Eliminate the Pain of Finding Your Documents
A single source of controlled document truth that helps ensure an on-time and profitable construction project is vital. Did you know that last year alone poor data and miscommunication cost the construction industry over $30 billion dollars?
In this webinar, InEight VP David Wagner demonstrates how a collaborative document management solution can drive project success and maybe change the way you do business.
Originally aired on 3/20/19
John Klobucar: Hello. I’m John Klobucar with InEight, and I’d like to welcome you to our third webinar in our Construction Document Management series.
Today’s webinar is titled, Eliminate the Pain of Finding Your Documents. Our presenter today is Dave Wagner, a Vice President with InEight.
Before we get started, a few quick organization points. Everyone on the phone will be muted, but we 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’ve submitted today.
Also, today’s webinar is being recorded, and we’ll be sending out a link to the video within the next week or so. 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 very much, John. Why don’t we get started, and talk about this fundamental problem that so many construction professionals have right now? It’s the time that they waste just looking and trying to find the information they need.
A recent FMI study indicated that the average construction professional spends five and a half hours every week just looking for information. That’s not doing stuff with it. That’s not having to recreate documents that you could never find in the first place. That’s just finding information.
Of course, this begs the question, is why? Why is it so time consuming to find things within our world of construction? I would contend there’s a number of items that play into this.
The first one, and quite possibly the most instrumental, is this idea, is you may not even know where the information is. If you’re working on a project, is that information, is it with the architect, at their office? Is it in the contractor’s building? Is it out on the trailer, or out on the site? Is it actually on the site? Where is that information physically located? It becomes very difficult to find something when you don’t even know where to start.
Even when you do know where it is. You know, for instance, it’s within your corporate area. Well, what system is it on? Is it sitting in an email? Maybe an attachment in an email? Is it sitting in a spreadsheet somewhere? Is it sitting up on an existing tool that you’re using to share information, like Dropbox, or SharePoint? Or maybe a point solution that you brought in for a very specific capability? Or very typically, it may still be out on your network drive, the proverbial project P drive.
The fact that it is all these different places, in various different locations, makes it extremely difficult to figure out where that document is that you’re looking for in the first place.
But now let’s pretend that you know where it is. You know what system it is. Then how do you find it? Because unlike some industries, where a lot of the information about the document you’re looking for and the way you want to search for it, is embedded in the document. We have things like that too, like a drawing number, or a title, or a date.
Sometimes the information you’re most interested in searching for is not apparent right on the document itself. Maybe that’s you’re looking for only your most current documents in a document set, or maybe you’re interested in looking for all the documents that belong to a specific discipline. Or maybe you’re only looking at very specific document types, only looking for photos, or plans, or specifications. Or maybe there’s a specific file type that you need, where you must have the Word document version to make some changes, or the PDF to do a distribution.
What ends up happening is, even if you know where that document is in certain cases, you may not have the information at your fingertips that you really need to help search and find it.
You may even have a situation where the document you’re looking for has a geographic location associated with it. Maybe the floor on a building. Or the location on a railroad project. Being able to understand that location also helps you find things much, much faster.
Overall, a core key to making sure you find the information that you’re looking for is to have an idea of the type of information that you want to search for, and when you introduce documents into your system, that you’re collecting and capturing that type of information, to make sure you can find it at a later point in time.
The last point I wanted to hit upon was all people aren’t the same. Different people like to search for information in different ways. Google has certainly made it very easy just to do a general search. You search on a word, it goes out and finds the information that you’re looking for. Many people prefer search in that method. Other people still like to search using a folder tree. They like to be able to navigate down through a series of folders and find the information that you’re looking for.
Other people like to search based on relationships. They like to go in and click on a link and say, “Okay, that’s something I’m interested in, but what I’m really interested in is a document that relates to that, and use that linkages.” Think of this as clicking through a number of links on a website until you find what you’re looking for.
But the issue that we have is that, rarely, can you find a system that provides all these different alternatives, that really support all the different ways that people like to search.
