In this age of cloud-based technologies, 40 percent of general contractors still subscribe to paper documents for drawings, plans, change orders, RFIs, reports, and punch lists. Like a dinosaur stuck in a tar pit, these contractors soon will find competing for juicy projects more and more challenging to reach.
So why the reluctance? What’s keeping these companies from evolving into the digital age of document management systems (DMS)? Maybe it is the fear of change. Or, perhaps, control issues (“that’s how we’ve always done it!”). Regardless of why a construction company’s executives decide to select a DMS, one key consideration is how their field personnel will effectively adopt the new tool.
Consult Your Field Personnel When Considering A DMS
The President, CEO, and other higher-level construction officers sit in a company headquarters location and decide on enterprise-wide solutions like a DMS for their companies. Many of these executives may have worked on a job site years ago, but they are now removed from the daily dust and sounds active construction. (Cue bulldozer backup beeper.)
Successful construction companies know good field personnel are hard to come by; and are extremely valuable employees. If an enterprise-wide application such as a DMS is NOT fully adopted by field personnel, process efficiencies cannot be realized. If efficiencies are not recognized, then profitability (and expectations) will fall short of goals. Having a DMS that truly makes the superintendent and construction foreman’s job easier is where the rubber meets the unpaved, hard-dirt road.
Workflow Is More than Sharing Documents
A selling point of all cloud-based DMS applications is their ability to share information with the project’s key stakeholders. But is sharing that information easy for field superintendents and construction supervisors? If sharing information (and document retrieval) is cumbersome in the field, the DMS will not be fully leveraged.
During DMS evaluation, the GC executive team should put themselves in the figurative steel-toed boots of their field personnel. Does the DMS manage the flow of information throughout the project lifecycles without workflow interruptions?
DMS Designed for Mobile User Experience (UX)
One question not usually considered when selecting a DMS is whether the application was initially designed for desktop or mobile devices. The planning, building, and closeout phases of a project involve significant document exchanges. Can collaboration happen among a group of workers huddled around a phone? Are revisions and RFIs reviewed in the field easy to access? Positive answers to these questions will go a long way to adoption by the “boots in the field.”
Don’t Waste Your Field Superintendent’s Time
The adage “Time is Money” rings especially true in construction. Digital documents stored in file trees are better than sitting in the job trailer as hard copies. HOWEVER, this is still a time-consuming exercise if field personnel must hunt and peck through files.
Think about a solution that has an intelligent search function using voice queries. However, not all voice query solutions are equal, either. Consider having your field personnel test this feature before deciding which DMS fits your company. Saving workers five minutes every day will result in a one percent increase in their productivity.
General contractors still using paper-based document management will eventually suffer the same fate as the dodo bird. But if they do evolve, they should embrace a cloud-based DMS solution. But, if they do not consider their field personnel’s work processes and behavior regarding how they use the application, the value of the DMS will less realized.