour-intensive, from ideation and design right through to the start of construction activities on site. However, without a clear and robust communication strategy, employees may be left in the dark about the part they will be expected to play in achieving the project’s objectives.
To eliminate silo working and a silo mentality from the get-go, relevant information must be readily available to everyone who needs it. Some companies have management systems that tell workers where to go to find policies, process maps, forms and templates as well as guidance documents.
They may also provide a type of digital filing system where key project related documents (controlled information) should be stored. This can sometimes be dedicated by customers and detailed as part of employer information requirements (EIR) within contractual documentation.
6. Implement Collaborative Construction Software
If you’re still working with legacy construction software, or even a series of documents stored in a single folder, you’re missing out on the many efficiencies that can be achieved by using modern, collaborative construction software, such as RedSky’s ERP solution.
A collaborative approach can enhance knowledge across the organisation, reduce unnecessary duplication, strengthen the ‘golden thread’ of information truth and improve overall profitability.
Here’s what James Sargeant, Financial Controller at Swift Brickwork Contractors, said about migrating to RedSky’s ERP solution: “Currently POs are being raised outside the system. Once we’ve migrated, we’ll be using RedSky for all our processes and will have complete visibility of our financial commitments. Information silos and workarounds will be eliminated because everyone will be working with live system data and we’ll have one version of the truth.”
Discover how RedSky’s ERP Could Eliminate Silos in your Company
At RedSky we simplify construction projects for thousands of firms across the UK, Europe and the Middle East. See how our award-winning construction software can help you to eradicate silo working and improve collaboration across your organisation.