What we’re going to look at today is a product from InEight, called InEight Document. We’re really going to focus in on the different things that you can use InEight Document for, to really help structure your data in a way that you can easily capture the information you need, then to be able to search on that data and find what you’re looking for, much more efficiently than you are today.
Where it starts is that structuring piece. It’s understanding and knowing exactly what information is important to you. Many other systems out there are very, very limited in that type of information. With InEight Document, you can basically pick and choose, for every project, what information you want to store and capture.
This project, you see things like the document number, and revision, and the status, and the title, and review statuses are information that’s important to me, that I want to use to be able to find and collect my information.
When a document is introduced into a system like this one, you want to capture that data. With InEight Document, we provide a couple different mechanisms for doing that. The first one is you can do a simple “new,” and bring in one document at a time. And you can start to enter all of your individual pieces of data that are associated with that document.
You can even, and this is key, identify different file types that represent the same document. So if we go back and look at our main register list, you’ll see the different file types with little check marks representing that we have that file type, that is representative of that document. Because there are certain times when you have a document, you may want the native version, the Word version, to be able to edit it. You may have a PDF that you want to use to distribute.
Understanding what that information is, early in the project that you want to search on, is absolutely fundamental because then you know to collect it, and once you’ve collected it, then it becomes searchable. Bear in mind, that’s just not attribute information we looked up here. That also could be the information that’s embedded in the document itself. So you’re literally searching the text that’s in the document, or the attachment to the email, and finding that as part of your search process.
How do we accomplish that? How do we create an efficient method for getting that data in? Because one of the things I’ve found that creates a failed search system is people don’t want to take the time to associate all this information with the documents. They just want to put them right into the system.
As we talked about, you can bring a single document in at a time, but let’s be realistic. In most cases, documents are coming in in batches, they’re coming in in groups. You’re not doing that one off. With InEight Document, we provide a tool which we call XL-Upload, that allows you to upload a large group of documents in a batch, and extract information about that document, so you’re not having to hand-enter it in in the future.
When I talk about extract, what do I mean by that? There’s really sort of three pieces. The first part is, frequently, there is a lot of rich data that actually exist in the file name that you’ve been given, when the document is given to you. You may want to actually pull information, extract right out of that file name, and use that to define searchable attributes about your document.
In this example, what we’re doing is we’re sort of ignoring everything on the very left, everything in between the next two dashes, everything between the next two dashes, but way out here at the end, at the end of the file name, I’m going to strip out that text, and I’m automatically going to use that to the define the area that this document is located.
If we look back at the list of documents that we have here, that I’ve already brought into the system, you’ll notice already it’s read through those, stripped off the last name, and added that in to my area column, automatically, without me having to do anything.
Another very valuable way to extract information out of a file is through its attributes. What we’re going to look at here is mapping attributes that are in the file. That could be DWG, it could be a PDF, could even be one of the office documents like Word, Excel or PowerPoint. What you can do is take attributes that are already built into those files, and map those directly into a tool like InEight Document. In this case, what we’re going to do is map, out of our DWG files, any attribute that’s DRW_no directly to the document number in InEight Document. We’ll look at how that works in just a second.
But before I do that, I also wanted to go and look at the third way that you have for extracting information, which is scraping it right out of the document itself. For instance, let’s say you have the plan that has valuable information in the title block. With InEight Document, you can go out and define regions that scrape that information out. In this case, I’ve already defined the document number in the title, but let’s say I’ve also got the revision available to me as well in the title block. I’m going to go, and I’m going to bring up a sample document that I can use here as a test case.
We’ll open this up, and you’ll notice you can scroll down. Down here in the lower left corner is my title block. Let’s blow this up a little bit. What I’m going to do is define a region, for the revision, and it’s going to look, on every document that comes in, and update whatever in that red box, and associated it to the rev.
Now you see I’ve added a rev column as well. The beauty of this is now, when I do my extract attributes, I’m not having to do this by hand. I’m not spending that time. I’m analyzing all of those attributes, and all of those pieces, and pulling that data out. You can see with my revs, I’ve pulled all that information right out of the title block, automatically.
