4 Questions You Need to Ask Right Now
As the industry begins embracing mobile construction software, administrators may feel pressured to make big changes to their construction document management. But, with your building plans at stake, you can’t be too careful. This decision is further complicated by the fact that around 40% of construction companies are still using paper plans on the job, so this may be the first time in years that you’ve had to evaluate your current system.
Most people are under enough pressure just keeping up with their workloads. Worrying about organizing and retrieving the documents they create takes valuable time away from each person’s core duties. So, what can you do to help your company refocus on construction instead of library science?
While your system may be decades old or seem too entrenched, just four questions can make anyone’s evaluation process manageable. In fact, you actually don’t have to get too far into the weeds to properly evaluate your construction document management. Simply make a checklist of modern basic construction document management requirements and see if your current system can handle them.
Start by asking your construction document management admin these four questions:
1. How much time does it take to access your documents?
Sadly, many folks feel starved for information that helps them do their jobs well. This is partly due to on-site staff being used to rolls of drawings that are cumbersome and out of date.
— Kim Lorch, Vice President & Area Manager
At its most basic, a construction document management system should centralize your company’s information in an easily accessible environment. With all your company’s documents—including thousands of revisions—available in one place, your company can maximize visibility, accountability, and outcomes. When your team can quickly access their documents they will spend less time on paperwork and more time on building. And with everyone working from the same information, you can finally realize the potential of the digital construction era.
The best way to optimize access is through cloud storage because documents uploaded to the cloud are immediately viewable on connected devices. Furthermore, advanced search capabilities mean fewer confusing folder structures. With such speed advantages, it’s no surprise that cloud-enabled construction document management means quicker decisions and shorter overall project timelines.
Construction document management systems that use the cloud provide such easy access to information that response times for RFIs (Requests for Information) and COs (Change Orders) are as quick as logging in. Ultimately, this more effective, streamlined tool means corrections can take hours instead of days.
Moving toward the digital, cloud-based era for construction brings new expectations and challenges for document control. But, cloud storage alone can’t bridge the expectation gap if your team can’t access it in the field.
For example, a superintendent should focus on supporting their team on the site. Yet many are forced to drive around to access the latest plan updates in offices or trailers, interrupting the workflow and missing out on critical project milestones. A construction document management system that allows immediate access to documents means superintendents and their teams can complete projects faster.
2. Is it easy to share your documents?
Our supervisors can sit with an inspector in the field and know that we’re looking at the right information needed to resolve the problem now.
— Randy Lucchesi, Lead Project Engineer
Companies have traditionally evaluated construction document management systems by how easily they compile and share documents during the handover. However, a more accurate measure of both internal performance and project timeline estimates should measure something else entirely. Instead, you should analyze how well your system managed the flow of information throughout the project life cycle.
Unlike a localized system, cloud-based construction document management affects the exchange of information across the project life cycle. This means easier collaboration any time there is a heavy exchange of documents—including the planning, building, closeout phases. But, it also means document control is shifting from the control of a subject matter expert to the entire team.
To make up for the reduced human oversight, your construction document management system needs to accommodate both your workflow and the various document types that accompany an entire project. For example, photos, videos, and RFIs can be as important as your plans. You need to able to link these files directly on the plans instead of in a convoluted folder system.
While the whole team benefits when you remove communication barriers, sometimes those walls existed for a reason. So, you need a construction document management system that ensures accountability remains a priority. You could password protect each and every PDF in your document library, but that’s so cumbersome. Instead, the best way to ensure accountability without hindering easy collaboration is to make sure your system allows for permission sets and project groups.
3. Can your construction document management grow with your business?
Ten years from now, our facilities team will need all of this building information. And they’ll continue to update PlanGrid. Before, it was a total mess.
— Jack Dahlgren, Semiconductor Operations
As your company hires more people or takes on new projects, your tools need to expand and move with you. If your document management system can’t scale with your company from one project to the next then it will eventually become a limiting factor to your overall success. The best way to ensure your system is scalable is to make sure it can standardize the way you record, access, and share documents. That way your team can find their documents easier and your company can rest easier with better data reliability.
Data integrity is key for scalability because as you grow you need your system to accommodate many sets of plans. Reducing the change of risk from data errors leads to better quality and faster timelines. Specifically, your system has to help you automate versioning. Meaning, it has to replace an existing set of sheets with your replacement sheets automatically. Additionally, it needs to digitally leaf-in change orders and addenda to keep your stack current, while making all versions readily available.
4. How does your construction document management compare?
Without PlanGrid on a project of this size, document management and quality control would be a full-time job. It would be horrible.
— Christina Byers, Operations Project Coordinator
Now that you understand what a state of the art construction document management system requires, it’s time to evaluate what you’ve been using. Get a running start—use a simple checklist like the one below and share what you find with your team today.
Construction Document Management Checklist
Does your construction document management system include the following?
- Cloud Storage
- Mobile Access
- Project Workflow
- Permission Sets
- Automatic Versioning