8 Tips for Subcontractors to Eliminate Data Silos
A data silo is “a separate database or set of data files that are not part of an organization’s enterprise-wide data administration.” In simpler terms, it is any data that is not shared within an organization, even if it would be useful to other parties. For subcontractors, who make decisions based primarily on information relayed to them from other team members, data silos can be especially devastating.
How does the subcontractor know if their company has data silos?
- Do you find that documents often must be redone because of human error?
- Is it hard to locate errors and inconsistencies in data?
- Is it hard to create all documents and share them with relevant team members?
- Do disputes arise based on the miscommunication of information?
If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” your company may suffer from data silos. Fortunately, there are many ways that the subcontractor can eliminate data silos.
Eliminate pen and paper
The traditional pen and paper way of data entry has become obsolete due to its likelihood of creating errors, getting lost, and its lack of accessibility. All of these attributes of pen and paper methods cost the company time and money should they occur. Paper documents also further data silos by only allowing the person physically in possession of the paper to be able to view it.
Move to the Cloud
Storing all documents in the cloud, where it can be accessed by any user, can help eliminate silos by ensuring that everyone can view the necessary documents and that everybody will be viewing the same information. The cloud will provide better data transparency that will keep everybody on the same page.
Simplicity and standardization
Implementing project management technology will ensure standardized data entry, which will make it easier to submit and read documents for all departments. With standardization, users spend less time learning and adjusting to differences between documents and applications.
The problem with: “There’s an app for that.”
In a world where “there’s an app for that” has run rampant, it is a common misconception that more apps mean more information. Small businesses use about 14 applications to perform business functions, while larger companies may use up to hundreds! In reality, having so many applications only create gaps in the information flow as users are forced to jump from one app to another. This lack of synergy between business functions creates uninformed decision-making that will cost the company time and money. If the subcontractor has a separate app for timecards, accounting, daily reports, etc., he will never be able to accurately view the full scope of the project and how each app relates to one another.
Integration! Integration! Integration!
Getting rid of apps does not mean getting rid of functionality; In fact, using one integrated solution will increase functionality and the quality of information. A fully integrated project management solution will allow the subcontractor and his team to always have access to relevant information entered by any department (absent of confidentiality or sensitive material). This ensures that everyone is always on the same page and that decisions are being based on the entirety of information. Integration also allows for collaboration and teamwork. The more people that add to or oversee the data, the more complete and accurate it will be. Integration also allows for more real-time information because it eliminates the need for data to be manually sent out after it is created. Rather, when the data is created within the platform, it is viewable in real-time to all other users.
Don’t get caught up in silo mentality
Silo mentality: “mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of thinking will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.”
Like silo mentality suggests, lack of communication between departments is detrimental to a company. No department can function at its full capacity without giving and getting information from other departments. Subcontractors can avoid silo mentality by connecting the back office to the field workers using mobile technology. This will ensure that every member of a project is working together toward a common goal. Without this giving and taking of information across divisions, departments will make uninformed decisions and will be unable to see the full picture.
Foster a communication community
The subcontractor must foster a community of collaboration that encourages communication across departments. When employees share knowledge with each other and work together, decisions are made that benefit everybody. The subcontractor needs to make sure that he is collaborating with all stakeholders while also ensuring that his team is effectively communicating with each other.
Keep detailed records
Almost just as important as keeping centralized documentation for current projects, is keeping a good record of old projects and keeping them in one place. The subcontractor must maintain a record of all communication within the same system, to be able to follow decisions that were made along the way and any changes that occurred. This allows a subcontractor to go into a single database and review everything that happened on a project from start to finish.
Data silos are parasites to healthy business decisions and accurate record keeping. The good news for subcontractors is that data silos can be avoided with the proper technology and business practices.