How Do You Search for
Construction Documents?

As a construction professional, you are constantly searching for the right construction project documents to perform your job. You may be searching for plans, specifications, photos, forms, or everyone’s favorite — email. A 2018 FMI study, Construction Disconnected, found the average construction professional spends 5.5 hours a week just looking for project data/information. Think about that. Well over 10% of a team’s time is wasted just looking for the right piece of information.


Why do we spend so much time looking for data?

Sometimes it’s as simple as the searching tools just don’t exist, but in most cases, it’s because our tools don’t allow us to search the way we want to search. I would argue in today’s construction world, a typical professional prefers to search for information in one of four different ways:

  1. Google-like search — searching for a word or phrase contained in the document. Google has mastered this concept and it proves especially valuable when the document you’re searching for has a large amount of searchable text. This method has its drawbacks because the document you’re searching for has minimal text like a plan or drawing.
  2. Attribute searching — searching for data contained in one or more attributes associated with each document. Attribute searching is foremost helpful when searching for documents like plans and drawings that have multiple pieces of data associated with them, some of which may not be readily found in the text of the document. The problem with attribute searching is someone must take the time to enter the attributes for each captured document.
  3. Folder searching — navigating a multi-level folder tree to find the right document. The folder search harks back to the dawn of computer storage solutions when almost everything was stored in a MS File Explore folder. The folder tree is still the favorite of many who have a thorough knowledge of the project structure found in the folder hierarchy. Its usefulness quickly diminished for those not familiar with the existing structure or when the folder tree gets cluttered and redundant.
  4. Relationship searching — finding a document by following links from one document to another until the desired document is located. The relationship search is a popular way of searching the internet but also proves its worth on construction projects. It may take hours to find that specific photo you’re looking for that’s hiding amongst thousands of other photos, but could take just a minute to find a related RFI and quickly scan through the small handful of photos linked to the RFI. That said, relationship searching is only as good as the relationships that have been defined.

Is there a best way of searching for construction project documents? Absolutely not! Each search method has its strengths and weaknesses and just as importantly, each team member has their search preferences. My suggestion is don’t settle for a solution that pigeonholes your team into one way of searching. Find a solution with the flexibility to search the way you want to search. Say “no” to spending hours each week searching for documents and “yes” to just minutes.

Learn more about today’s most advanced project document management solutions that let you search the way you want to search.

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