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How Contractors Are Winning With Digitalized Document Management

 

Originally aired on 9/10/2020

23 Minutes

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The construction industries reputation as a technology laggard have been treated as gospel for the last decade. Especially with respect to construction document management and control, there is a perception the industry is lacking in modern technology solutions. Lack no longer.

In this webinar, David Wagner, Industry Solution VP at InEight, takes a deep dive into how modern technology solutions are currently available for ensuring contractor success through document control.

John Klobucar:

Hello, I’m John Klobucar with InEight. And I’d like to welcome you to our latest webinar. Our presenter today is David Wagner, who is vice president of Industry Solutions at InEight. In this role, David oversees the product messaging and positioning for InEight document, contract, and change management products. He does this leveraging his 20 plus years of experience developing and marketing construction software solutions. David has an engineering degree from Virginia Tech. If you have any questions, as you watch this webinar, please enter them in the box on your screen and David will do his best to answer them following the program. Also, this presentation is being recorded. It will be sending you a link to the video in about a week’s time and now let’s get started. So I turn things over to David Wagner.

David Wagner:

Thanks, John. So as John mentioned today, we’re going to talk about how you can use modern technology solutions for helping to manage your document process, which ultimately will really lead to better contractor success, better projects, more efficient projects, and more mitigated risk. So we’ve been hearing from years actually since 2010, when Mackenzie first poured out his report about how much of a laggard construction is in the digital adoption process. And as recently as 2017, we’ve still seen construction at the bottom ranks of digitization indicators. But I would contend the problem that we have in construction is not nearly as much a lack of technology, but in some cases it’s a misuse of some of the technology that’s out there and not leveraging some of the new, more modern technologies that are available.

David Wagner:

And what a lot of this boils down to is this concept that many construction firms create this hodgepodge of solutions, this set of silo datas that are put together to create their solution. Managing the emails in outlook, managing files sometimes on an operating system or a tool like a SharePoint or a Dropbox. Distributing them via things like email or FTP, still using hard copy, but it’s this collection of tools. And as a consequence, getting the performance and getting the efficiency is very difficult, but it doesn’t really have to be that way. There are solutions on the market today that act as that single source of truth, that single platform that you can manage all of your document related data on your project. Now it doesn’t mean it handles every piece of data, but can act as that hub, that data where information comes into and information is passed around other systems is that single source of truth.

David Wagner:

With that, it really allows you to handle all the major components, to be able to capture your information, retrieve it when you need it, distribute it out to not just people in your organization, but to the entire project team. Track exactly what’s happened on the project, who did what and when, and of course analyze exactly what’s happening on your project, predict and see what’s coming, see trends and things of that nature. So for the rest of the presentation, we’re actually going to step through some of the common problems that construction teams have today. Some of the more outdated solutions they’re using to achieve them, and some suggestions of more modern technology that you can use in the future.

David Wagner:

We’re going to start with this simple concept is how do you find the right project document, the right project piece of information. It starts with where does that information exist in the first place? Is it back in the office? Is it in the trailer? Is it at your house? Where is that information? And then even when you’re able to find where that information exists, it’s back to that problem we talked about earlier of what system is currently managing that information. So I may know it’s in the office, but is that currently sitting in an attachment and an Outlook email that I have? Is it sitting on my project P drive out on my local network?

David Wagner:

Did I post that up to an FTP site? Where is that data? A study from FMI came out a couple years ago, talking about this concept of non-optimal activities. And the concept of looking for project data and information is about as non-optimal as it comes. It turns out that the average professional in construction spends five and a half hours every week, just looking for information. This isn’t doing something with the information, this isn’t recreating the document if you can’t find it in the first place. This is just looking at all your different locations and all the different subsystems you have at those locations for the right piece of information, or information’s.

David Wagner:

Now this concept that you find in more modern tools is the single source of truth. As I talked about earlier, it can act as that central cloud, that central piece that connects all these systems together. So now when you’re searching, you’re not having to guess where it is. You don’t have to guess if it’s at the office, you don’t have to guess what system it’s on. You search into the single source of truth. And the single source of truth is then responsible for making sure that data is either stored in that cloud or on one of the connected systems to the cloud, is your access point to all of your data.

David Wagner:

Another major component of trying to find information is, do you have the information about the documents you’re looking for to make them easy to find? So a lot of systems out there today, will start by allowing you to search on the data in the documents themselves. Physically OCR that information, bring it in to make it searchable, but frequently the data that you want to search on may not be easily retrievable. It could be the discipline for instance, that a document is associated with, could be a drawing number, the title, the date that it was introduced into the system. So it’s key that you have that capability to be able to capture this searching information, to know which of the documents is the most current, is also critical to be able to find the right document. Understanding what disciplines the documents are related to. What are the different types of documents that you’re searching for, specifications versus plans versus photos versus RFIs.

