Information silos have always been a thorn in the side of construction business leaders. This separation is seen most clearly in the disconnect between office and onsite staff.
Apart from periodic reports from site supervisors and inconsistent administrative communication, office and onsite staff rarely collaborate despite the benefits of open communication across departments.
Why cross-department communication is important in the construction industry
The construction industry has always relied on effective collaboration between a variety of internal and external stakeholders.
Communication between office staff, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, project owners and more is critical for project success.
With rising costs and competition in recent years, this has become even more important, so the construction sector has embraced technology in its design and construction processes.
The popularity of Building Information Modeling and modular construction has segmented the construction process more than ever before. Recent research indicates 44 per cent of American construction projects will be design-build projects in the near future.
This places significant responsibility on office staff to act as facilitators for numerous external contractors and operational teams.
It is critical for the success of collaborative projects that there are minimal barriers to communication between office and onsite staff.
Here are three reasons why communication between office and onsite workers fails and how construction businesses can use software to overcome these challenges.
The barriers to communication between office and onsite staff
1. Each stakeholder has their own preferred communication platform
Despite the emergence of communications tools that integrate into larger project management software, construction companies still use a staggering number of outdated tools to communicate with each other.
Text chats and email chains are still common ways of sharing important documents and discussing project progress. However, these communication tools vary depending on the stakeholder.
Some teams may be using WhatsApp chats to communicate while another team uses email chains to do the same. This leads to barriers being built between teams with different communication preferences.
2. Inconsistent access to project data gives team members differing viewpoints of the project
While some construction companies have embraced communication and integrated project management tools, the adoption of this technology has been inconsistent. This inconsistency exists both between companies and within companies.
Administrative teams such as HR and finance have used specialized software to manage their tasks for years and are more likely to have access to important project data. Onsite staff, on the other hand, are usually responsible for only a part of the larger project and are given limited access to data that is not deemed relevant to them.
It is not uncommon that only project owners and managers have a truly holistic view of the project. This means that when office and onsite staff communicate, they might have completely different viewpoints. This can cause confusion and frustration between team members and make collaboration less likely in the future.
3. Most communication between office and onsite workers lacks contextual information
A major challenge for teams that still rely on outdated communication tools is the lack of context conversations tend to have.
Email chains and text groups are convenient ways to share quick updates in the moment, but it can be difficult for team members to match conversations with appropriate documents or information that could shed greater light on why that conversation is happening.
For example, a conversation about new material orders could be put into the appropriate context when it is placed alongside past orders, project status and edited project plans. This puts every team member on the same page, regardless of their role in the project.
How software can close the communication gap and encourage collaboration between departments
Integrated communication platforms help businesses consolidate correspondence between operational teams
The first step construction businesses must take to ensure communication gaps are closed is to get every team member on the same communication platform.
This ensures all internal and external stakeholders have access to a chain of communication whenever they need it.
This also makes it easier for team members to collaborate on various aspects of the project and make processes such as reporting and finance much easier. Integrated communication channels also allow documents to be shared alongside messages and for them to be stored in an easily accessible location for future reference.
Open lines of communication increase accountability across departments
When disparate departments within an organization fail to communicate effectively, teams tend to fall into a silo mentality where each department focuses solely on the task they are assigned to.
This can also lead to a low level of trust between departments.
A recent survey revealed only 37% of construction professionals have high levels of trust in their team.
Integrated communication and project management platforms can resolve this by increasing visibility across every operational team.
This allows operational teams to remain accountable while providing other team members with the information they need to retain confidence in the project.
Democratized access to project information keeps every team member abreast of the latest developments in the project
Silos can often be entrenched when documents and project data are stored in separate locations across operational teams.
To overcome this, business leaders must ensure all team members have access to a single source of truth that contains all relevant project data. This allows every team member to access the latest information, even during periods of change and adjustment.
Communication and collaboration is and always will be the lifeblood of any successful construction project.
The key to overcoming barriers to this communication is consistent integration and ease of access.
Once all team members across offices and project sites have easy access to communication channels and project information, collaboration becomes a much simpler process, leading to more efficient operations on the ground.
Tom Stemm is the CEO/Founder of Ryvit.com. Tom leads a team of integration developers, application enthusiasts, customer heroes and sales superstars on a mission to eliminate duplicate data entry and rampant data errors from the construction technology world.
Collaboration across the AECOO community is critical to optimizing environmental and economic outcomes for all participants and stakeholders and spans planning, procurement, project delivery, and user teams. Leveraging robust proven processes is equally important. Tools and services have existed for decades that can consistently delivery quality repair, renovation, maintenance, and new build on time and on budget.