Why construction productivity software is key to building better relationships between owners and contractors
Successful construction projects are built on a solid foundation of collaboration that isn’t limited to the teams in the field. Any major project includes owners, contractors, architects, engineers, and subcontractors with different needs and plenty of opportunity for miscommunication. Unfortunately, surveys show that a whopping 82% of building owners feel they need more collaboration with their contractors. However, by following the time-tested tenets of good construction customer management, you can shore up your client’s confidence and avoid miscommunications that lead to costly mistakes, accidents, and lawsuits.
Regardless of how responsibility is officially split, many building owners argue that they bear the brunt of the burden for mistakes despite having the least amount of control over the causes. Indeed, a majority of owners from KPMG’s Global Construction Survey cited poor contractor performance as the single biggest reason for project issues. Therefore, from your client’s point of view, mitigating project risk requires a project management approach that prioritizes the building owner.
Savvy contractors can eliminate these concerns with world-class construction customer management through productivity software that provides:
- Proactive field reports
- Efficient collaboration
- Clear, real-time data
- Long-term usage and value
You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure (and Report)
We’ve all heard that the best defense is a good offense, and that wisdom rings as true in construction customer management as it does in sports. In this case, it means that the easiest way to avoid reworks and delays is to proactively measure and report your progress to the owner. Waiting until closeout procedures to find potential discrepancies exposes you to more risk than you can afford.
When you can collaborate and communicate effectively with the owner, projects tend to adhere to timelines and budgets more accurately. Stay ahead of the game by determining ahead of time how often the owner wants to be updated. Then, create a report template and delivery schedule to ensure your project is always on-target. This is where your productivity software can really make a difference.
For years, construction professionals have wasted hours every week filling out paper reports. However, using construction productivity software allows you to reproduce periodic, customizable field reports right where you store the data. Keeping a single source of truth for all your project documents means less time wasted manually transcribing information. Plus, you can make your reports more robust with reference documents like photos and videos.
Of course, even a digital solution can take valuable time away from your team while you hunker down at the office computer. That’s why you should make sure your productivity software offers a mobile solution. By filling out your forms on an iPad or iPhone, you can reduce the time you spend in the trailer at the end of the day.
Clear Collaboration: Measure Twice, Cut Once
Even if you set up a proactive reporting schedule, there’s still a lot of information that an owner may want to see on-demand. That may seem excessive at first, but if you consider the fact that the average construction project in the United States typically takes a little over a year, it makes sense. A lot of issues can come up in a year.
In fact, having project information available to owners on-demand makes sense from a contractor’s point of view as well. Making sure owners have access to your issue tracking and RFI system means quicker turnaround wherever you require their input. Streamlining collaboration means far less time pushing paper, fewer delays due to delayed communications and reduced errors in the field through better collaboration. Ultimately, being able to quickly resolve issues or process RFIs on-the-go keeps the project moving and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Issues & RFIs
Furthermore, with a productivity software system, you can remove barriers to collaboration like time-consuming faxes or emails. These systems essentially replace email and fax while simultaneously creating an audit trail of all your hard work. This way, the owner doesn’t have to wait for monthly Owner Architect Contractor (OAC) meetings or your periodic reports to get the information they need to help you keep the project going strong. Instead, as Project Manager Brad Haygood of Teichert Construction puts it, “we not only communicate better, but the owner also has more transparency into what’s happening day to day — they love it.”
All things considered, the turnover is likely the most important opportunity you have to deliver the kind of construction customer management that inspires repeat business. Ironically, although this step is so critical, it’s also potentially the easiest if you use a productivity software like PlanGrid that can help automatically generate things like your as-builts. Ultimately, your turnover documentation is simply a summary of all the information you collect in your database throughout the project.
Due to the ever-changing nature of construction projects, it’s important to maintain consistent processes for documentation. Consider how many subcontractors and other people are involved in a typical project—there is quite a bit of transition on a typical construction project. Consequently, the best way to ensure the closeout documents are ready is to assemble them digitally as you go instead of in a mad rush at the end of your project when there is no time left to track down the person that did the work months or weeks ago.
Additionally, for the owner, project completion is just the beginning of a facility’s true cost and benefit. For example, a facility’s as-built conditions may vary substantially from the initial owner drawings and specifications. As a result, the owner must track all changes to the design throughout the project and maintain a detailed record of the as-built facility.
Regrettably, the status quo is for the contractor to deliver a set of as-built paper documents that consist of a markup of the original design. This physical deliverable consists of boxes, drawings, warranties, and manuals, which are rarely accessible and searchable by the people that need the information most like owners and their building maintenance staff.
At the end of the project, you need a system that can generate and export as-builts based on the excellent on-the-go documenting and reporting you were doing throughout the project. Wracking your memory to retroactively compile this important report only leads to more time wasted in the office instead of moving on to your next revenue-generating project.
And, remember, the as-builts ultimately aren’t even for you and your team—they are primarily for the owner. Therefore, a productivity software can continue to demonstrate value after occupancy as it allows owners to assemble a repository of electronic documents for easy reference.
Build Relationships, Not Just Buildings
By optimizing your construction customer management, you can develop a sense of camaraderie with the owner from the beginning. While this is important for ensuring a smooth project, it’s also critical to your company’s continued success. Specifically, the reputation you build with an owner can determine your ability to win bids.
Owners want to be able to start using your building as soon as it’s ready, if you can help them do that then you’ll increase the likelihood of further business from them either in their next project or through a good recommendation. As simple as this may sound, establishing integrity and trust is critical to the success of any project. At the beginning of projects, you must show you’re always acting in good faith by being completely transparent about your project’s progress. Without this fundamental understanding, fear, mistrust, and defensiveness can affect your business relationship.
Every owner wants to work with a contractor who has integrity, respects the client’s goals, collaborates, communicates and performs to the highest standard. Each step to world-class construction customer management explored here will help you build trust and confidence with your next building owner.