What Is Construction Document Management, And How to Do It Right
Handling an impressive volume of paperwork requires ultimate dedication and increased proficiency. Regardless of the industry, the process involves organizing and managing everything to ensure a smooth workflow and satisfied clients. Construction document management is not an exception. From construction drawings through the licensing and permit issuing process, invoicing, bidding, reporting and scheduling, construction document management encompasses every aspect of construction projects.
Let’s turn today’s article into a complete guide outlining the key terms and approaches to construction document management.
As a bonus tip, we will discuss the benefits of keeping everything on a single platform to avoid bureaucracy.
What Is Construction Document Management?
In simpler terms, it’s about coordination, communication, efficiency, and time and cost savings. Documenting the construction process is a complex and elaborate task, not least because of the multitude of document types pertaining to it.
At its core, construction document management implies organizing all your data in a single place to ensure nothing is left unrecorded. Professionally managing workflow guarantees all documents are safe, accurately structured, and quickly found by everyone involved in the construction project.
Management styles may differ. Some companies keep all files on physical storage, while others opt for digital solutions such as construction management software. Whatever the approach is, it is each project manager’s duty to keep the team updated as construction progresses. Everyone affected by the update, from on-site workers to the architects and the accounting team, must know they have been updated as soon as possible.
4 Benefits of Upgrading Document Management for Your Construction Business
If keeping everything under control requires so much effort and management skills, why do construction companies bother so much? Is the deployment of a software solution for construction project management worth it?
Allocating time and human resources to conduct construction document management can appear to be a waste of resources. In reality, papers, licenses, invoicing documents, bills and everything used in construction projects come with a cost.
An investment in a construction project management solution is vital and can pay for itself a thousandfold. The benefits of migrating from paper-based documentation to a centralized digital documentation system result in a massive leap in construction efficiency and a significant positive impact on your bottom line.
Thus, the answer is simple – construction document management brings numerous advantages to the table. Let’s list a few to help you navigate this topic better.
Benefit 1: You Have a Reliable Data Source
You are committing to creating a single reference for all construction teams by deploying a document management solution. This is the “single source of truth.”
Once there is a single data source for your projects, it’s much easier to track and maintain the reliability and integrity of the data it contains. There is an inevitable jump in efficiency and coordination between teams.
A single data source also allows for greater depth of information and increasingly detailed process tracking, making your business more sophisticated and profitable over time.
A single shared record of all events ensures none of your teams operate in separate information silos. This, in turn, eliminates the heightened risk of errors often detrimental to your project.
Instead, there is unimpeded communication and coordination, and everyone knows what everyone else knows, makes the same assumptions, and draws the same conclusions.
Furthermore, once a project comes to a close, there is no requirement for closing gaps and errors in construction progress and financial accounting caused by discrepancies resulting from each department relying on more than one source of information.
Benefit 2: Smooth Communication Between Project Members
Poor communication is one of the primary causes of problems and delays in the construction process. Its impact is significant but also completely unnecessary if the proper communication channels are established and maintained.
It’s easy to imagine the damage that can be caused to a construction project when on-site workers do not have the proper documents, when instructions don’t sync with contractors, and when there are assumptions that everyone knows what to do when they don’t. The potential for delays, stoppages, and cost overruns is very high and grows higher as a project progresses. Thus, the lack of proper construction project management is prone to lead to delays and the need for time-consuming corrections.
All this is diligently avoided when you store construction documentation at a single location that everyone can access. In the exemplary scenario, documentation is thorough and updated frequently. It reduces the need for time-consuming excessive interpersonal communication and constant inspections and checks that slow work down. Moreover, smooth communication between team members results in construction moving forward faster and updates for clients and investors taking less to prepare. The financial team is always on top of costs and can make necessary changes and adjustments much earlier in the construction process, saving a lot of money.
Benefit 3: Construction Accounting Has No Disruptions
Construction accounting usually is more intricate and complex than accounting for other types of business. The reason for that is the constant changes to factors like material costs, delivery schedules and the pace of construction.
Construction accounting also includes financial tools like progress payments, retainage and change orders that are usually not seen in more common accounting processes. The numbers involved require extreme accuracy, as the risk of losses in disruptions can become a heavy burden for the companies and their clients.
There are tremendous financial benefits to using a supporting platform like Buildern that fully integrates with the major construction accounting software Xero and QuickBooks. Those upgrading internal document management by investing in advanced tools and technologies enjoy the best construction accounting practices.
