Why You Need a
Construction-Specific Document Management System
By David Wagner
November 02, 2020
As a construction professional, you’re used to working with project documentation all day long. So how come your organization’s preferred systems aren’t accustomed to working the way you do? The fact is, most tools, such as SharePoint, Dropbox or Outlook are not ideal for managing construction project documentation.
In today’s business environment, there are many solutions available for storing, sharing and managing general documents for common processes and workflows.
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 so much more than what a traditional file management system provides. Where general document management solutions struggle is in providing the capabilities unique to the construction of buildings, roads, plants, mines, public utilities and other structures.
If you find yourself evaluating whether or not your company needs a system designed specifically for construction document management, start by assessing the capabilities you need and how seamlessly you need them delivered. Let’s examine some of these areas in more detail.
Construction File Types
Where typical document management solutions are optimized to handle PDF and other office documents, they rarely support other construction-specific file types like DWGs, DGNs or model files. With a general solution there is either no way to view these files, or you’re required to buy additional licenses of the native application, just for viewing. Construction-focused solutions support the viewing and redlining of these unique file types out of the box.
Additionally, when capturing a document, like a PDF drawing, into a document management solution, it’s valuable to automatically scrape — through optical character recognition — the information off the document (such as a document number in a drawing title block) to streamline the indexing process. A general solution is not going to understand the nuances of the title block; a construction-focused solution will.
Project Teams vs. Organizations
Most general document management solutions are optimized for organizations. They provide great tools for searching and organizing the documents and people in your organization. But construction is not an organization-based industry; it revolves around projects that often encompass dozens of companies, representing hundreds, or even thousands of people all working together.
Unlike a general document management solution, construction document management systems are architected around this project concept. They ensure you’re selecting recipients and invitees from the extended project team, not just your company employee list. They support the searching of all project documents and not just ones managed by a single company. They incorporate a single repository, managing all project emails instead of separate MS Outlook servers. Additionally, they provide tools for distributing project-centric turnover or closeout packages of project documents to project stakeholders. Overall, this project approach taken by the construction-specific products ensures secure communication and collaboration is optimized around the project and not the individual companies working on the project.
Professionals in most industries have the luxury of working from their office or home. This is not always the case in construction. By the nature of the work, many construction professionals spend countless hours in the trailer or walking the jobsite. Unfortunately, all too often, large portions of the jobsites may have poor or no internet connectivity. This renders most general cloud-based document management solutions virtually useless for accessing data and documents in the field. Construction-centric solutions not only provide mobile tools for accessing and updating information, they also frequently provide off-line options. Users can download critical information prior to heading on-site, allowing them access to project documents even without a viable internet connection. These mobile tools also support the capturing of photos, defects and punch lists, tasks, RFIs, and other construction-specific project items critical to the success of a capital project.
All the Project Documentation
Most general document management solutions manage all documents the same way, in that they use the same attribute fields, capabilities and options. But in the construction industry, documentation comes in many forms. The typical trove of documents includes plans, specifications, meeting minutes, transmittals, RFIs, submittals, change orders, tasks, punch lists, photos and more. Each one has its own set of associated information and processes. Plans need to go through review processes. RFIs require a workflow to provide an answer. True construction document management solutions understand the unique needs of each document type and provide the appropriate capturing, searching, viewing, workflows, distribution options, tracking and reporting for each.
Additionally, within construction, these documents don’t live in a silo. Being able to see the relationships between documents is a critical benefit of using a construction-specific document management system. Frequently, documents are fundamentally related to other documents or items. For instance, an RFI is often initiated by an email that is linked to multiple relevant photos and also linked to a pertinent plan. If your organization is using a general document management system, you don’t have the ability to relate project items to other projects items and may be missing critical information when making important project decisions.
Generic document management solutions are powerful tools for managing company-based documents accessed from the office using standard office file types. However, when the objective is to manage a project’s construction documents, select a solution designed for the construction industry. Leveraging an industry-focused solution will result in less time wasted on non-optimal tasks, far less redundant data entry, better and quicker decisions, and improved collaboration and communication with the entire project team.
For more information on today’s most advanced document management solutions that allow you to search the way you want to search, visit InEight.com.