Construction Document Management For Risk Mitigation

September 1, 2017 Adam Higgins

Proper construction document management may not spring immediately to mind as the root cause of high priority issues that add significant cost and time to a construction project, not to mention sour GCs' relationships with stakeholders -- but more often than many GCs realize, it's the silent killer for all sorts of construction project issues.

In post-construction debriefings, stakeholders will ask questions like: Was the project completed to specifications? Did it come in on schedule? Did we minimize jobsite rework, waste, delays, and cost overruns

When the answer to any of these questions is “no,” more often than not, the issues can trace their roots back to poor construction document control that led to the project team not having the right information available to them when they needed it. This provides a fertile ground from which all sorts of other problems can grow, each building in additional time and cost to the project. 

Why You Need Construction Document Management Software

The ability to find answers to these types of questions depends on how successful construction document control has been handled through the duration of the project.

Document control is usually put in the hands of a document manager or a field engineer, who have a big responsibility without the big title or experience to match. They are often entry-level personnel who are tasked with the arduous work of compiling, curating, distributing and tracking all project-related documentation. They face a number of obstacles, including a constant flow of updated plan sets; file format compatibility; different stakeholders using different software applications; and a never-ending barrage of questions and requests centered around 'what is in the current set?'.

Constructon Document Management iPad.jpg

Using document management software makes it easier to stay up-to-date on the latest set of plans.

On top of this, the document manager has the unenviable role of maintaining a record of every piece of information that is associated with the project. And not just building an archive, but also when it came in, when it changed, who approved it, who it was sent to, who looked at it and so on. Without this complete record, the ability for a contractor to avoid responsibility for a dispute is greatly diminished.

With so many pressures on the document manager, implementing a standard, repeatable process for document control is a must have to help mitigate risk and avoid costly errors. And like with any good process, there are opportunities to create efficiencies by supporting it with technology to reduce the burden on the person in charge.

Here are just a few of the benefits of using construction document management software in support of a document control process.


Let Your Project Team Work According to Their Preferences 

Accessibility of construction project management documents is the lifeblood of keeping a construction project on schedule and free of rework. But the process of collecting this information, making it usable for the different project stakeholders and distributing information in a timely manner is not a simple task.  Why? Because AEC industry professionals -- the various architects, engineers, detailers, subcontractors, etc. -- have very distinct needs as they perform their day-to-day work.

Many AEC professionals -- like subcontractors -- prefer to work with printed 2D sheets. Architects and engineers have broadly adopted BIM and may want to work with 3D models. And the digital PDF format remains an important medium for all stakeholders, as it is seen by courts as the legal document of record. In fact, PDFs are often written into the contract as the plans of record according to AIA standards. 

With these different file format preferences come different software applications for working with them -- and the unfortunate consequence of data siloes due to this "app for that" approach across the project team.

While it's not realistic to change how people prefer to work, it is realistic -- and a good idea -- to standardize on a document control process and technology that supports those various preferences.

Construction Document Management group.jpgThe construction document management system you use should be able to accommodate varying format preferences.

With document management software like BIM 360 Docs, all documents, plans, models, photos and other files are stored and managed in a single system. Once in a single repository, project team members can work with documents in whatever way works best for them. View and markup on a mobile device, either online or offline. Send to another team member via email. Export them, or even print them out.

Using BIM 360 Docs, you can offer your team the freedom to work with files however they need, without sacrificing control. Every single action that is taken -- upload, view, markup, export,  print, etc. -- is captured in a project activity log. Giving you the peace of mind that you can always paint a complete picture of what occured with your information.


Eliminate Unnecessary Software from the Document Control Process

As mentioned earlier, current document control processes often include multiple software applications to manage and work with project data. There is typically a tool for file sharing, another one for markups, yet another for managing RFIs and so on. In total, document managers could easily be using 5-6 specialized tools every day. This is a highly inefficient use of time, not to mention that it requires manual processing, which introduces the possibility of human error (and costly mistakes).

The quality of the various tools also leaves something to be desired. For example, some of the more popular desktop markup applications still require multiple checks by version to see if issues have been addressed, and if the answer is “no,” the markup must be added in again. If certain groups want to work through an issue, these tools necessitate removing entire sections of data and then uploading them again upon editing.

When dealing with thousands of sheets and multiple versions, staying organized can be a chore. The BIM 360 Docs solution accounts for all of these issues in just one tool. Markups visibility can be selectively made private or published so that notes don't get confused with directions, with only published markups becoming part of the permanant project record.

Docs_Markup Construction document management.png

Markups like this one using BIM 360 Docs become a permanant project record.

Have a new document set? Slip sheeting happens automatically, with open markups, issues and RFIs carrying forward to new versions, and closed items remaining on the earlier versions for auditing purposes. That alone will bring a smile to any document manager!

Using less software applications will bring immediate clarity to a document control process.


Keep the Right Information in the Right Hands

Storing and managing all documents in a single application doesn't mean a sacrifice of control. In fact, it allows for tigher control and a better ability to keep track of who has done what. Three important capabilities of a document management system that lead to tight document control are:

  • Permission settings: Allowing you to control visibility and access to information at very specific levels. While many software applications allow for permission-levels, it is important to look for an access control structure that is designed for the way projects work. Look for the flexibility to set permissions by user, role or company -- so that you can adjust for the constant ins and outs of trades and other team members.  And pay attention to what access levels are available.  For example, a permission level to upload files only, but not view, which can support workflows like collecting bids.
  • Version control: Keeping up with versioning is a tough task when done manually. By using one application, there is no longer a need to manually keep logs of what has and has not been changed. 
  • Audit logs: Perhaps the most important aspect of risk mitigation is the ability to know who has seen information, and when they saw it. With everybody accessing information from one place, there is no room for disputes around whether the latest round of changes was seen before something was built. 


BIM 360 Docs_Activity Log.pngA project-wide activity log can help with risk mitigation by keeping a record of every action that was taken during a project, including who has published, viewed, exported or modified a document.


BIM 360 Docs is a powerful alternative to the construction document management status quo. Rather than fishing through armloads of rolled up paper to find the documents you need right now, or having to sift through endless lists that don't pertain to you, you have easy access to all your documents and only the ones you need at your fingertips, whether you're in the office or in the field. This solution is leading to greater efficiencies in money and time spent.



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