Are you in the construction industry and still relying on a document management system that’s disconnected and labour-intensive? You could save time, effort and money by switching to a collaborative digital solution. RedSky Account Manager Marcia Spick shares some top tips…
Business owners in construction and contracting are operating in an extremely challenging and competitive market. More and more companies are digitising their processes, to make life easier, reduce duplication, improve accuracy and maximise profit margins.
Construction document management is one area where great financial and time savings can be made, along with big improvements in collaboration and overall project management.
Traditional Construction Document Management Systems are Inefficient
Let’s be honest. Traditional document management systems are simply not equipped to cope with the demands of the modern construction and contracting world. Here are just some of the many reasons why:
- Files in multiple locations and systems (silos) – emails and key documents, such as spreadsheets, site drawings, photographs and contact details, are stored in many different places and possibly even in many different systems, with no link to a particular project. Gathering all the relevant information together can be time-consuming and there’s always the risk that some costs will slip through the net. Having to rely on paper copies in archive stores when projects are completed can add even more time and cost if you receive requests for specific information relating to a project. Get yourself into a dispute and the costs really start to grow!
- Lack of clarity – when information has to be ‘pulled’ from many different areas, it can be extremely difficult to gain a reliable overview of a project’s progress
- Manual processing – this drives up labour costs and increases the risk of ‘double-handling’ project data and introducing human error
- Poor version control – without a ‘single source of information truth’ to rely on, your team members, subcontractors and partners may well be working from out-of-date drawings and documents, which could lead to costly mistakes and overruns
- Poor accessibility and limited collaboration – if the only people who can access forms and other key project documents on the system are your office-based staff, opportunities to share real-time information and collaborate effectively with staff on site, suppliers, subcontractors and other stakeholders will be severely limited
- Reliance on paper and archive storage – this is costly and inefficient.
The Benefits of Paperless Document Management Solutions
I’ve met with people from a wide range of UK construction organisations who are experiencing one or more of the problems outlined above. So I know how frustrated they are by the inherent inefficiencies of their current way of working.
I also know that, for many people, digitising their document management system may feel like a giant leap of faith. But I can assure you that it will have a transformational effect on your construction business. A robust, paperless document management solution will enable you to:
- Control and store companywide files (such as procedures, policies and forms) and documents linked to projects (such as photographs, drawings and emails) in a digital format in a secure central location
- Maintain and update all your project documents in a single location
- Work with a single source of information truth (what’s on the system is always the latest version of a document)
- Make your processes more streamlined (and eliminate double-handling of data)
- Increase your overall efficiency, saving you time and money
- Boost accuracy by incorporating things like dropdown boxes and automated forms
- Improve collaboration by enabling staff and stakeholders to view and annotate or update documents
- Keep staff and stakeholders in the loop about updates to documents
- Access documents securely at any time and from anywhere with an internet connection
- Improve transparency and clarity across all your documents
- Find important project documents quickly and easily
- Rely on a robust audit trail and great traceability
- Save on physical storage.
Points to Consider When Choosing a Paperless Construction Document Management System
As you may already be aware, there’s currently a bewildering array of document management systems available on the market. Most will come with a significant price tag, so do your research and make sure you choose the one that’s suited to your construction business.
Based on my experience and multiple discussions with construction customers, shown below are some of the points that are well worth bearing in mind when selecting a paperless document management solution. Especially if one of your end goals is to boost collaboration, both internally and externally…
Construction-specific Software Solution
Buying an off-the-shelf construction software solution may well seem like a good idea, but it’s well worth taking a step back and thinking about the benefits of purchasing a solution that has been tailor-made for the construction industry. You could save yourself a lot of hassle.
Cloud-based Construction Management Software
The Covid-19 pandemic brought home the vital importance of being able to access work systems swiftly and securely when staff are working away from the office, including on site, on the road or from home.
To ensure 24/7 access for your staff and stakeholders on any modern device, wherever they are located, choose a cloud-based system. Learn more about investing in cloud-based construction management software.
If you’d like to find out more, our article about investing in cloud-based construction management software will be useful.
With the right system in place, you’ll definitely benefit from improved opportunities to collaborate with your construction workers, staff and key stakeholders, such as suppliers, subcontractors and architects. It will also make managing subcontractors in construction far easier.
But be very careful. Make sure you choose a system that will enable you to implement a range of permission levels. Because for every single user, you’ll want to control exactly which areas of the system they can access, as well as the content that they are allowed to view and/or edit and/or create.
