The evolution of construction document management software has been painfully slow to incorporate project email. Project plans, drawings, specifications, checklists and photos have all made their way into the leading collaborative document management solutions, but project email remains mostly an outcast.
A primary reason for this is that email existed long before the innovative project management platforms we see today, and it was very infrequently incorporated effectively into any solution. This is despite the fact email is the leading method of communication on today’s jobsites! Thankfully, things are changing with the emergence of innovative document management solutions that integrate this powerful tool.
Let’s first take a deeper dive into the reasons why email has been left on its own little island.
Microsoft Outlook has been around since 1992, and it does a wonderful job at an organizational level of transferring information between various parties. It’s used by 97% of all project participants today, but there are some big drawbacks to using it in construction, such as:
- There’s no single source of truth: Each company on the team has its own Outlook, but there’s not often a single email set that everyone on the project can access.
- History problems: It’s hard to see an audit of everything that happened on the project based on the emails that have been distributed.
- Uncontrolled communications: Sending certain communications you only want some people to see under specific conditions is very difficult to do in Outlook.
- Single mail type: The template for an email is very basic. There is no easy way to associate additional attributes and metadata to aid in the searching and filtering of project email.
- Difficulty linking to other project items: Outlook tends to be a completely separate entity from the rest of the project data.
We spend 28% of our day in email, and 14 minutes of that time is spent just searching for specific emails.* Fortunately, not all is lost. We can continue to use Outlook as our primary email tool, but now it’s possible to layer and integrate it into a document management tool in a single location where every email can be managed, captured and retrieved – one place where you can distribute project information, analyze it and use it to make the right decisions more quickly.
The Outlook Solution
Companies such as InEight, which is part of the Microsoft Gold Partner program, have developed seamless, advanced solutions that expand Outlook, allowing you to create project emails within the Outlook framework. These solutions allow you to define different email templates, pick the one you want and bring it into the project. They also allow you to take an email that came in through the normal Outlook mechanism and convert it into a project email – plus, you can view your project emails directly from within Outlook. In summary, you now have the ability to turn Outlook into a communication tool that works for your capital project, while still retaining the familiarity and comfort associated with the legacy system.
So, don’t make email an outcast. Transform it into a powerful tool that complements your collaborative document management system.
Interested in seeing how InEight’s solutions can help you improve project performance? Request your free demo here.
*The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, McKinsey Report, July 2012