Now you’re not taking minutes or hours bringing these documents and putting these attributes, now you’re taking seconds to bring in large amounts of attributes, that now have all the data that you need, to effectively search and find them as part of your day-to-day process.
With that said, let’s now head back to the app. What we’ve noticed is, is now we have all this attribute information. How do I find documents? Well, as I mentioned earlier, different people search in different ways, so I will want a system that allows me to search how I like to search.
With InEight Document, you’ll see you’ve got a Google-like search, where I can go out and search on, for instance, the word concrete, and it’s going to bring back a list of every single document that has the word concrete in it. It could be in the title, it could be in the document number, could be in the body of the document itself, but it brings back that list.
I can also use all this rich attribute information as part of my filter, so if I only want to see ones that have been approved, I can filter down and get down to the single document I’m looking for. So now, instead of hunting around multiple locations and multiple spaces, I can get to that single document just that quickly.
And with InEight Document, we have what we refer to as a standard folder structure, that you can define any way that you like. Think of this as that network drive, and as you introduce documents into the system, you can associate that document directly into one or more of these folders, and then you can navigate through the folders to find exactly what it is that you’re looking for.
However, we didn’t want to stop there, because although that in itself is very, very powerful, and something that the industry is used to using, we also can leverage all that wonderful attribute information that we talked about earlier. We can, for instance, say create a smart folder. A smart folder, if I look at its definition here, basically is a folder that looks at those attributes. In this case, I’m going to look at every document I bring into the system that’s been issued for construction, and is part of the general category. By looking at that information, I don’t have to manually put it into this smart folder. The system is going to do it for me. Whenever I bring a new document in, it’s going to look for those characteristics that are defined in that search criteria, and automatically put it into that folder for me.
This means it saves me the step of having to put it into a folder, and make sure that my documents are in a place that I can find very logically. But maybe I want to take that even to a greater degree. Maybe I want my entire folder tree to be organized based on my attributes. Instead of creating manual folders, maybe I want to go out and create a tree that at its top level starts with the document discipline, underneath that has the review status, and then underneath that has the general document status.
Now I’ve rebuilt my folder tree in a matter of seconds, and now I can go in and, for instance, look at all of my electrical documents, and see those that are now only electrical, automatically now showing me all the different release status for all my electrical documents. I can click on released, and now see a list of all my released documents. If I wanted to even take it down to the next level and see my documents status as well.
In this way, I’m building, dynamically building, a folder tree, based on those attributes I collected, and now I can go through different folder trees, based on the information that I’m looking for. Again, providing you that mechanism to get to the information the way you, as a user, like to get to that information. Also, you can use the same filters that we discussed earlier, that even extends beyond the tree, to get to exactly the document that you’re looking for. That’s a little bit on the folder tree side.
The last piece I really wanted to show you was that linkage side of the house, which is this idea that some people like to move and find documents based on how the documents are related to other items in the project.
For instance, we’re going to take a look at one of our documents, and here you’re going to see some of the details of the document itself, but you’re also going to see the fact that this document has been linked to other documents in the system. If I know, for instance, that this PDF, I’m aware of where it is, I can use it to link to find and download other documents, or photos, or project items of any type. That allows me to step through the various linkages to get to the document I’m interested in.
Using these different tools of search, and folders, and linkages, makes it significantly easier to find exactly the document you’re looking for, and in much more timely fashion.
Three things I would take away. The drivers to success. Start by minimizing as much as you can, having multiple different silos of searchable solutions, having your information either in a single solution, or a solution that acts as a window or an umbrella upon other solutions that you can use as your search entry point, is A, going to remove the problem of where’s my information in the first place?
Secondly, when you bring information into the system, identify what information is important to you to know about those documents, so you can use them later, and make sure that you capture that document early and consistently in the process. Also, enable your user to search in the ways that they feel most comfortable. Whether it’s a search, whether it’s a folder, or whether it’s a link.
