Driving Project Success With a Single Source of Truth

Originally aired on 2/28/19

26 Min

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With the endless proliferation of project data, a single source of document truth seems more relevant than ever before. Recently, there has been an increased focused on project stakeholders being on the same page at all times, and with good reason.

In this webinar, you’ll learn how a single source of document truth can increase overall efficiency and help drive project success.


John Klobucar: Our second webinar in our construction document management series. Today’s webinar will focus on driving project success with a single source of truth. Our presenter today is Dave Wagner, a Vice President with InEight. Before we get started though, a few a quick organization points, everyone on the phone will be muted. We do encourage you to enter any questions you have into the question dialogue box. At the end of the presentation, I’ll ask the questions you submitted today. Also, today’s webinar is being recorded and we’ll be sending out a link to the video within the next week. Once again, we are glad to have you joining us today and now let me introduce Dave Wagner who will take it from here.

Dave Wagner: Thanks John. So today, as John mentioned, we’re really going to focus in on talking about how a single source of truth and a construction management solution really can help you drive project success and change the way that you do business.

So first let’s talk a little bit about this idea of the single source of truth. So I have a definition here that I like, which is that certain data has only one official source to be used by data consumers, humans, and software, for the true current version of that data. Couple of things I like to highlight in here is what we’re really doing is talking about data consumers. It’s a place that people can go and find the information they’re looking for. A single location they know that the data they’re interested in is located. And then also true current version. So as single source of truth, that truth piece is going to make sure that you have the latest and greatest info.

Now this idea of the single source of truth is certainly not unique in any way to the construction industry. You see this throughout many, many different industries, education, medical, technology. Everyone is going after the same concept of trying to remove these different silos of data and bring everything together into a single source. Within our world of construction document management, what we’re really trying to do is not just provide that ability to find the data in a single source of truth, but focus on all those core capabilities.

So that starts with being able to capture the information. To be able to retrieve it from a single source. To be able to distribute it from that single source. To be able to have a full tracking. So you know you’re always going to the same place to find out what had happened and who did it. And then finally to be able to analyze all that data across your system from a single source location. Now it would be nice to say that this happens today, but unfortunately in many organizations, what we have is a much more siloed approach, where firms are using the software that essentially they already have. It’s almost perceived as a free solution that you can bring these pieces together and still have a viable construction management solution.

But what we find is, is that when you create these types of situations, you introduce a lot of inefficiencies into your organization. A recent study from HMI dictated that typical construction professionals spend five and a half hours every single week just looking for project data. This doesn’t even include the amount of additional time that they would have to spend recreating the data if they can never find it in the first place.

They spend almost another five hours on conflict resolution trying to work through those different processes. And then again, almost another four hours dealing with mistakes and rework. So what has this led us to? Well, 52% of all rework globally is caused by poor data and miscommunication. And you can see that’s led to $65 billion of total U.S. construction spending that goes just towards rework. And 31.3 in the U.S. is caused by poor data and miscommunication.

So how can we address some of these issues? Well, this is where we’re going to talk about the single source of truth. And specifically, we’re going to focus in today on four areas that I would ask you guys as you’re looking for construction document management solutions to focus in on. So the first is we’re going to talk about improved information organization and searching. We’ll talk about better project communication and workflow, how we can mitigate our project risk, and also streamlining our documentation turnover.

So let’s start with how a single source of truth based system can help improve your information organization and searching. So I think one of the first things I want to do is introduce an example here that we’re going to use throughout the course of the presentation. So let’s say you, as a construction professional, are working on a job and you’re responsible for getting all the information out to the project team, and you just received an email from a very unhappy contractor that is saying you didn’t provide them the latest information. They’re working on the foundation of the project and now a major mistake has occurred, it’s going to have to be ripped out, have to be reworked, and we’re going to have to put it back in again. And it’s your fault because you didn’t provide the latest and greatest info.

So one of the first issues you’re going to have is you’re going to want to research that out. You’re going to want to search through your data and find out what’s going on. Well, one of the issues with a siloed document archive is the first question you have to ask is, “Well, where is my data? Is it on my On-Prem file system? Is it that proverbial P drive sitting out on my network? Or maybe it’s in that Dropbox solution we’ve been using to distribute documents. Or I think our company just installed SharePoint. Maybe it’s there. Or very frequently, it’s stuck in my Outlook somewhere in the message or buried in one of the attachments.”