Step-by-Step Accounting Integration with Xero and QuickBooks in Buildern
Any change to project schedules, material costs, or payroll is automatically reflected in the financial picture of the project. This helps avoid disruptions or stoppages that, in turn, force changes to the finances and may result in unnecessary cost overruns.
Benefit 4: It’s Easier to See the Day-to-Day Progress of the Project and Adjust Approaches
Construction projects are rarely implemented on time and within the set budget. This is because construction projects take time, and once construction begins, it is exposed to a high level of unpredictability due to external factors beyond the builders’ control. Weather changes, delivery delays, changes to material costs, adjustments to human resources, vehicle breakdowns and workplace accidents are all beyond the ability of project managers and planners to anticipate them.
Predictability and control, however, can be significantly enhanced with construction document management software. You’ll start seeing the fruits once there is consistent and thorough project documentation and integration between construction and financial documentation.
Changes reflected in real time in the construction and financial documentation are the key to adequate day-to-day progress. That’s precisely what a professional platform offers. Due to the advanced features and the professional approach, Buildern makes the lives of construction managers much easier. It keeps construction management within the realm of predictable, controllable, safe, and profitable.
What Does Traditional Construction Document Management Look Like? Is There a Space to Optimize It?
Traditional construction document management relies on pen and paper or simple platforms like Google Documents. Such platforms are slow and error-prone archaic processes in an era of the availability of apps for every activity. Advanced construction project management tools can simplify and automate any action related to construction documents. This includes everything from construction scheduling and planning to construction execution in the field.
In the traditional model, much effort is involved in updating construction drawings and documents. As the project progresses, processes to monitor and control significantly increase in number. Not to mention all the time and effort needed to gather, update and distribute paperwork through the relevant departments.
Here are the key challenges construction managers face when forced to manage the project with the traditional pen-and-paper process:
Challenge 1: Version Confusion
Construction managers working with paper documentation often cannot tell which version of a document they are looking at. They cannot know whether a document has been updated and whether there is a more recent version and new information. This increases the likelihood of inefficiencies and wrong decisions.
A reliable software platform with document management capabilities can help keep track of all the documents, versions and updates.
Challenge 2: Accessibility Issues
Paper documentation is complicated to access, as it’s rarely available when and where it’s needed. Workers on a construction site who may need to access a drawing or financial record to solve an unexpected problem are forced to stop work until they can access the documents in the company offices.
Another area for improvement with paper construction documents is that those located outside the construction sites are typically stored in areas with limited access. Whenever a client or a partnering company decides to access construction documents, they are often locked up in company offices. Construction managers have to meet with them and present the documents physically.
Compare this to having immediate and direct access to all the construction or financial information on site whenever an issue appears and solving it minimally without stoppages. The difference in efficiency is incomparable.
Challenge 3: Wasted Time
Paper document management requires construction managers to have a great deal of time and effort managing construction documents. From collecting them to distributing them, it’s a colossal time-consumer. Creating, storing and keeping track of paper documents, especially in processes as complex and interdependent as construction tasks, can be truly daunting. Still, the real damage is in wasted time and money.
Such construction managers should take advantage of an excellent opportunity to focus their attention and energy on other important construction management tasks, such as construction scheduling and coordination with construction partners.
The challenge of managing paper documents becomes even more acute whenever a change is made in the building process, which is quite common in construction. Updating paper drawings and making equivalent adjustments to financial records requires time and the appropriate personnel.
Challenge 4: Higher Risk of Human Error
The risk of human error is very high where paper documentation is involved. From inaccurate data to missing documents, humans will inevitably make mistakes, some of which may be inconsequential, but some errors can be disastrous for a project.
To err is human. Nevertheless, construction managers need a system that minimizes the risk of errors and avoids such problems.
Solved: Free Your Business From The Challenges of Paper Documentation
There are software tools that address the challenges of managing paper documents from different perspectives.
Buildern is a one-stop shop for companies looking for a comprehensive construction document management tool that easily integrates with existing tools like accounting software and is highly accessible and easy to deploy. It organizes construction document management and makes life easier for managers.
Let’s furtherly see how the software positions itself as a convenient and secure platform.
The Smart Way to Manage Construction Documents with Buildern
Buildern is a construction project management platform designed to eliminate the complexities of construction by enabling thorough, detailed assessments of the progress of your construction projects.
