August 8, 2013

Why Successful Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Firms Bust Silos

All Architecture, Engineering, and Construction firms have silos. A silo is a division of information within a firm and the corresponding data and communications that are relevant to many, but only accessible to a select group. How can you remove them? Why should you? Eliminating silos can create new synergistic pathways for communication so you can focus on strategic goals.

This post is adapted from our eBook, The Science of Deconstructing Silos: A Formula for AEC Success


When an entire organization has access to all relevant data, superior analytics and optimization become possible. Even when silos function in the short-term, consider the long-term consequences. For example, the effects of poorly designed processes are often exacerbated when a firm scales rapidly. Silos lead to uninformed decision-making that can cost your firm projects and make it impossible to deliver consistent services.

Breaking down silos allows you to win opportunities you would have missed otherwise. One example we’ve seen is a lack of knowledge across divisions about the full span of services an individual firm can deliver. Division A wins a job that requires services it doesn’t provide so they sub it out not realizing that their firm has a Division B that can provide those services. Therefore, greater firm-wide visibility can result in cross-selling opportunities and a more diverse project portfolio.

Increased hit rates are another common benefit of bridging silos. KCI Technologies, Inc. provides a great example. Because their business developers and marketers were communicating freely, they were able to track metrics that led to more efficient practices. Marketing Administration Manager, Deborah Boyd, explains,

“At the beginning of 2012, we decided to begin tracking hit rates on opportunities we knew about and gathered intel on (teaming, talking with the client) prior to the RFP being submitted. Our hit rate on those opportunities was double that of those we did not prepare for ahead of advertisement.”

Armed with that information, Boyd was able to go to her senior management and demonstrate the ROI of involving their marketing department earlier in the sales process. She had long suspected that giving marketers a head start would improve their success rate, but now she could prove it. This recognition helped promote a shift in process that led KCI to improve their hit rate and win more work.

Christine Hollinden, CPSM, President of Hollinden Professional Services Marketing, cautions firms to consider the detrimental effects of silos beyond the obvious business development hurdles. Silos also negatively impact a firm’s brand, which in turn can result in increased employee turnover and challenges in recruiting top talent.

With the onslaught of baby boomers retiring and new jobs being added, the US Department of Labor has predicted a severe labor shortage of some 54 million jobs. Competition for top talent will be fierce. Strengthening a firm’s internal communications improves morale and reduces turnover. When everyone delivers a consistent message, recruiting new employees becomes much easier.

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