If you do all these things, then very conservatively, you will take that five and a half hours and cut it in half, if not more. When you think about that across your whole organization, the amount of time that you can save just by putting these types of search optimizations in place.
Okay. With that all said, what I’d like to do now is open it up for questions. John, do we have some questions from the audience?
John Klobucar: Looking down the list, we do have a couple that are here, and more coming in, it looks like. We’ll start off with a first one here. Person says, “I often have trouble locating a certain photo assigned to a project. Can you run through, again, how this tool can help me find photos that are linked to certain documents?”
Dave Wagner: Right. This is sort of that third thing I talked about earlier, around linking. This idea that you don’t always pick your photo, for instance. You may not have any idea where that photo is, and how it’s been stored, and where it’s been put. But you may know very, very clearly that there was a document that you brought into the system that you linked that photo to, or would have been logically linked to the photo.
Instead of spending a bunch of time searching for the photo first, you search for the document first. You find the document you’re interested in, and then use that to provide you a list of all the photos that are linked to that document. Now you’re looking at two, maybe four, maybe eight photos, instead of potentially hundreds or thousands of photos.
John Klobucar: Okay. Let’s see. “I like how this tool can create automatic folders, but can you clarify, do I still have to manually place the document in the folders?”
Dave Wagner: Yeah. That’s a great question, John. And maybe I didn’t make that as clear as I should have. It’s really sort of up to you. If you want to create a standard folder tree, if you want to mimic exactly what you have on, say, your network drive today, then yes you would. You would basically, as you bring the documents in, you would assign those to the folders themselves.
However, if you want to leverage what I called the smart or the dynamic folders, then you don’t have to do that. You can leverage the fact that you’re taking information that you already know about that document to effectively auto-assign it to a folder, so you don’t have to do anything. As soon as you bring that document in, you capture that document, it’s being put into that folder for you and the rest of your team.
John Klobucar: Okay, here’s a question. “I love what this tool does, but I wonder how easily I’ll be able to get my teams trained on this, or how long it will take to get it up and running?”
Dave Wagner: Yep. It’s always certainly a great question, about what does it take from a timing perspective. What I would say is that the timing on something like this can be very, very quick. You need to invest a little bit of time, and I’m talking a few days, to figure out what kind of structure you’re looking for. Based on that store structure … what I mean by structure is, what information do you want to collect as part of that search criteria?
Once you’ve identified it, then you can start to ask yourselves, OK, what’s the best way to collect it? Do I want to pull out of the file name? Do I want to use attributes? Do I want to try to pull it out of the title block? Do I need to set up some processes, where maybe I’m not doing some of those things, or exporting some of those when I create the document?
You have to step through that process. That’s going to take a few days to create that initial structure. Let’s say a week, to put that in place, to get your best practices where you want them. Then you start to use the system. You can start to introduce, and again, we’re probably talking no more than four to eight hours, at the most, of total training for InEight Document. But for the search side, as you can see, it is all very, very easy to understand. For people that, all they’re doing is searching, then it makes it very easy for them to go in, pick the way they want to search, and they should be up and running within the day.
John Klobucar: I think we have time for one more. David, this one looks to be like a document control type question. Who can see what? Person asks, “Can I prevent certain people from seeing documents they shouldn’t have access to?”
Dave Wagner: Ah, yes. Very fair question. The last thing you want is to provide all these wonderful search capabilities, and allow people to be able to search for documents that you never really granted them the access to in the first place. InEight Document protects against that. We have different types of roles and permission sets, that when documents are brought into the system, they’re protected or, essentially, automatically assigned to who will have access to them. And not just who have access to them, what people can do with them. Can they view them? Can they download them?
You’re able to define those types of characteristics to make sure that you’re only allowing the people that you want, to do what you want with those documents.
John Klobucar: All right. That about wraps up today’s session. To learn more about the topic we’ve discussed today, we invite you to visit InEight.com, and click on the “request a demo” button.
Also, stay tuned, as we will be announcing a whole new round of estimate planning and scheduling and document management webinars for April.
Thanks for watching. This concludes our webinar.