Construction Best Practices

Breaking Down Silos for Better Construction Collaboration


The dreaded silo. Almost all growing businesses struggle with silos. People tend to separate themselves by department or function and then don’t do a great job collaborating with people in other parts of the business to resolve issues, optimize processes and improve efficiency and productivity. This lack of effective communication and collaboration can be the downfall of a business, especially in the construction industry, where tight deadlines and razor-thin profit margins rule the day.

Maybe it’s unrealistic to think silos will ever completely go away, but contractors can do some concrete things to encourage people across functions to work together as a team more effectively. If you can achieve better collaboration at your business, you’ll realize success and enjoy a more positive work environment.

Are Your Processes Dividing People?

First, contractors can take a look at how they operate. In many cases, processes have been in place for years and people don’t scrutinize them regularly. But these processes could be sowing division, especially when you look at how you hold people accountable within them.

For example, in most construction organizations, a project manager is responsible for ensuring a job stays on budget. In many cases, though, this person isn’t involved in the process of setting that budget. And if there’s any miscommunication or friction between the project manager and the field manager, this can leave the project manager without total control over what happens in the field, making it difficult for them to do his or her job of staying on time and on budget.

In cases like this, management may need to rethink the way the company holds people accountable. A more collaborative preconstruction phase would benefit everyone. If the people in the office responsible for coming up with job estimates meet with the project manager and get input on the budget, you can avoid a situation where people point fingers and blame each other for what happened later on. Having a discussion about the responsibilities of project managers and field managers in this situation would also be beneficial.

Contractors all have their own way of doing things, but the important thing to remember is processes can change. And if silos seem to be a big problem at your business and teams blame each other for them, your processes are the first place you should look to identify the root of it all. If you find your processes vary from project to project, that’s all the more reason to take a close look at the way you do things.

Encourage Empathy

One of the fundamental reasons people feel separated from and blame others tends to be a lack of understanding about what those people have to deal with. In construction, field crews don’t usually know the ins and outs of what accountants do, for example. And accountants don’t know what it’s like to work in the field. That can leave both sides feeling misunderstood and frustrated with the actions, availability or timelines of the other.

To combat these divisions, contractors can put some sort of vehicle in place to help employees understand the roles of their co-workers throughout the company. Sure, you probably won’t set up field trips for people to observe other roles often, but doing that sort of thing on occasion can provide some of the insight needed to make people realize all job roles have their own challenges.

It’s easy to overlook those challenges if you’ve never witnessed them before. Setting up cross training or professional development opportunities that take people outside their daily tasks can also serve a similar purpose.

Invest in Construction Collaboration Software

Understanding your own processes and helping employees understand each other are important and challenging endeavors. Changing the way things are done doesn’t happen overnight.

Implementing tools such as integrated, cloud-based collaborative construction software can help reduce the prevalence of silos in an organization by utilizing a common set of data and expanding access to information across entire project teams in real time, including via connected mobile applications in the field. This helps open up better lines of communication and collaboration among all departments. Automated tasks and workflows simplify processes even further, making the details behind each action easier to understand and carry out.

People in the office or project managers can review up-to-date reports as soon as new data is entered. Anyone who needs to see updated data, or process items like RFIs and change orders in the field can easily do so. Technology is playing a large role in bringing project teams together even when they’re physically disconnected, and the right solution can facilitate the type of teamwork you’re looking for.

To learn more, take a look at our Trimble Construction One solution, a software suite for construction management that can connect all members of your team.