So you may not even know where that information is to start with. So one of the beauties of a single source of truth is you can get away from that. What you can start to do is have a single window into all your data. You can pull information in, integrate information in from some of your other sources and in many cases just completely eliminate other solutions. The goal being is that you don’t have to go and figure out what system it is. You look into your single source of truth and find the information you’re looking for.

But unfortunately, that’s not where the fun stops. Because even if you know what the system is, you still have to find the information that you’re looking for. Well typically, most systems today, and certainly the ones that talked about earlier, provide you two ways for finding information. One is think of the Google search. It’s that generic search where you type in some key information and it goes out and finds the document. Typically today that can be based on maybe the name of the document, maybe based on some of the information that’s in the physical document itself. The other way is that we put things into folders. This is your traditional Microsoft file system and that you’ve created some type of folder hierarchy and it’s easy to find the information because you basically drill down into the folder until you find what you’re looking for.

But unfortunately in our world, sometimes just searching into a folder or just searching on a file name isn’t really going to help you find what you’re looking for. Now, there may be times that you’re just looking for the drawing number or a title or a date and that’s pretty easy to pick up, but how about if you’re looking only for the most current documents or how about if you’re looking for documents that only belong to a certain discipline? Or maybe you’re looking for a certain type of document, only your photos or only the plants are only their RFIs. How can you, using some of these disconnected systems, these siloed systems, be able to search and find this type of data to get the information that you’re looking for?

Because the other problem you have is you may also want to search for the data based on where it’s located. Maybe it’s the floor level of a building or if it’s a horizontal project, an infrastructure project, maybe it’s the distance along the way. So where are you going to get this information as part of the searching on just a file name to potentially find what you’re looking for? Because there’s all of this information, all this attributes, this metadata, that helps to find the documents that we need to find in this business.

But of course we have problem, which is how do I get that data into the system in the first place? Because the last thing anybody wants to do when they bring a new document into a system is spend 15, 20 minutes typing in a bunch of data to be able to attribute it correctly. So the other thing I would ask you guys as you’re looking at a single source construction document management solution is make sure that you don’t have to spend all your time typing in that data. That there are methods that are put in place that allow you to automatically capture all that critical attribute data that you can use to find that document in the future. So for instance, a lot of times the files that we are provided by the architect or the engineer have a lot of the information embedded in the actual file name.

So strip that data out and use that to help set some of your attributes. For files like DWGs and PDFs, you also have the ability to define attributes at the file level. So you can also make sure you can pull that information out so you’re not having to manually type it in. And then of course, especially with our drawings and plans, they have title blocks and those title blocks contain a tremendous amount of key core information. So what we want to do is literally scrape that data right off the plan and put that into our system as well. So what this is going to mean is the amount of time that it takes to bring a new document into your system and have quality data that describes it to help you find it is drastically improved.

In the end, that means that now you’re just not having to do a completely free form search. You can actually go in and search on specific attributes and filter down on those attributes. Go into more complex searches where you’re combining various different pieces of metadata to find exactly the document you’re looking for in seconds, and not minutes or even hours.

So originally, we talked about the two primary ways that people find documents. One is by searching on information about the document. And the other of course is this folder structure. So here’s a typical example of a folder structure that is still a valuable way to find information, but it comes with some pitfalls. Of course you actually have to set it up, you have to assign the documents to all these different folders, and you have to make sure there’s a level of consistency or people aren’t going to be able to find what they’re looking for. So another thing I would encourage you to look for as you’re looking at different types of these solutions, these single source solutions, is leveraging that wonderful metadata that we talked about collecting earlier to make sure that you can actually create folder trees, even dynamic folder trees that represent what you’re looking for.

So for instance, let’s say that I want to go out and see all of my documents. First, I want to see them by discipline. And then within each discipline, I want to see what their release statuses are. And then within these release status, I want to see the different document types. So what I want to be able to do is create this virtual document tree that has a very familiar feel to most people. Click on architecture, and instantly see all my architectural documents. And then maybe click into architecture. And now I’m going to see all my architectural documents that have currently been released. And then maybe I finish up by going one level deeper down to the type of document it is. And now I’m going to look at all of my released drawings that happen to be architectural drawings. So you can see, I can leverage, you should be able to leverage that wonderful metadata to help you find the information you’re looking for.

And then if you want, even filter down further into finding exactly the document you want. Everything here is about creating and putting all the data into a single place that can then be logically use to find your information as easily, as quickly and accurately as possible.