The software empowers builders with everything through advanced features to create digital records of construction materials and costs, view construction drawings, bills, invoicing documents, reports, and more. For instance, users can generate detailed invoices and send them to their clients right from Buildern’s dashboard. There’s no need to go through the numerous folders and older bills to see previous payment history. The platform has everything integrated and kept secure to ensure that both builders and clients enjoy smooth workflows.
Here’s a more detailed representation of invoicing through Buildern:
Step-by-Step Invoiving via Buildern
The platform has been developed with the construction industry in mind, providing construction managers with a comprehensive solution that is flexible, easy to use and deployable. Buildern achieves this through advanced construction document management and complete project visibility through well-designed dashboards supporting multiple views on each project, its tasks and subtasks, and hierarchies and dependencies.
Each task and process have all necessary documentation attached, integrated and easily updatable, including construction drawings, proposals, bills of quantities, estimations, invoices, and accounting records.
The whole bunch of tools and features will mark a forward leap in the efficiency and profitability of your construction business.
Schedule the Workflow and Synchronize Construction Tasks Across the Team
Buildern enables detailed construction scheduling designed to help you easily keep track of work as it progresses from launch to completion from one central location. It’s a great way to track project progress and ensure construction requirements are met.
(image with task progress)
The software lets you easily synchronize construction tasks across the team, so everyone stays on the same page tracking their duties. Task start and end dates, milestones and completion rates throughout the project lifecycle are available from multiple views shared between team members with prior set permissions.
Control Documentation for Greater Safety and Efficiency
Everything moves along more smoothly when the information you need is easily accessible from one central location. Documents are updated as needed, keeping everyone aware of updates and modifications. Buildern has a built-in library to keep all project-related documents, files, drawings and images in one place.
Online File Library for Construction Document Management
Role-based access ensures everyone has access to the correct information when needed while you have improved control with visibility on all updates and logs. This, in turn, provides complete security, as only those who need to see particular documents get access to them.
Roles and Permissions for Teams in Buildern
Such a library helps Buildern users focus on construction activities and compliance while the document management processes are automated.
Multiple Views Enable Complete Project Control
Customizing the data display to understand construction progress better is easy with Buildern. On the construction document management side, you can view tasks and subtasks from various angles and check construction accounts and invoices.
Real-time dashboards provide visualization of construction project data which is interactive, configurable and instantly updated, giving construction managers a full view of progress.
The platform shows how construction works are progressing concerning each other, while Gantt charts highlight the milestones and critical paths.
(Gantt chart example in Buildern)
It is particularly helpful for projects where tasks need to be completed in a specific sequence. Focused on highlighting task dependencies, hierarchies and overlaps, Buildern users can also set up task notifications to ensure construction is updated and timely.
Maximum clarity on every detail of your project is easily available from these multiple views, allowing you to make changes and updates, create tasks and subtasks, and keep your project on track and within budget.
These multiple options place the entire construction process at your disposal and control.
8 Trusted Tips for Construction Document Management
While having a platform to keep everything together is essential for project management, you can also take extra steps to ensure construction goes according to plan.
Tip 1: Assess Your Current Document Management Approaches, Identify Gaps
Any investment in improvements or upgrades to your document management strategy begins with a thorough assessment of your construction company’s needs. Especially important is a clear identification and objective understanding of the gaps that these improvements will have to address.
The gaps in construction document management strategy and policies are unique to each company and are affected by how that company has evolved over time.
Factors affecting the gaps may also include the following:
- Legacy approaches that may still be in place
- The conflicts that emerge over time between these legacy systems and the new approaches
- The construction documents which need replacement
- Construction personnel’s organization and available resources
Congratulations if you’ve decided to invest in a comprehensive construction document management solution! You’ve taken an essential step toward improving your company’s performance and bottom line. However, this investment will pay off only if implemented consistently, thoroughly and rationally.
Thus, the questions to answer on the way to self-assessment are:
- What is the potential for more digitization in the existing document management system?
- What are the gains to be expected from moving to a document management solution in terms of time saved, money saved, and construction efficiency?
- What are the opportunities to ensure quicker access to the right information by stakeholders at the right time?
Tip 2: Analyze the Culture and Personality Traits of Project Stakeholders – What Works Best for Them When It Comes to Consuming Information?
Let’s put it straight.
Project stakeholders are individuals, suppliers, organizations and other entities interested in the construction project. They directly or indirectly influence the construction project and affect its outcome.
