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By Duane Craig
March 29, 2017
Over the last 50 years, ‘business silos’ usually referred to the divisions between departments in an organization. While those divisions still exist today, technology has been slow in solving the growing problem of data segregation. In some cases, technology has made the problem worse.
You have no doubt seen search result headlines like these:
10 Best Apps for Construction Pros
5 Apps Your Construction Business Can’t Live Without
3 Best Apps for Managing Construction Businesses
7 Apps No Construction Business Should Be Without
While they are all catchy and make you want to click on them in hopes that they finally offer the answer to making all this new technology work for you, they actually deceive you into the completely opposite result––more segregated project information.
Not only are all those apps NOT the answer, but they are also adding to your problems by making you work for technology. That's because many apps only do one thing, and that leads to duplication and data silos.
In a Capgemini survey, 73% of chief information officers said that 20% of their business applications have functionality similar to others. Even more telling was that almost half of them said their businesses had more applications than they needed, while only 37% thought their business applications were critical.
Small organizations often have 13 different applications widely in use, according to an Osterman Research paper. Large organizations typically have 15 applications widely in use. And, those numbers don’t include all the apps individuals use on the side. Company information technology managers, and in smaller businesses, company managers, and owners are increasingly aware of how multiple applications are stealing their lifeblood. More than a third of respondents said they'd prefer to have a single solution for as many systems as possible.
There are many reasons why, including:
That last point is a biggie. When each app sets up its own data silo, the very thing you look to technology to help you with is defeated. Technology should make it easier for you to view and use information, but data silos complicate that.
When your accounting software doesn't know a $1,000 change order was approved 10 minutes ago as it’s compiling the project budget report, a great many people will view outdated information as they make decisions.
So, in terms of everyday operations on any construction project, data silos almost single-handedly guarantee that things are going to take longer, and cost more.
Imagine you are building a single family residence. All of your subs are busily working away on their respective parts of the building. Now, just imagine that none of them are sharing any information with the others about their role on the project. The plumbers won’t know that the work they put in place yesterday, will prevent HVAC from completing their ductwork today. The drywall installers will close-up a ceiling where the electricians have yet to complete a fan installation. The landscapers will install a stone patio directly over the place where the pool installers have to lay water lines.
But, it could be worse. At least the cabinet and countertop people showed up together, and when they saw the flooring wasn’t completed they decided to take an early lunch.
But, more importantly, there are long-term consequences of data silos. And it has to do with business intelligence, something American businesses have been chasing now for at least a decade.
The reality is that businesses use just a fraction of their accumulated knowledge. In Forrester’s 2015 research into the leading agile business intelligence platforms, they found that firms only use between 27% and 40% of their business intelligence data. A majority of companies are also using tools such as spreadsheets for their business intelligence, while almost three quarters of them use shadow IT, or unauthorized apps.
It stands to reason that when business data is sequestered in silos, it's difficult if not impossible to see the big picture. And, the big picture depends on data transparency that can only come from systems that share data across functions.
These outdated point solutions come at the cost of duplicated functions, lack of data transparency, increased security issues, higher cost, and mounting frustration. The time has come for construction to ‘just say no’ to technology sector offerings of single solutions with limited to no integration. It’s killing your business.
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