Many construction professionals use project documentation management (or document control) tools all day long; however, they can find that their organization’s preferred systems do not work the way they would like. Most standard document and filing tools are not inherently designed for managing construction project documentation.
In the business world today, general document management for common processes and workflows can be done in many ways. Australian construction businesses have a variety of storage, sharing and organization solutions to choose from.
Almost every document management solution provides capabilities such as:
- Document uploading
- Document searching
- Folder creation for document organization
- Distribution of documents
- Audit trails
- Support for PDFs and office file types
However, managing construction documentation for capital projects requires capabilities that extend beyond those provided by a traditional file management system. General document management solutions may lack features specific to the construction of buildings, roads, plants, mines, public utilities and other structures; however, capital project-specific document management solutions provide these features.
Before deciding if your company needs a digital construction document management system, consider what capabilities you need and how easy it should be to access them. In this article, we’ll be exploring some core tips and tricks to getting started with construction document management software.
How can I get started with document management software?
After implementing document control software, you’re all excited and ready to use it right away. But first, there are a few things you should do to make sure everyone on your team is getting the most out of it.
1. Evaluate how your current document control system works for your company
If you haven’t done so already, it’s best to assess your needs before implementing document control software. However, if you have already implemented the software, use the following as a guide on how to get the most out of it and/or improve its current usage. To asses where things stand and what your company ultimately wants from the software, it’s helpful to establish a baseline against which you can measure progress. One way to do this is by assembling beta users from different project areas and involving them in the process.
Some questions to ask in this evaluation would be:
- Will you use the software solely for document control, or will you combine it with hard copy files?
- Is there a consistent file naming protocol in place, and will it be carried over to the new system?
- How are files organised?
- Is it simple enough for the infrequent user to find what they need?
- What works in your current system that you can apply to the software?
- What isn’t working?
- How can document access and control be improved to facilitate collaboration and decision making among project team members?
- What improvements should be made?
It’s important to note that when you’re evaluating how past processes were done, spreadsheets and email probably played a huge role in what was often a very disorganized way of managing files. Most of us have become so reliant on these methods, but document control software is the perfect opportunity to break free from that dependence.
2. Standardize naming, versioning and filing protocols
You now have the chance to not only reorganize your files, but also name them in a consistent manner. Even if you’re happy with how you did things before, it may be worthwhile to set up new systems that will make it easier to upload items in the correct spot and know what they are by looking at their title. The less complicated the better – this can come in handy when needing to locate documents within the software or find older versions of files for audits or compliance reasons.
3. Take advantage of document control software customization capabilities
If you want your software to be more than a generic solution, think about customizing it to suit your business and project requirements.
Since the user interface is what everyone will encounter first, it’s a great starting point. Bring in a group of beta users and see how they interact with the software as-is. Are they having difficulty comprehending information due to too much data on one screen, or is everything easy to follow? What changes would they make if any; such as removal or addition of certain details? Is the organization pleasing to look at and simple to understand? Try different features that your document control software offers.
The next thing to think about after the user interface is how files and data will be organized. A common project roadblock is not being able to locate information when it would be most useful. The solution? Building a logical, easy-to-navigate folder structure. Here are some questions to consider: What’s the most reasonable filing hierarchy? Should folders be organized by client, by project type, or by date—or something else entirely? How should dependent subfolders and individual files within those folders be structured?
4. Implement permission-based levels of access to documents
By utilizing cloud-based software, every individual on your project team is able to view and edit files. Having the most recent information available makes for easier collaboration and quicker decision making; however, it also means that there is a greater risk for unauthorized access to confidential data. Not every person involved needs access to all folders–especially those containing sensitive, propriety or financial information–so be sure that the correct permissions are established from the start. Only authorized personnel should have access to certain types of documents, and the right document control software will allow you to assign access by job role or individually. The latter approach is more tedious, but an administrator can ensure that only those with appropriate authorization have access to the reserved information.
5. Assign a team to be the document control software point of contact
After your document control software has been implemented, this person or team can help ensure that processes are still being followed. They will be instrumental in responding to audit or litigation requests, answering questions about how to use the software and supporting those who may still be trying to shift to a new technology and process.
All construction projects, no matter how big or small, are inherently complex and involve extensive data collection and analysis. Every single piece of information gathered from the beginning is essential to the project’s success and must be stored securely, organised efficiently, and made available for future use.
The switch to construction document management systems is a change in how construction companies do business. Since your teams are used to paper-based systems, an app-based approach could be challenging. This transformation is really about managing change within the organization. A good construction document management plan ensures that your projects stay on schedule, saving you money and preventing potential legal issues down the road.
By going digital, construction businesses can simplify, streamline and automate the most time-consuming aspects of traditional or hybrid document management – creating more time for the core business activities that matter.
If you manage construction projects and don’t have a document control software solution, consider integrating PlanRadar into your technology stack to streamline the way you can view, share, and manage your construction project documentation. Start a free PlanRadar 30-day product trial or contact us today.