By Linda Formichelli, Inbound Content Manager at Commusoft
Where does data come from in your business?
If each department sticks to its own tasks and there's little interaction between divisions, you've got an information silo on your hands—and your business could be suffering since key data is locked up instead of being shared (and used) among departments.
You're not alone. “Many organizations still have hierarchical, siloed and fragmented processes and cultures," according to an article in Harvard Business Review. "In fact, having to cope with a fast-changing global economy has led many companies to create even more complex matrix organizations, where it’s actually harder to get the right people together for fast decision making."
No department is an island. While this sounds counterintuitive, each part of your business holds data that can help with fleet management, from accounting to marketing.
For example, sales and marketing data can predict when you'll run into an unexpected busy time and may need to prep more service trucks or hire more drivers. The accounting department can tell you if your fuel or maintenance costs have been rising. The customer service department knows if customer complaints about your fleet have been going up (or down).
Here's how to connect the silos in your business to boost the effectiveness—and profitability—of your service fleet.
Remember that silos have a purpose
Notice that we said "connect silos" not "break down silos." Everyone talks about destroying silos—but they exist for a reason.
"For any significant task, you need highly skilled specialists working closely together," says Greg Satell in Inc. magazine. "As they develop strong working relationships, they develop their own ethos, working terminology and build strong bonds of trust."
Instead, we need to connect the silos so that experts in each one can do what they do best and also take advantage of expertise and data from other areas of the business. Fleet managers may be inclined to keep to their own department working on fleet-related issues, but they can do their job a whole lot better with access to insights and data from, say, human resources, purchasing and accounting.
Get your people together
If your fleet staff wouldn't recognize employees from the sales department when they pass them on the street, your silos are as disconnected as New York and Beijing.
Encouraging employees from all departments to interact with one another can foster the kind of environment where information and insights are shared across silos. There are many ways to bring departments closer so that your fleet managers can get to know—and learn from—experts from other areas. For example:
- Job shadowing. Have members of your fleet management staff work with members from another department for a week to learn what they do. (And vice versa.)
- Weekly video calls. This works especially well if you have a small staff and remote workers. Have each employee call in on a video conferencing platform like Google Hangouts (which allows up to 10 people on a video call) and discuss what they worked on that week.
- Company messaging system. Adopting a company-wide messaging platform like Slack, with each department having its own channel, helps everyone stay connected. Fleet management employees can participate in not only their own "Fleet" channel but also those of other relevant departments.
For some inspiration, check out how Nest Labs (developers of the learning thermostat) and Cleveland Clinic developed interdepartmental groups to create amazing breakthroughs.
Work it out with WorkOuts
While getting your staff together is a great way to connect silos and improve your fleet management, a big roadblock occurs when your employees need the okay from a higher-up to actually execute the ideas they come up with.
That's where a WorkOut can help.
Developed by Jack Welch, a WorkOut is a multiple-day work session where the people closest to the problem (that would be your fleet managers), plus representatives from relevant departments, hash out the issue and brainstorm solutions.
Before the session ends, executive decision-makers join in and give a "yay" or "nay" to each idea on the spot. This executive endorsement keeps solutions from festering in the idea stage. The executives then check in on progress at 30, 60 and 90 days to make sure the solutions they agreed on are being implemented.
Use tech to connect silos
It’s hard to share data if you don't have it all in one place, easily accessible and ready for distribution.
A good fleet maintenance system can use third-party integrations to automatically capture data on fuel use and expenses, Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) alerts and odometer readings. Not only that, but a fleet management system also saves time and reduces error versus manually entering information and prevents lost data. All fleet players can benefit from the data, and use it to pinpoint issues and brainstorm solutions.
Once you have the fleet information you need in one place, job management software can help you share that data across departments and with your customers. Whether you are keeping customers up to date on job progress or collecting feedback when a job is complete, all this shared fleet data lets you optimize scheduling and gain better insight into the health of your business.
Don't let siloed data keep your fleet managers from doing their best work. Use these tips to connect your silos, and watch your business grow.