So there’s one other component I did want to talk about with respect to searching. When you have a siloed system, in many cases, the file types, your project items, tend to exist in different systems. Emails in Outlook, forms maybe in a SharePoint system, maybe you’re plans are on your P drive, your photos could be anywhere, but they tend to get isolated and put in different places. But the danger of that is sometimes one of the easiest ways to find the right piece of information you’re looking for is to first find a related piece of information.

So maybe I know exactly where to find the plan that I’m looking for, but I don’t know any of the emails that were associated that were sent around during the review process. So with a single source of truth, what you’re able to do is start to put together or link all of your different project items for regardless of what type of an item they are, to give you better visibility to give you a true vision into overall project context for every item in your system. So now that email that came in that we talked about earlier, that basically was raising the red flag about a problem with the foundation, I may be able to then have that already connected to an RFI and maybe that RFI is connected to a specific plan that it relates to which is in turn connected to some photos that are on the project. So with this concept of project linking, I can really now start to link all of my different project data, providing me another valuable mechanism for finding my information quickly and efficiently.

So now I’ll step into the second area that I wanted to talk about, which is mitigation of project document risk. And really what we’re focusing on here are two things. First of all, understanding exactly who did what and when and were they allowed to do it. So there’s an element here of tracking exactly what happened to make sure that you understand what’s going on, but also to make sure that you’re allowing people to do the things they need to do. So if we get back to our example that we talked about earlier on the foundation, one of the topics, of course, that’s going to come up is, “Well, I’m pretty sure I sent that. Did I send it to them? Did that person have permission to see the document that I wanted?” So with a single source of truth, you can now have the much easier methods for managing and tracking all of that risk mitigation areas.

So for instance, if I try and set up my security and my tracking and email versus something in a Dropbox or a system on my file system, that’s a nightmare. Trying to track and keep consistency across all those different systems. By putting it into a single source of truth, I can start to create roles, different people and what they’re allowed to do. So for instance, I could create a role in my example that said, “Yes, the contractor was responsible for the foundation, did have access for viewing, commenting, and downloading information I sent them. And specifically I sent them… I’m giving them access to these pieces of information.” So now I have one place where I can create this framework that everyone can use to share and exchange info.

So let’s go back to our friend Joe who’s complaining about the foundation, and basically said, “We have a problem and you’re going to have to pay for me to fix it.” Well also we can use a single source of truth to collect all the information that Joe has touched. When he did it, who did it, what they did. So now I can go into an audit trail, a single audit trail, and look and basically say, “Well Joe, we have a bit of a problem here. Because I have a record that back last month, you actually did download the latest version of the plan that I sent you, which had all the right information. And just a couple of weeks ago, you’ve opened it back up again and viewed it and a few hours later, looked at the file details.” So now we have a clear distinct record that you can come back with that you can help mitigate the risk and the problems that can be associated with not actually knowing what’s happening with your project.

Next topic I’d like to discuss is how a single source of truth can really help your communication and workflows. So I don’t know if this sounds familiar. I’ve been in many construction projects. You’ve got your owners and architects and contractors and subcontractors and they all seem to have their own document archives and they have their own project teams. And what ends up happening when these teams have to communicate is typically it’s through email and you find that you have emails bouncing all around the project trying to keep track of what’s going on. And I think we’ve all seen that this is not the optimal solution. For starters, it’s almost impossible to understand and get good status of where your project is when everything is bouncing around via emails. You don’t have that audit trail, that complete audit trail we talked about in One Place. You risk having delays in your responses because you don’t have a key core way of notifying people about what’s going on and you run the risk, because of all these different systems, that the information they’re using is no longer up to date.

So what we really want to do is create a single source of truth, a place where all the members of the project team can collaborate together and they then essentially share a document archive and a set of project team members so they can all communicate and talk and work in an efficient fashion.

Last area I’d like to focus on is this concept documentation turnover. The handover at the end of the project. So I think what we see a lot today is you have all these different systems that we looked at before of where data needs to be pulled from. Some of it’s still even in hard copy. So how do you take all this information and not spend days or even weeks pulling it all together and providing it to your clients in a format that they can use as part of your contractual turnover process? But one of the absolute beauties of a single source of truth is this idea of you’re almost always in perpetual turnover. You’re always collecting all the data on the project throughout the entire life cycle of the project. So at any point in time, it doesn’t necessarily have to even be at the end of the project, you can basically [inaudible 00:19:48] generate a fully definable, searchable standalone deliverable that contains all your project data.

