Construction Document Management Best Practices to Help Builders Stay Organized

person writing on paper with pen

Many sectors’ workflows have gone at least partly digital in the last several months due to COVID-19 and construction document management within the construction industry should be no exception. With construction projects often involving several stakeholders, businesses and contractors are flocking towards powerful construction project management software to save time and aid with their workflow.

It’s likely that you spend a lot of your time as a contractor or construction manager dealing with an abundance of documents — from bid documents to account information to change orders and everything in between.

If you and your team still opt for the traditional “pen and paper” approach, an inadequate document management system can quickly turn into a nightmare for all your stakeholders when it comes to locating a specific document, especially if it’s needed urgently.

In recent years, some construction teams have partly switched over to using digital documents, such as Google Drive spreadsheets, as part of their construction document management system. While a good first step, there are still many inefficiencies from not fully embracing a truly digital construction document management system.

With 2018 reports showing that construction professionals spend an average of 5.5 hours a week searching for information, solid construction document control is critical to saving invaluable time and money.

Construction professionals spend an average of 5.5 hours a week searching for information

Imagine you’re working on a residential construction project with lots of people involved: architects, project managers, general contractors and subcontractors, construction workers, suppliers and many more. Many of these stakeholders may need access to the same documents, but if you have only physical copies available, certain parties may end up waiting days to receive them back.

Not having a digital, centralized form of document control will quickly cost you a significant amount of money and time.

But how do you fully integrate paperless document project management into your workflow? And how can you ensure that your new system helps eliminate cost overruns or endless delays, rather than contribute to them? In this article, we’ll clue you in on the best construction document management tips so you can be confident you’ll be set up for success.

Take Stock of All Documents That Need to be Organized and Managed

To start things off, you need to collect all the physical documents that are related to your construction projects. Whether it’s blueprints, technical specs, , contracts, bids, estimates, or anything in between — you’ll need to locate them all so you can start the transition process.

When you’re looking for these construction documents, search everywhere: filing cabinets, your home office and even the job site. Additionally, try to make sure you have all previous versions of a document, in the event of an audit.

Also, don’t forget to check attachments in email chains, Excel spreadsheets saved locally onto your desktop and other documents that could be stored on an external hard drive. It’s not uncommon to see construction companies using multiple low-cost or free platforms instead of shelling out some money to stick to one single, cloud-based solution. Remember: it’s not just about going paperless, it’s about getting rid of siloed data and centralizing all types of construction documents, even if you currently use some digital or electronic storage systems.

Develop a Process or System for Organizing Construction Documents

The next step is to make sure you have a standardized workflow that you can integrate into managing your construction documents. This can involve determining who will review or approve changes in documents, how changes will be updated and much more.

Make sure to factor in automation into your document control process: can you opt for construction document management software that automates certain steps for you?

The goal of good document control is to help cut down on administrative inefficiencies through a standardized procedure. So whether you need a contract or design drawing, it shouldn’t take more than a few clicks or keystrokes to locate your document.

Store and Manage Your Documents Centrally, in the Cloud

At the end of the day, your new document management system should function as a single source of truth; that is, all stakeholders involved in your construction project should be able to access any and all documents related to your project from one location.

By having a cloud-based, centralized repository, you can locate, view and edit files in a matter of seconds, eliminating bottlenecks and increasing productivity and collaboration.

Project managers have an in-depth, high-level overview of where the project is headed without having to second-guess that they’re working with outdated figures or spreadsheets.

By having a centralized document management system, you’ll be well-equipped to have a detailed audit trail of invoices, adjustments and more, ensuring that your accounts balance.

What’s more, following proper document control protocols throughout all stages of your construction project helps you rest easy, knowing your project team is fully compliant with all federal and local regulations.

Assign a Person or Team to Look After Your Construction Documents

While it’s important that each and every stakeholder feels comfortable working with your new document management system, you should have a point of contact responsible for keeping up with high-level document control. That way, should there be any technical issues that arise, they can handle them for you and your team.

If you have a small organization, you may not need a dedicated person or team to look after your documents. However, it’s still important to have a resource that you can rely on, so strive to partner with a technology vendor who can provide you with support should any issues arise.

Ensure All Stakeholders are Aware of Your Construction Document Management Procedures

It’s important to make sure that your new workflow works for everyone involved and that you take into consideration the evaluations from your team.

While processes do need to be standardized, it’s important to have some flexibility, especially in earlier stages as everyone adjusts to a new platform. Walk your team through how to use the new solutions and be ready to answer any questions or concerns that they may have.

While change won’t happen overnight, providing a flawless transition will make it much easier to earn buy-in.

Once you’ve adopted your new way of working, don’t forget to continue to fine-tune and adjust it based on feedback. Your document control will likely evolve once you put it into motion and use it on a day-to-day basis. In the first few weeks, have daily check-ins with the software provider and your team, then continue to have regular assessments to make sure things are running smoothly.

Be open to feedback and make sure to clearly communicate all important changes with everyone involved. That way, you can avoid overburdening and alienating your workers from the get-go.

Closing Thoughts

Integrating a centralized, cloud-based construction document management software into your workflow is imperative if you want to increase productivity, avoid cost run-offs of hundreds of thousands of dollars, be more environmentally friendly and gain powerful insights into your construction project.

When looking for the right document control software for your team, make sure that it provides a centralized, single source of truth for your information. Check to see if it can be integrated with any digital processes you currently use so that you can increase collaboration between and within all your teams, whether they’re on the field or in the office.

Finally, see to it that the software you go for is both scalable and customizable, so you can truly take control of your filing structure and system and make it work best for your team.

Transitioning to and implementing a construction document management system doesn’t need to be a daunting process. Contact us today to learn more about how BuilderGM can help your construction team(s) save time, energy and stress by automating your project management.