David Wagner:

And then of course you may be looking for a specific file type. You may want a PDF version of a document that you send out as part of a distribution, but need the original DWG when you need to make some edits and some mark and changes to the new, rather of the document. So being able to have this information at your fingertips about the documents in your system makes it significantly easier to find them. You also may be interested in knowing where that document is in relation to the bigger project. If you’re building a building, on what level is it? On what track or what station is it on a railroad project? These are also critical elements that by knowing this information in advance and being able to extract this information in advance, you have a much greater operational efficiency… You can find your documents much more quickly than you would using old traditional systems that don’t have any way of managing this type of data.

David Wagner:

So the concept is, well, how do you get that data using a modern system? Because all too often today, this information has to be hand typed in, but modern systems have different ways of extracting this data out for you to make this capture process go much more quickly and aid in your searching process. It could be stripping information out of the file name. Very frequently when files are created, they’re named intelligently, and you can parse that information out. For things like DWGs, PDFs, part of the Office suite, they have concepts of index information in them, attribute tags that are part of the document header itself. You can extract and pull that information right out of those headers as well, to help you in that capture process. And probably the most popular is this concept of OCR, optical character recognition, that we can go into a document and literally scrape that information out of a title block.

David Wagner:

Very typically write off the document and bring it into a more modern system. So you have that attribute data. So when people think of, “Oh, my gosh, I got 10 attributes on every document. I’m going to spend hours just having to enter all that information in.” That’s not true with a modern system. We have ways of capturing, parsing, scraping the information right out of the document information, putting it into the system. So it’s just a matter of double checking it and you’re ready to go. And that’s this machine that these modern systems take, where you essentially put documents in, capture your data and enable a variety of different ways to then search on that data and organize that data. This data allows you to search on it, very similar to a Google search. It also is going to allow you to potentially create folders based on these attributes that you can use for organizing your documents as well.

David Wagner:

Another key component of searching is also this concept of linkages. One of the problems with a piecemealed, siloed search system is when these different pieces are siloed. When your photos are sitting out on people’s phones and iPads and network drives and emails are in Outlook and plans, or maybe on your network drive and your forms are sitting up, maybe in SharePoint. The problem is how do you connect that data? How do you establish the relationships that exist between that data? How do you know which email came in that helped start the RFI, that was connected to a specific plan, that’s connected to the four photos that were taken at the time the RFI was created? Well, the problem is you don’t. So with a single source of truth, you can now start to take all this information and start to logically link it together, to relate the documents to their other documents or other project items to create this visibility. This project context that you would never have had before.

David Wagner:

And because you have these linkages, think of the value that also now has on your search side, you may be looking for a specific photo, but going into your 5,000 photos that you have on your system could be a little daunting in terms of trying to find the one that you’re looking for. But if you specifically know the plan that that photo was taken, you can first go and find the plan. And then now maybe you’re looking at the five or 10 photos that are associated or linked back to that plan and becomes much easier to find what you’re interested in. So when you put all this together, when you use these modern technologies, it really allows you to search the way you want to search. Do you want to do a Google search? You can’t remember what you called it. Can’t remember what the attribute information was, quickly go out and find it. Or maybe you want to organize things into folder structures or use this linkages, this relationship concept we just talked about to be able to search and find information as well.

David Wagner:

But when you put it all together, you can easily see time savings is as much as 50% on how long it takes you to find the information that you’re looking for. So the next problem we’re going to talk about is collaborating and communicating across the extended project team. So all too often construction teams and all the various companies that work on construction teams manage their own data’s within their own organizational silos. Each one of them tends to have their own document management system where they store their information. Each one has their own list of contacts. So what ends up happening is that you get to a point that when you need to communicate, you’re using tools like email to communicate information around. And it looks like a tennis match, with emails bouncing back and information being lost.

David Wagner:

So overall, when you take this approach, you have a lack of visibility on what the current status is. You really have no complete audit trail to know exactly who did what, and when. It readily accessible. You can have delays in your responses as emails get stuck in people’s junk folders, or just do not get a read. And frequently because the information now is being sent as an attachment, things can get out of date very quickly when people don’t even know that it’s the most out of date information. So as we move forward with a more modern solution, a single source of truth, you now have a project based solution where now the project is being shared by all the primary contributors. And they all are part of this overall ecosystem. They now are sharing a set of documents and sharing a set members of the project team that everyone is communicating between.

David Wagner:

As a consequence, you have a much better collaboration between all the various members. So now, instead of sending out an email that is an attachment pull from one document and being one system and being sent to another, you’re sending linkages to documents within the bigger system to ensure everyone is on the same page. Everyone is using the most current project team members, and everyone has the same vision of what’s going on, on this project. So it doesn’t mean you can’t use Outlook. People will still continue to use Outlook as a system. The difference is when you have a single source of truth, now there becomes a place to manage all of the emails on the project in one project email archive. So now you have a set of project emails and not an individual set of organization emails that everyone can leverage and know what’s going on based on their security and based on their rights.

