Construction File Management
What Is Construction File Management?
Construction file management encompasses the methods used to organize blueprints, drawings, permits, contracts, specs, and other documentation related to a construction project. It also includes regulating document access and flows as it stores shares, and edits documents.
Construction file management is critical for construction managers on projects of all sizes. Even the most straightforward projects start with multiple sets of documents, and to manage them, the entire project team needs a single, organized, up-to-date reference point.
Before the explosion of digital tools, construction file management revolved around paper files and organizing paperwork in a filing cabinet.
Today’s construction file management is all digital. Construction file management software includes document control features, making it easier to upload and share files with key stakeholders using various media and transmission tools (e.g., flash drives, email, portals, and file-sharing systems).
- Allows upper management to gain visibility into the day-to-day operations of projects easily
- Enables builders to capture the details needed to effectively bid jobs more quickly
- Gives crew members the tools they need to share job progress and task completion promptly
- Helps project managers more easily stay on top of jobsite progress for all their worksites
- Improves construction project file organization of active and completed projects
- Increases efficiency and adds clarity for everyone involved in the construction project
- Reduces the time that support staff spends looking for documents
Construction File Management Process
Develop a Framework and Methodologies
To be effective, a construction file management system should be built on a framework agreed upon by the key stakeholders and users. The framework should detail the overall information structure for the construction file management system, such as whether to organize files by source, subject, or identification system.
Once this is in place, a methodology should be established. Based on this, a guide should be created for users to follow to ensure the integrity and order of the information stored in the construction file management system, such as the standards and procedures for managing and maintaining files that transfer between the office and the jobsite or between the contractor and subcontractors or project consultants throughout the project. It should also describe the role of the designated person responsible for managing the construction file management system.
Adapt File Management Processes for Digital Systems
The ultimate object of construction file management is to keep project-related information organized as effectively and efficiently as possible. A binder is sectioned into major project categories with paper-based systems according to an established file identification system.
Often, color-coded index tabs identify major categories and sections, such as site acquisition, planning, pre-qualification bidding, bidding, construction, inspection, contracts, accounting, and legal. A similar structure is used with construction file management systems, but with files and folders to store information. Many of the same conventions are used in construction file management systems, such as filing structures and naming conventions.
Implement Systems to Maintain Information Security
Construction file management systems include security controls to protect the information, such as controls on what users can access, modify, and share, based on authorization levels. These should be paired with adjacent security controls, such as user education about the risks of phishing, strong passwords, and physical protection for devices.
Construction File Management Structure
1. Feature Requirements
- Supports current and projected storage needs
- Has an interface that will meet the needs of the types of users that will engage with the construction management system
- Can be used online and offline to accommodate situations when connectivity is not available (e.g., remote jobsites)
- Integrates with other applications that the organization uses (e.g., accounting, email)
2. Document handling
- Establish rules for creating, storing, and tracking project-related files, such as proposals, contracts, permits, and financial records
- Use templates, where possible, to help maintain consistency
- Determine the protocols for sharing information.
- Set up a system for using digital signatures
- Create a process for storing files
- Develop a document retention strategy to direct how long files should be retained and approved methods for destruction when they are no longer needed
3. Implementation plan
- Communicate with team members to ensure that everyone understands why the new construction file management system is being implemented—with a focus on the benefits
- Provide training not just on how to use the new construction file management system but also on the rules and guidelines, such as file naming conventions, document sharing, permissions, and storage
- Implement role-based permission levels and assign access to files accordingly
- Try to replicate structures used in the previous system to avoid confusion, facilitate a smooth transition, and speed the adoption of the new system
4. Storage systems
- Assess requirements for uploads, storage, and sharing
- Optimize the use of storage space by setting up categories and specific rules to avoid creating duplicates
- Ensure that the digital filing system is intuitive and does not disrupt workflow
- Set up subfolders within folders to streamline access as the number of project files grows
- Schedule ongoing maintenance
- Assess data governance policies to ensure that requirements are being met
- Review files to remove unused or unneeded data that is creating clutter
Best Practices for Construction File Management
1. Allow documents and photos to be added using mobile devices, making it easy for the jobsite team to take and upload pictures throughout the day. Some construction file management systems include a mobile app that allows users to scan and upload documents in real-time, such as daily progress photos.
2. Assign an individual or team to manage the system to provide a central point of control over it.
3. Create a workflow to manage how information travels between different teams. When creating a workflow, consider these questions:
- How should changes be updated?
- How will change notifications work?
- How will various systems work together?
- What ensures that the right information is delivered to the right person at the right time?
- What is the review and approval process?
- Who can make specific changes in the system?
4. Eliminate silos by storing all information in a central location with controls to manage access.
5. Engage teams in selecting and implementing a construction file management solution to reduce friction during deployment by making them part of the process and instilling an understanding of the new system’s value.
