Best Practices for Document Control Software in Construction
November 04, 2021
No more search-and-rescue missions for documents. No more risk of damage, theft or loss of drawings, change orders, RFIs, inspection reports or contracts. Everything is accessible from anywhere within one centralized location.
Such benefits of document control software are undeniable, and now that you’ve implemented it, or soon will, you’re eager to put it to use. But before you jump in, there are a few steps you’ll want to take to ensure you and your team get the most out of using your software.
Evaluate where you currently are with document control in your company
Ideally you did this assessment prior to implementing your document control software. But if not, use the following as a guide for approaching how you’ll use the software and/or to improve how it’s currently used. At the outset, you need a baseline against which to assess where things stand now and what you ultimately want the software to do for your company and your projects. One effective way to do this is to assemble a small group of beta users from different project areas and involve them in the process. Some questions to ask in this evaluation would be:
- Will you use the software exclusively for your document control or are you planning on a hybrid approach of software plus hard copy files?
- Is there a consistent file naming protocol and will it carry over to the new system?
- How are files organized?
- Is it intuitive enough for the infrequent user to easily find what they need?
- What’s working with your current system that you can apply to the software?
- What isn’t working?
- How can document access and control be improved to support collaboration and decision making among project team members?
- What other improvements should be made?
One thing to note when evaluating how things have been done is how much Microsoft Excel® and email have played a role in what is often a disjointed approach to file management. Most of us have relied on them as de facto ways to save and organize information. Your adoption of document control software is the perfect time to break free of that dependence.
Take advantage of document control software customization capabilities
Does your software go beyond a plug-and-play solution? Consider tailoring the things that make the most sense for your business and project needs.
Start with the user interface, if that’s an option, since that’s what everyone will encounter first. Engage that group of beta users to observe how they interact with the software as-is. Are they struggling through unnecessary information or crowded screens, or is it easy to follow? What would they change, add or remove, if anything? Are there details that most people need to see first more than other details? Is it organized in a visually pleasing and intuitive way? It pays to experiment with the different options your document control software offers.
After the user interface comes how files and data are organized. A common hindrance to project progress is not being able to find information when it’s most needed. Therefore, the folder and file structure should be easy to navigate. What is the most logical filing hierarchy? Does it make sense to organize by client, by project type, by date or something else? How will dependent subfolders and individual files be structured within those folders?
Standardize naming, versioning and filing protocols
Along with customized file structure comes the opportunity to create consistent naming and filing conventions. While you could retain what you used in your filing cabinet days, you may want to consider using this opportunity to create new protocols that make it easier to not only upload documents in the right place but to know what they are by their naming structure. The simpler the better, which can be a huge benefit when doing document searches within the software and when having to locate previous versions of files for auditing or compliance purposes.
Assign a person or small team to be the document control software point of contact
This person may or may not be the liaison that was instrumental in actually implementing your document control software. After implementation, they can help ensure processes are being followed, including when responding to audit or litigation requests, answer questions about how to use the software and support those who may be still trying to shift to a new technology and process.
Implement permission-based levels of access to documents
If your software is cloud-based, then every project team member has the opportunity to view and modify files. It certainly makes it easier to collaborate and make decisions when based on the latest information available. But it also opens up the risk of unauthorized access to confidential data. Not everyone needs access to all files, especially those containing sensitive, proprietary or financial information, so make sure the right permissions are in place. The right document control software will have the necessary security features to assign access to certain types of documents by job role, or even individually, though the latter is a more tedious approach. An administrator — perhaps the contact person designated above — can ensure such information is reserved only for those granted the appropriate authorization.
Don’t have a document control software solution in place yet, or exploring your options? Consider InEight Document, created for construction professionals, by construction professionals. It streamlines the way you view, share and manage your project documentation throughout the life cycle of all your capital projects — making more efficient use of everyone’s time, a precious commodity when working on tight project schedules. Request a demo today.