David Wagner:

You also can start to set up workflows between your various team for managing document approvals and RFIs and submittals and other process-based workflows across everyone on the team to make sure everyone is getting the appropriate notifications and the appropriate statuses to know exactly what’s going on. You also would then have a single system where you can send documents around for commenting in markup and work as a unified team on that document to take them through these workflows and capture all the information and eliminate a lot of the data entry that’s required when you’re using separate and distinct systems today. You also will have email notifications proactively being sent out across to everyone on the project team to let them know when they have an action that needs to be performed. When it needs to be performed, what they need to do with links directly back to all the data they need to perform the action in question.

David Wagner:

We’ve touched upon this briefly, but of course, another key element is making sure that everyone on the project team has the most current documentation at their fingertips, not just in the office or in the trailer, but also when they’re out walking the site as well. So the good news is we’ve certainly gone past the blueprinted days where everything needed to be printed and sent to a repository and shipped out. But what we’ve done is, is typically replaced that still with distribution via email or FTPs or plan rooms where one group is responsible for essentially sending or uploading the latest information. And then another team has to come and pull that information down when they need it. So this is certainly better than a hard copy, but it’s also not optimal. With more current modern solutions using the single source of truth, you are basically now permanently linked and tied back to the team that needs access to the current information, that you can proactively send them notifications of document distributions.

David Wagner:

And then based on a secure access, that user that received that notification can pull back the information you’ve made available to them, making sure that information is always current, always the latest. The single source of truth, much like we talked about before provides essentially a failsafe to ensure that everyone is using the latest information, not just in the office, but also working with mobile apps and other tools to also synchronize this information down to the iPad, for instance. Or an Android tablet that can be taken in the field as well. So in the end, you’d now have a full access to an audit trail that tells you exactly when something was distributed, who accessed it, when they accessed, what they accessed. You eliminate the problem of having to send out massive files, which may or may not get through various companies’ firewalls.

David Wagner:

No more having to upload to an FTP site or a plan room. You just needed to keep things distributed and addenda updated. You get the notifications to ensure that all everyone is kept informed of the latest requirements and latest documents. And another beauty of the system is when you’re using an organizational based system, you’re picking from people within your organization to send to. When you use a system like this, a more modern system that’s more project focused, now you have all of your project members within the same system that you can easily pick as part of the recipients that you want to notify or updated in new documentation.

David Wagner:

Next, we’re going to take a look at getting greater visibility into the project data and status. What’s going on with your project? So when you have a bunch of different systems that are all trying to be used separately and in siloed, how can you actually tell what’s going on in the greater project? You have no connectivity between these, so you end up you won’t either have that view or that status, or you end up having to go in and using a tool like Excel. Try to extract individually different pieces from different systems to try to create a unified vision of what’s going on, on your project. To say at least that’s time consuming and difficult. The single source of truth, as you might imagine, is going to solve that. This more modern approach is going to basically continuously bring all of this data in to this system throughout the life cycle of the project.

David Wagner:

So similarly to what we talked about for searching for information, you’re not searching the individual components anymore. You’re searching that single view into all of your data, to use that, to know exactly what’s going on. And this is where you can use tools like a Power BI or many tools have a defined dashboards that you can use for really analyzing and seeing what’s going on with your project. Here would be a typical example of a view of maybe what’s going on specifically for my project. What are my emails? What am I late with? What are documents? What are their current states? What’s going on with my workflow statuses? And I can see very quickly, even at a personal level or at a company level, what’s going on. You also want to be able to extend that out to all the projects and to be able to see what’s going on across all my projects based on different disciplines. What my RFI turnaround rate is, or how I’m doing with my subcontracts, to be able to see more globally, how my company is performing.

David Wagner:

Lastly, we’re going to talk about this concept of project close out and how does project close out get done. So the turnover is a similar problem that we’ve seen before is that when you have all of this different data stored in different systems, you can see where it can take days, weeks, even potentially many months of time to pull all this data from all these different systems to create your turnover, to create your hand over, your close-out process. And that assumes you even still have that information. It becomes very easy for some of this information to be lost throughout the length of a long project, but by using a more modern, single source of truth, what you’re really doing is creating what I would call a continuous turnover. Which is you’re collecting this information from the design, through pre-construction all the way out to post-construction. At every step of the way.

David Wagner:

So you never have to go back and collect the data. The data’s being collected at every step. So when it comes time to do that close-out, all you really have to do is flip a switch that says, “Okay, here’s the data that I want to make as part of my close-out and an appropriate package can be created.” Typically, what we see is that either could be put on a removable hard drive, a USB put into a zip file, but now it becomes a simple process of taking minutes and not days and weeks. So thank you. So that concludes our presentation on some of the more modern technologies that can be used for addressing some of the more common problems in construction today. So I’ll turn it back to you, John.

John Klobucar:

Thank you, David. To learn more about InEight as well as our broad portfolio of construction project management software, visit ineight.com and click on the request a demo button. And if you’d like to see a schedule of upcoming webinars, visit ineight.com/webinar. Thanks for watching. This concludes our presentation.