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Organizational silos present challenges to coordination and collaboration in any business. Construction businesses, however, by their very nature, are particularly susceptible to their creation. Each construction project requires participation by internal staff, on-site workers, contractors, subcontractors and material suppliers. These divisions often have unique processes and systems that work in isolation. Without proper intervention and deliberate design, silos form and become entrenched in the way businesses operate. 

As a direct result of silo formation, organizations become extremely reliant on individual processes working perfectly every time. Inertia can make responding to changes in the project or to human error more difficult than it needs to be.

A survey on collaboration in construction companies by Dropbox revealed that 63% of employees believed their organization needed substantial improvements to collaborative working. With increased collaboration, employees believe they would be able to improve operational efficiency and deliver success on a more consistent basis. 

The Obstacles to Coordination in Construction 

Multiple data sources

As software solutions achieve greater levels of penetration in corporations, the amount of data collected at different levels increases. Without a proper data management program in place, information ends up being scattered in different places. Despite discussing the problem of information silos for the last decade, businesses have not dealt with this; and as software takes over more duties within organizations, integrating multiple data sources becomes even more important.

This causes huge problems for collaboration as various business divisions might have different versions of a particular document. Directing multiple teams to work collaboratively towards a single goal can be difficult when the teams are working with outdated material and on different platforms. 

Inconsistent data access across teams

Construction businesses often have divisions that require different sets of data that are relevant to different groups within the organization. Once these divisions develop a silo mentality, there is little chance of cross-department collaboration due to the narrow vision afforded to them by their limited information access.

A recent survey showed that a third of employees consider cross-departmental knowledge sharing to be a catalyst for collaboration. The lack of information access across departments only further entrenches teams into their silos and removes any incentive for them to collaborate and find ways to improve existing processes. This puts the burden of improvement on business leaders who might not be aware of operational issues plaguing their team. 

Low-quality communication

A key tenet of successful collaboration is effective communication. In the construction industry, miscommunication can be an expensive mistake to resolve. Construction Junkie recently reported that the median cost of rework is 9% of the total cost of a project. Rework can be required as a direct result of a lack of communication between departments. Miscommunication and inconsistent instructions can be costly because they increase the time needed to complete a project.

Since demand for construction services is increasing rapidly and the construction workforce is shrinking, eliminating miscommunication and encouraging teams to share information clearly and regularly can save businesses money and improve customer satisfaction levels. 

How Business Leaders Can Use Technology to Improve Intra-company Collaboration 

Technology has the potential to transform operations at every level, with recent introductions reducing human error, increasing operational efficiency and improving safety at construction sites. Here are three specific ways technology can improve collaboration and cooperation within construction companies. 

Consolidate team efforts on a single platform

Communication between on-site workers and remote staff is often greatly fragmented between various channels and tools, with different workers preferring to communicate over email, phone or text messaging. The major downside of these channels is that they do not provide the right context for each update and message. Additionally, such communication does not give site managers or business leaders an overview of what is happening and how it affects the project. 

To close this gap, business leaders have to employ communication and project management platforms that work together to allow various stakeholders to speak with each other and show how their latest communications change schedules, budgets or responsibilities. Allowing business leaders to have an overview of what is happening onsite also gives them the ability to keep their clients in the loop and to plan future projects based on inefficiencies identified in previous work. 

Improve accountability with increased transparency

Construction projects often rely on large teams to work together, which can sometimes create issues over responsibilities and confusion caused by a lack of accountability. The introduction of cohesive systems that combine effective communication with good project management allows site managers to assign tasks and adjust responsibilities in real time as the project requirements change.

This increased transparency can go a long way in establishing a system where possible areas of coordination can be quickly identified. Integrated communication systems, such as collaboration platforms, encourage team members to contribute wherever they can. 

Encourage relationship building through a robust feedback collection system

Collaboration is important because it harnesses the collective intelligence of the organization to identify problems and implement solutions quickly. To expand the effectiveness of such collaboration, organizations should ensure they are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve and implement or, at the very least, recognize the ideas of their employees.

Recent research by SurveyMonkey showed that slightly under half of all employees feel their managers understand them and their needs. These employees are less likely to contribute ideas to a system that does not reward and encourage collaboration. Digital systems can make this data collection easy and can deliver feedback to business leaders who can implement the relevant changes. 

The Role of Integration in Turning Disparate Processes into a Cohesive System

With collaboration becoming such a key part of the business, construction companies must ensure they develop a culture that encourages cooperative behavior. Individual processes can be put in place to improve specific communications or task assignments. However, to truly reap the benefits of a collaborative workplace, business leaders need to implement a system where project management, communication and data management systems come together to create an integrated ecosystem. Firms that succeed in doing this can look forward to improved operational efficiency, reduced human error and reduced costs. 


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