So if we look at what we’ve seen here, with a single source of truth and by replacing a number of these siloed solutions, you can really start to see tangible changes to the way that your business works and drastically increase efficiency. It is not unrealistic to expect that you’d be able to cut your search time in half. You would be able to save at least one to two hours per person per week in the amount of time that they’re spending in conflict resolution. You should be able to reduce your RFIs and submittals and other processing times by up to 30 to 40%. And of course take, as we just talked about, your turnover process from weeks down to minutes

So if you are certainly interested in finding out how our product here at InEight, [green]InEight Document,[/green] can address a number of these issues, then we would certainly love to talk to you. So now what we’re going to do is pass it back over to John and open it up for questions.

John: All right, thanks Dave. And again, if you have any questions for Dave, please enter that into the question dialogue box on the webinar platform. We do have a few questions that have come in and Dave, we’ll start with this one. Can you go over again how a single source of truth can help control who sees what documents?

Dave Wagner: So when you look at a system today, there’s a lot of different documents that are stored of course in a lot of different systems, but you don’t necessarily want everyone on the project team to have access to all the documents at all times. So documents that are maybe currently going through a review process and you don’t want to distribute out to the project team yet in the field to actually build against. So it’s not that you can’t do it today with the existing siloed systems that are available, but you’re essentially having to put those processes and those constraints on top of every system you’re using. By bringing into a single source of where you’re distributing all of your information from, it becomes much easier to create that controlled environment, you minimize that risk of putting documents in people’s wrong hands or just the opposite, not putting the documents that people need in the right hands.

John: All right. Thank you, Dave. One more here. Would you consider the web collaboration tools like SharePoint or Dropbox as a single source of truth?

Dave Wagner: In a sense they have some flexibility to be a single place that you can put your documents, but both of those systems are not targeted towards the construction marketplace. As such, where they’re going to struggle, is helping you capture the information that you need, be able to store the types of documents and link those together to provide that linkage that we talked about earlier. So what you’re getting with one of those types of systems is a very nice web sharing tool, but it’s not going to provide you the efficiencies that you’re looking for in a true construction documents solution.

John: Okay. We have a questioning audience today. We have a third one here. Can you talk more about how audit trails mitigate risk?

Dave Wagner: So as we looked at earlier, having a record of exactly who did what and when is your proof. So a story that I’ve seen from the past that very much resembles the one I told earlier was a situation where a contractor had just installed a wall with a door and that door, when open, was banging into another door. Well, they built it exactly to according to the plan that had they put in place, they basically sent the messages around, there were thousands of dollars potentially in the changes that needed to be made. A firm that had a true audit trail was able bring that out, show exactly what happened as we had looked at earlier, and the result was is that the original disputing party basically immediately backed down because they knew that the evidence was against them. That the team that was able to demonstrate exactly what they did and when they did it was the one that won the argument.

John: Okay. I think we have time for at least one more. Does a single source of truth help with punch lists?

Dave Wagner: Yeah, absolutely. Because if you think of punch list, there are very few solutions out there today or needs out there today that can be used by more different tools. You’ve got people writing things down on paper. You have people using their smartphones to take pictures. You have plans that are being brought out in the field to locate exactly what you’re looking for. You have all these different siloed pieces of data that really don’t work well together. A single source of truth means that when you are on site, you have that… Say maybe you’re the one responsible for actually going through and doing the punch, then you can, you have a list, you can see exactly the different rooms you’re walking in.

You can take the photos, you can mark the problems, you can even potentially assign directly to the project teams, or at least the type of person that needs to address it, and all that data is available to you right on site. You’re not having to consolidate any of that information once you get back into the office. We’ve seen punch list teams that use more of this single source of truth approach take sometimes two, three, even four days just consolidating all the data to get it ready to be fixed, can take that down to a matter of minutes.

John: All right. Thank you Dave. It looks like the questions have concluded coming in, so let’s wrap things up and want to thank Dave for his time and that wonderful presentation. If you would like to learn more about the topic we’ve discussed today, visit ineight.com and click on the Request a Demo button, and of course, stay tuned as we’ll be announcing a whole new round of estimate planning and scheduling and document management webinars for March. So thank you for watching. This concludes our webinar.

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