Ease of Use
Once you have narrowed down your choice of construction software systems, always request a thorough demonstration. This is the only sure-fire way to get a realistic feel for how easy the system will be to use on a day-to-day basis. If it’s too complex, you’ll struggle to achieve buy-in among your staff and stakeholders.
Go prepared with a list of areas that you’d like to explore within the system and inefficiencies that you want to remove from your current processes. For example, how simple will it be for you to customise formats and change fields, to meet the evolving needs of your business? How easy will it be to set up and run customised reports? How quickly will you be able to locate project documents?
And don’t allow yourself to be rushed: the session shouldn’t end until all your questions have been answered.
Are all the documents digitally linked to a particular construction project or plot and kept in the same place, or will you have to hunt through hundreds of system files to find the one you’re after?
Can you mark up and make comments on documents, CAD files and images? Does the system make it easy to annotate and compare documents on screen? Is there a universal viewer? How are system files backed up… and how often?
Is a robust audit trail created automatically within the system? Are all documents related to a project easily accessible and electronically linked to that particular project? Are all document views and changes fully logged and traceable? If you need to check when a particular revision to a drawing was made – and by whom – how easy will it be to find this out?
What about archiving? Is it possible to transfer files relating to completed projects to a secure storage area and make them available only for ‘read only’ access?
When users access a document on the system, they need to be confident that what they are looking at on screen is the very latest version. Double-check that only the current version will be visible to users.
Make sure it’s possible to set up the system so that all interested parties are notified automatically if a document they have been involved with is downloaded, revised or forwarded by email. This will be a big help on the collaboration front, because you’ll know that everyone is being kept in the loop at all times.
Introducing digital forms is a great way to standardise the data that you capture across your construction organisation. Typical forms include PPE requirements, expenses, the site diary, snagging lists, health and safety, and holidays.
Check that your construction management system will enable you to create responsive digital forms, to optimise the viewing and interaction experience. No doubt some users will be site-based, so your system should work seamlessly on a laptop, tablet or mobile device. Will users be able to capture the data offline or online, ready for automatic sync when in an area with an internet connection?
How easy is it to create a new form on the system and customise it to meet your requirements? Can the forms look and feel like your current business forms so that staff can navigate them easily and start using them immediately? Can dropdown boxes be created on fields, to minimise manual typing requirements (and therefore the risk of error)? Can certain fields be completed automatically?
Are completed forms uploaded automatically to the system? Can your teams capture information on digital forms when they are offline, ready for automatic upload once they have an internet connection? And can you email them completed forms direct from the system?
Reporting and Dashboards
It’s all very well capturing a wealth of real-time data on the system, but the true benefits arise only if you’re able to analyse it, produce reliable management information, gain business insights and spot emerging trends.
Will the system enable you to set up reports, which can then be generated at the touch of a button? How easy is the set-up? How long will the report generation take? Will it be based on real-time data?
Will the report be presented in a user-friendly format and easily interpreted? Will there be dashboard views? Will potential problems be highlighted clearly, giving you an early insight into issues arising on site and enabling you to make informed decisions at a strategic, companywide level?
Will the system allow you to send drafts out for review or approval to specified individuals? Does it incorporate digital forms that support this process?
Construction projects often involve a number of very large digital files. Check whether your chosen system enables you to use metadata when uploading files – it’ll make the whole process far speedier.
By selecting the construction document management system that’s perfect for your business, you can start to reap some big dividends.
Your teams will work more efficiently, you’ll drive out unnecessary costs and you’ll gain invaluable management and strategic insights to help improve profitability and grow the business.
So do your homework and choose wisely.
Construction software specialist RedSky developed Project Connect in response to feedback from construction companies and contractors. Our unique collaboration and project management platform incorporates all the features outlined in this article. It puts you firmly in the driving seat, enabling you to exert control and manage project risk effectively.
Learn more about how RedSky’s construction solution can improve your profitability by requesting a demo. You can also get in touch through our contact form or by giving us a call on +44 020 3002 8600.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marcia joined the RedSky team as an Account Manager in October 2020. Customers benefit enormously from her impressive IT knowledge, ability to understand their issues, determination to resolve them and her infectious positivity. With over a decade of experience as a senior business developer and customer account manager, Marcia understands what it takes to take the company to the next level.