Best Practices for Construction Document Management
Construction document management might not sound glamorous, but ask anyone who does the job and they’ll tell you it’s critical to the success of construction projects. As contractors move from pen and paper to digital, paperless operating environments, they have found a variety of solutions for document management available to them, some more sophisticated than others.
Still, many contractors use a mix of paper and digital documents, and even if they’ve gone fully digital, they may rely on several different software applications. A recent survey found many contractors still rely on basic digital tools like spreadsheets to manage their projects.
On the whole, this trend toward digital is good. It means contractors want to make documents more accessible to their teams. But for real success with document control in construction to happen, we need to identify what that work encompasses and focus on solving the remaining challenges of document storage and accessibility.
What is Construction Document Management?
Construction document management is the general process that a construction manager or project manager might use to organize and store contracts, blueprints, permits, and other documents necessary to day-to-day operations. These days, filing cabinets have been replaced in many construction firms with construction software that digitizes data and assists with storing and sharing it quickly with those who need it in the field via electronic forms, dashboards, plans, drawings, specs and much more..
Construction document management styles may differ from individual to individual, but the best practices we’ve laid out below can help construction managers identify the best ways to ensure no one is left hanging when they need information.
The Challenges of Traditional Construction Document Management
Document management is not a trivial thing. Contracts, compliance documentation, job costs and financial data, drawings and specs and more all ensure a project is carried out according to plan. These documents play a fundamental role in construction. But many common challenges arise related to document management, even in modern construction organizations:
- Version confusion: As revisions occur, multiple versions of documents are created, which concerned parties may not be aware of or have immediate access to. This is especially true with paper documentation, and can easily lead to errors and rework if crews consult an outdated document.
- Access difficulties: Finding the right paper documents can take time but accessing digital documents in the field can be time-consuming as well. Even with digitization, Internet connectivity issues, slow VPNs, file permission problems and other delays can arise, especially when multiple disconnected solutions are used to store, send or access documents.
- Problems modifying in the field: Not all software applications make it easy to edit or comment on documents, especially for people who work outside the office.
- Wasted time: Without a centralized repository for documents, everyone spends extra time looking for what they need.
How to Streamline and Simplify Construction Document Management
1. Centralize Your Construction Data
The first step to getting a handle on document management at your organization is to centralize your data and documents. A connected, cloud-based software solution that provides access to the most current project documents in real time makes it easier for all members of your project teams to find what they need and execute a project correctly.
At Trimble Viewpoint, we often talk about the importance of having one accurate source of data, and document management is no exception. Unless everyone is working off the same information, how can you confidently say things will be done correctly?
Organizing a tricky file structure can be made easier by doing away with paper records, since digital files—particularly those that can be updated through your construction software system in real-time to present the latest information—are easier for multiple stakeholders to access.
Construction document management software that connects all of the necessary components of a project is crucial for successful teams.
2. Make Construction Documents Accessible Anywhere
Next, you need to make documentation readily available to everyone on your project team who needs it. Cloud-based document storage and connected construction workflows allow your team to access needed data and documents in the field, many times through mobile-friendly applications that work directly on smartphones or tablet devices..
Our Trimble Viewpoint Team solution, for example, can be accessed both by using a computer in the office, or a tablet or smartphone out in the field, providing the same degree of functionality no matter where work takes construction professionals. This allows for real-time sharing and viewing of important documents. It has a customizable folder structure, so it’s simple to navigate, and includes a complete version history and audit trail so you can see who’s made changes to documents. With Viewpoint Team, users can also mark up PDFs in their browser, so it’s easy to leave notes and get questions answered.
Today’s connected technologies are bringing detailed analytic capabilities to the field as well. With Viewpoint Analytics Mobile, you can not only get detailed up-to-the-minute data and reports instantly on any mobile device, you can easily compare, analyze and query data or drill down into details in order to better understand project impacts.
3. Optimize Document Management Workflows
After you have centralized your data with a connected software suite and provided remote access to those who need that information most, it’s time to coordinate how information moves from one team member to another—and to standardize these workflows for all construction project data.
Ensure that the following assets and processes are in place:
- A process for updating documentation and dispersing that information
- A review and approval process for making those changes
- Ensuring that the correct information is routed to the appropriate individual at the right time
- Maps of the workflows
- Ensuring all of your software systems work together
With disparate software systems, it can be particularly difficult to coordinate and optimize document management workflows. Using too many different systems can create confusion and ultimately cause the same efficiency problems you were trying to solve in the first place.
With a connected, cloud-based construction management suite however, most of the aforementioned workflows are built into the data and documentation capabilities. For instance, financial data entered into accounting workflows can auto-populate project management forms or reports, and vice versa.
Make Construction Document Management Easier at Your Business
A centralized, reliable document management solution ultimately enables better collaboration for everyone working on your projects and gives you more control over documentation. You won’t have to worry about inaccurate data floating around and leading to mistakes on your job sites.
Once you connect your data and document workflows in real-time, you’ll be surprised just how much easier your daily tasks are to complete, how much smoother your projects go, and how much more profitable your organization is.