What Is Construction Document Management?
Construction requires lots of documents and if you’re not managing them properly, you’ll pay a price. Effective construction document management is a process that ensures the documents you rely on for business and for projects are delivering the value you need.
Reasons for/Advantages of Construction Document Management
Prevent Schedule Delays and Rework
Changes to the plans happen as soon as they’re finished, and they continue right through construction into closeout. People rely on documents (paper or digital) to know what they’re building and how to build it. When the documents aren’t up to date, mistakes need to be fixed, and so you end up with more delays and rework. As some mistakes might require changes to avoid tearing out expensive previous work, document management is the first step in overcoming mistakes that cause delays and rework.
The best quality control is ongoing. Project quality suffers when your quality control runs hot then cold. The electrical work that begins with poor quality won’t get better unless you address the problem early. Same with the concrete work, or the plumbing, or the punch list.
Yes, you need a quality effort for your documents, too. When RFIs take too long to process, that’s a quality issue. Poor photos that don’t accurately show what went wrong are an issue. A punch list that didn’t go to all the parties who have items to correct is a document management system problem. Effective construction document management software not only catches quality issues, but it also helps to fix them.
Avoid Unexpected Work Interruptions
Your document management should flow smoothly. Documents relating to regular events like paydays or meetings should get delivered regularly and on time. When people can depend on receiving the documents in a timely manner, you’ll reduce wasted time. Your documentation will also be more accurate.
Provide Transparency For Your Client
Your relationship with a client can quickly devolve into distrust and suspicion if you don’t share required details upon request. If you find you must often delay providing the requested information because you can’t find it, you’ve definitely got a document management problem. And, it will only get worse. It’s not just that you can’t fulfill client’s requests timely, but that you also can’t seem to manage the documents needed for the project.
How To Improve Construction Document Management?
To improve construction document management, you have to start at the beginning, with legacy processes that no longer keep up.
Move Away From Paper
If all of your documentation is still paper-based, you are not working as efficiently as you could. Paper-based processes are labor-intensive, requiring people to physically handle, store and retrieve documents. Paper is dumb—you can’t really enter a search query to find the exact information you want. Digital, on the other hand, is smart. It is searchable, sortable, and easily indexed, making it instantly retrievable. Digital documents are also poised to accept the next new technologies like artificial intelligence.
That’s why more and more construction companies are moving towards centralized document management systems. They’ll make your life easier today and in the future.
Unless your firm trains spreadsheet users to be experts at creating and using them, consider avoiding them. Spreadsheets in untrained hands lead to disastrous consequences like estimates that don’t update to the right report and budgets that don’t reveal the real costs of a project. Instead, find a digital solution or application that matches all your needs.
Address Mobile Device Security
Mobile devices and digital documents were made for each other, and the two together make your documents work harder than ever. However, some documents need protection, and if you have people using their own mobile devices to handle work documents, you’ve got security risks. Not just risks from loss or destruction, but also from theft by people who might want to steal something from you or your clients. Get your company mobile devices secured, and if you allow people to use their own devices, make sure company information is also secure there.
Train People in Document Use and Security
Documentation doesn’t have a good reputation in construction. Attitudes range from disgust to mildly accepting. This leads to scenarios where documentation gets easily lost, damaged and ignored. Few people arrive in construction knowing the ins and outs of document management. Train your people to understand document uses, their importance and security.
Use a Technology Document Management Solution
Because digital documents are smart, you can enjoy applications specially designed for their management. These tools exchange redundant information across documents, manage distribution, provide reminders, maintain histories, respond to searches, perform backups and handle archiving. In short, once a document is born, your document management solution manages it.
Arrange Secure Data Storage
Your documents need to be secure when they’re in use and later when they’re archived. You could provide that security on servers and hard drives in your own business offices. You can also use the cloud and entrust your documents to those who know how to store and manage digital resources.
If you are not in the technology business, the cloud is probably the better option. Or, you might choose a hybrid approach and keep some documents locally and others in the cloud. Just remember, besides providing data security, you must ensure physical security for the equipment used to store your data.
Construction Document Management Software: How to Choose?
Your project budget needs to receive the billings from the specialty contractors. Your estimates need to talk to your budget, and your labor reports need to inform your schedules. Every aspect of your business and project documentation has multiple inputs and outputs. Before choosing your solution, try mapping your needs to cover all the variables.
Centralized Document Management System
The days of enterprise resource planning have passed. Today, it’s application programming interfaces that will make your document management holistic. APIs take your documents out of silos by making them responsive to other processes. Your documents can talk to each other when you use APIs and a centralized document management system.
The strength of mobile devices is their ability to be everywhere. Now, your project plans can be in the hands of the people doing the work. The punch list can have images and videos so that what needs fixing becomes crystal clear. Quality control can happen as the work unfolds. Make sure your document management system incorporates mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
You can’t grab the advantages of the next best technology if the solution you choose is a one-off with little chance of upgrades. Some of that rests with the vendor. How long have they been in business? What is the track record? What are their plans for their product? If they are talking about blockchain and artificial intelligence, then they’re thinking ahead.
Construction is approval-heavy. Regardless of the process, someone usually must approve it. To make the work easier, make sure the solution you choose allows you to assign permissions and control access to documents. You need to have ways for people to sign off with their approval and sign on to change documents. With those items locked down, you can rest assured about accountability.
Today’s digital documents and digital document management tools make construction document management easier and more effective than ever. They offer you new competitive advantages, greater project control and improved profits.