How to Unravel your Technology Silos
Many construction businesses have technology silos which are often caused by single point applications creating data that is not shared across the organization. These data silos weave their way throughout your systems and eventually, you’ll want to unravel them. When you do, it’s important to understand them.
Technology silos make incomplete, inconsistent, duplicate and erroneous data a constant occurrence across the business. This is especially clear in construction where GCs rely on data from subcontractors and suppliers for planning and scheduling. However, even within companies, bungled data is painfully common.
Technology silos=bad decisions
For instance, a crew leader knows a critical tool is out of commission, but other people on the project who need to repair or replace it don’t know it’s broken. A superintendent is aware a deadline is going to be missed, but the project manager thinks everything is on schedule.
Error-riddled data becomes a find-and-replace nightmare. Computing systems give us the power to replicate what we don’t want — at high speed. If you thought the duplication of a client’s misspelled name happened quickly when it was in a Rolodex, just wait until it’s in a database.
In all cases, incomplete, inconsistent, duplicate and erroneous data causes people to make poor decisions. But, that’s not the worst of it.
If you can imagine the worst-case scenario for any construction business, it’s a breakdown in teamwork. Tech silos stifle collaboration which is at the very heart of teamwork. Without collaboration among team members, there is no team.
At the root of the issues caused by tech silos is the fact there is no single source of accurate truth. The evidence is in the data silos created by single point apps.
Information relies on data
While people often use information and data interchangeably, they are far from synonymous. Your company’s business operations and goals rely on information. Information relies on data.
Here’s a simple way to think about it: Your company needs to make accurate estimates so it can satisfy clients and make a profit. Each estimate has many calculations expressing the relationships between time and effort (labor) or quantity and cost (materials). The information you need are the results of those calculations. The data part of this equation are the numbers that represent time, number of people, quantity and cost.
So as you unravel your technology silos you need to look across your company at the information people are using for decision making. That focus will lead you to the data sources and ultimately to the data silos. You will find data silos in four different contexts:
1. Cultural data silos
Fear and insecurity are often behind cultural data silos. It’s the culture of the company that sets the stage. Company cultures create blocks to sharing data when they are strictly hierarchical and overly focused on assigning blame. This results in people trying to protect themselves, being disinterested in sharing and looking for ways to deflect blame. Not surprisingly, they sometimes create data silos to reduce their exposure to scrutiny and to help them feel in control.
The other aspect of silos created culturally is the data mindset of the organization. If your company’s data mindset is of not sharing information, and departments view their data as their own, then transparency only happens when absolutely needed. That also means people are not likely to voluntarily share data that could have value to another department.
2. Technical data silos
Organizations unwittingly create these silos by the choices they make when choosing technology solutions. It’s easy to understand how it happens because there are now so many options for answering any technology need. Just in apps alone, the choices are mind numbing. Over at the Google Play store there are about 4,000 apps added to the catalog every day, with over three million available for download.
The more decentralized the IT environment, the greater the proliferation of rogue tech tools. Within some companies, each department fulfills its own needs while the business cobbles together connections to the rest of the stack where and when needed. The instances of people waiting for or using incorrect data skyrockets, along with the technology investment.
3. Organizational data silos
Administering an IT infrastructure in a construction business is no easy feat. The proliferation of mobile devices has compounded that difficulty. While there’s no mistaking the benefits of mobile to construction, when those mobile devices are the personal devices owned by employees, the IT infrastructure expands uncontrollably.
If there are no checks in place, people fashion their own tech solutions because it’s so easy to find and install an “app for that.” Even worse, now each of those devices is a new data repository. If the users offload their data to the cloud, like most do these days, the data is as good as compromised and gone.
4. Inability to scale
The other way the organization contributes to technology silos is when it’s unprepared for growth. Construction companies often face rapid upturns and downturns in business. Construction is cyclical. When the organization is unprepared for growth, people and departments respond by fashioning their own tech solutions as needed, so they can keep up. Suddenly there is an explosion of single point solutions, many without application programming interfaces that allow them to connect to the established systems.
It’s really a miracle that any business today, let alone a construction business, can exist for long with technology silos. Going back to analog systems is not the answer because that’s a quick trip to irrelevance.
The good news is that data silos created by single point apps are wholly discoverable. From there it’s a matter of moving as much of your computing to the platform. For those few instances where there is no platform solution, use single point apps that have APIs connecting them to the platform. The new ERP is the platform and that’s a place where technology silos can no longer exist.