6. Follow an agreed-upon naming structure and coding system to facilitate searchability, pulling up records, tracking revisions, and directing assignments to team members. For example, split folders into limited, overarching categories with files tagged by project and date, such as:
- Change orders - Project 1 - Date
- Contracts - Project 1 - Date
- Information requests - Project 1 - Date
- Photos - Project 1 - Date
- Purchase orders - Project 1 - Date
- Safety meetings - Project 1 - Date
- Timecards - Project 1 - Date
7. Implement automated using the construction file management solution to reduce administrative burdens and improve accuracy.
8. Improve communications between team members by setting up triggers to send notifications when files are added to the system.
9. Mandate that all information related to a project is kept in the construction file management rather than on team members’ hard drives or cloud-based storage spaces.
10. Organize files in a way that helps teams coordinate sharing, resolve issues, reduce delays, lower costs, avoid rework, and support and dispute claims.
11. Perform internal reviews of how the construction file management is performing and identify areas for expansion and optimization.
12. Set up the construction file management system to allow clients and subcontractors to access and share files and photos, request signatures, store approvals, track jobs from start to finish, and be prepared to provide required documentation quickly and easily. This streamlines operations and ensures transparency.
13. Use archiving to avoid deleting documents and leave a digital paper trail or an audit log, which also serves as an information backup.
Why Organizations Need Construction File Management
1. Adds mobility to project managers’ toolkit allowing everyone on the team to communicate, save, access, and share information from a common application accessible from anywhere on mobile devices—from uploading photos and documenting change orders to signing contracts pulling up permit information.
2. Allows team members to edit and markup documents in real-time, ensuring that everyone is working on the most current file and eliminating rework and related costs.
3. Capturing and saving digital signatures is much more efficient and manageable than tracking down and storing signatures on paper.
4. Consolidates and centralizes all the construction document sources and makes them easily accessible.
5. Controls and reduces paper-based expenses in many ways, including dispensing with budget items for copies, paper, and couriers.
6. Delivers the highest levels of security from information storage protections to access controls to ensure that information cannot be tampered with, accidentally changed, stolen, lost, or accessed by unauthorized users.
7. Dispenses with cumbersome paper documents that get misplaced or destroyed. This causes project delays and creates confusion, resulting in costs to the project owners by capturing and organizing all information digitally and storing it in a central location.
8. Eliminates the need to upload and download information into different applications with the aggravation of locating files or file format compatibility.
9. Enhances communication across all stakeholders on a construction job to avoid project delays, including:
- Contractors who may not present during staff meetings but benefit from reliable access to information discussed in these meetings
- Project managers can use the construction file management system to keep all project members up to date with the latest information
- On-site teams who are often sidelined in communication can have access to the critical information that affects them
- Finance teams benefit from construction file management with an improved organization that reduces the average time spent on procurement
10. Gives teams instant access to the information they need quickly without having to rifle through paper files that could be in different locations.
11. Helps with evaluations as to whether a project is on track (i.e., schedule and cost) and provides early warning if adjustments need to be made to address issues that could push the project out of scope and over budget.
12. Improves quality management with the ability to generate reports on any quality relationship, such as with the source, electrical installations, material suppliers, prevention of occupational hazards, absenteeism, and risks due to accidents on the job.
13. Keeps everyone working on a project accountable by capturing all data throughout a project and adequately organized within categories to make it easy to track down the source of an issue and assign accountability.
14. Minimizes risks associated with multiple copies of documents causing version control issues with software that tracks changes, maintains copies of previous versions, and sends notifications when someone is working on a document.
15. Prevents the recurrent issue of cost overruns by streamlining the document management process, which keeps everyone aware of a project’s progress and changes, as well as which tasks to execute on time and which ones to overlook to reduce costs and save time.
16. Protects the organization if clients or third parties ask questions about the team’s performance on a specific build aspect.
17. Provides ready access to every document type in a central, secure location, from bidding and contract documents to change orders and payment requests.
18. Reduces the chance of mistakes that could lead to costly conflicts, claims, or lawsuits, which not only cause financial loss but also result in significant project delays.
19. Simplifies responses in the event of an audit with detailed records that cover finances, inspections, contracts, safety, labor, and transactions, which saves time and money.
20. Streamlines file management with automation that helps enforce file naming and storing protocols and saves time on doing it manually.
21. Supports implementing and applying policies and procedures that management put in place to ensure a smooth project that stays within budget.
Increase Project ROI with a Construction File Management System
Take advantage of cloud-based construction file management systems for added convenience and effective communication, streamlining operations and saving time, resulting in increased project profitability.
Remember, it is essential to evaluate the performance of a construction document management system regularly to check that it is performing optimally and that team members are using it correctly. This will ensure the maximum return on investment for construction file management by optimizing productivity and efficiency.
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Last Updated: 22nd February, 2023