Stakeholders have different frames of reference, along with differing expectations, objectives and levels of influence in construction projects. This means that construction document management solutions must be tailored to the needs and preferences of each particular stakeholder group. Everyone involved in the project requires a different perspective with unique information on a project to perform their role effectively.
Buildern is designed not just to store the information you need. It’s also designed to understand what each stakeholder needs at what phase in the project. Simply put, providing quicker and easier access to that information in a clear and easily understandable manner is one of its numerous superpowers.
Tip 3: Have a Responsible Person for Managing Construction Documentation
Allocating a point person to manage construction documents is a must. The construction document manager should be in charge of the digital or paper paperwork. This person will be responsible for constantly taking action to improve how construction data is recorded and updated, how information is layered for access by different stakeholders, and the security of the available information.
It is crucial as it brings clarity, consistency and coherence to the entire documentation stack for every project.
Tip 4: Carefully Choose Software, Have the Same for All Your Projects
Choosing the software solution to help you manage construction documentation is one of the vital decisions and critical investments your company will make. While many offer ease of use, the most important thing is to ensure the software you choose provides a comprehensive construction document management solution that meets all your needs.
Your pro tip for this one will be trusting Buildern with full-featured solutions that integrate seamlessly with many of the tools you’re already using and provides a complete feature set that improves the document management process across the board without breaking the bank.
Tip 5: Centralize All Your Documents, Don’t Have Them in Separate Places
Completely centralizing all documentation pertaining to past and current projects will help you avoid duplication of efforts and data entry errors. It will also reduce your time searching for documents, formulating document requests, or creating new versions of existing documents.
This applies to both physical and digital versions of construction documentation. Whether they’re stored in an archive, local servers, or the cloud, centralizing document storage and introducing the appropriate access controls will go a long way toward improving your construction document sets’ security and information integrity.
Going forward, it’s important to implement the relevant policies to ensure all construction documentation is centralized. This will require a certain amount of training for the different teams in the company. Professionals using Buildern will benefit from its information-gathering and reporting toolset that makes construction document management a breeze. Keeping everything under control can take time, but the benefits far outweigh the effort.
Tip 6: Establish Workflows. How Should the Documentation Work? When Should a Project Participant Document Something and How?
Once every workflow is centralized and there is a clear view of construction document management, the next step is introducing policies on how and when that documentation can be updated. This reflects in clear and strict workflows for documentation updates that eliminate the chaos and lack of coordination around updates that can often throw a construction project into disarray.
Construction is based on heavily interconnected and interdependent processes executed on construction sites. Even the slightest change in a process can have huge implications for the project timeline and the costs involved. As a result, strict and clearly defined document update workflows are essential for completing projects.
Any lapse in project reporting could be a recipe for cost overruns or frustrating delays. Builders using a unified and advanced construction project management platform must always reflect on the project plan in case of any change in the pace of construction, the delivery of materials, and the project’s design.
Buildern’s automated workflows will determine when a builder should go through the unpaid invoices, the construction documents in the approval process, and other tasks.
Tip 7: Automate As Much As Possible – For Example, Integrate Accounting Software With Your Document Management Software
Launching an undertaking like rationalizing construction project documentation, opportunities for automation will inevitably appear. Automation opportunities will be relevant to both construction documents and the process itself of managing these documents.
Document management benefits from automating your workflows with Buildern in the context of integrating the different aspects of the construction process. A great example is integrating accounting software so that any change in design can be reflected in a difference in bills of quantities. Moreover, as construction progresses, results can be reflected in estimated timelines and final project costs.
Tip 8: Continuously Test and Improve the Process for Your Team and Clients
Have you implemented any or all of the seven tips above? The next step is to introduce a process for constantly assessing, testing, improving, and optimizing all the procedures. This is vital as keeping your team and your clients on the same page guarantee no missteps.
Policy adjustments are generally an internal affair. However, every new project will still require subtle adjustments to documentation and reporting procedures for maximum efficiency and harmony.
A robust construction document management solution’s two core objectives are smooth internal and external cooperation and maximum efficiency. The right investment will deliver on these two goals and simplify the construction process.
That is precisely the spirit and design behind Buildern, a sophisticated and also highly accessible tool for construction project management. Designed to understand everyone else’s job, what information they need to do their job, and in the end, make everyone’s job a lot easier. The platform has been designed to provide construction companies and general contractors with advanced invoicing, estimating, billing and bidding opportunities. From work-in-progress reports to complete construction budgeting, Buildern has it all, and more importantly – it is intuitive, user-friendly and easy to learn.
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