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The Construction Office Imperative: Digitize, Go Paperless and Mobile February 10, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging, Sharepoint.
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construction document storageConstruction companies are bombarded by documents daily and making those documents electronic will reduce paper right? Not so fast. According to this Digital Landfill article “77% of invoices that arrive as PDF attachments get printed. 31% of faxed invoices get printed and scanned back in.” Heck, I know people that print out their email! If this is happening in your construction office it’s time to address the problem.

First let’s address AP invoices and email as everyone has them. If your construction accounting system doesn’t have at minimum a drag n drop feature for documents and emails, it’s time to look for an integrated, comprehensive replacement solution. It’s costing you money staying with software that doesn’t acknowledge how documents are distributed today. Next, give your AP staff Dual Screens keep documents electronic in constructiondual screens so they can process the invoice without printing it out. If you have a process that says match the PO, receiver and invoice together before entering into AP, then you should find a solution that allows you to match the documents by PO number electronically. Making the process fully electronic saves time, eliminates filing and makes document retrieval almost instant.

This also holds true for your construction project management software. Correspondence, contracts and RFIs, change orders, and drawings are frequently emailed. What’s your process to have those emails hit the job jacket? Larger firms share their documents with owners, suppliers and government agencies on Microsoft Sharepoint servers. So now you have two copies of the same document… One in the project software and one on Sharepoint. Let’s also email this out to a few people in the field and you see what happens – copies of copies. At least they’re all electronic. As-builts, Operation and maintenance manuals represent volumes of paper but take little space when electronically rendered. Having an enterprise content management system in place can eliminate the multiple copies, and keep you in synch when it comes to a records retention and destruction policy.

the speed of response to customers, suppliers, citizens or staff by 6-times or more. 70% estimate an improvement of at least 3x, and 29% see an improvement of 10x or more

Many documents in construction also are forms-based. Subcontractor pre-qualifications, timecards, and Human Resource employment records to name a few. While many have turned to Acrobat Professional for forms filling, having the whole workflow process automated is usually not addressed. Some forms spawn more forms (based upon data on the first form). Forms are used to collect data and often that same data needs to be re-keyed into another system. Today’s electronic forms capture can not only capture signatures, each field’s data can be captured and automatically input on another form or shared across software systems. Imagine an equipment usage form updating the equipment usage entry or a timecard form updating the time card entry in your construction accounting system.

The real allure of digital documents in construction is having access to them from anywhere, as many documents get distributed as part of an approval process. Review and approval on a iPad, signature capture on a form and granting access from a mobile device can return big dividends. Access from anywhere, anytime eliminates the interruptions of office staff resulting in better productivity in the office and field. On average, businesses using scanning and capture say that they see “the speed of response to customers, suppliers, citizens or staff by 6-times or more. 70% estimate an improvement of at least 3x, and 29% see an improvement of 10x or more.”

These are compelling statistics. So where can you learn more? The Phoenix Construction Peer Exchange on February 24th. We’re having a guest keynote speaker, Randy Stutzman from FMI Capital Advisors present “Building Value for Your Construction Company Through Your Accounting and IT Groups” and offering two separate educational tracks addressing IT Strategy and Content management. While I am co-hosting the Phoenix Construction Peer Exchange, this event is traveling to other cities throughout the United States. All the event details can be accessed here. You may also want to join The Construction Peer Exchange online in LinkedIn Groups.

SharePoint Savvy? September 8, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, Sharepoint.
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Apparently many managers think SharePoint is the defacto industry standard when it comes to collaboration. While Microsoft has indeed designed a flexible solution with more features and functions, it seems to have become Microsoft’s solution to all things social too. After reading a few posts at Digital Landfill on the topic, we all need to consider how SharePoint addresses content management, collaboration, Enterprise 2.0, etc. It may create more silos and IT governance headaches than you bargained for.

What SharePoint does best is collaboration when dealing with “working” documents like construction contract negotiations. The iterations and revisions are easily captured and perhaps the sense of why a phrase was removed or a paragraph was added can be captured in the process.  I have also seen it widely embraced to relieve the need for shared drives and to offer project portals for job documentation.  The key to continued success in these deployments is implementation consistency.

SharePoint 2007 has been marketed as a content management system, but as explained in “8 Things SharePoint 2010 Needs to Be a True ECM System“, there are definite shortcomings that need to be addressed.  These include:

  1. Persistent Links
  2. Store Once, Use Many
  3. Honest to Goodness Records Management
  4. Better Metadata Management
  5. Reusable search templates…etc

Your Enterprise Content Management System surely can ingest Sharepoint posted documents.

While I’ve seen some consistent deployments, there are far more that are less than perfect.Even in a simple intranet scenario, allowing new folder creation and having no user naming conventions creates chaos.  One salesman told me that he knew a document was on their “site” but called into the office and requested it be emailed to him as it was faster than randomly guessing  which folders to look in. 

Establish SharePoint site auto-provisioning is just one of the “8 More Things You Need to Know About SharePoint“.   You’ll also want to review “8 Things You Need to Know about SharePoint Governance“.   Two gems from there are: There is no Easy Button and Some [SharePoint] options don’t have an undo button.  Plan accordingly recognizing that  IT Governance and discovery issues will be your Achilles Heal.   Do your research on products like Kazeon eDiscovery SharePoint Manager to minimize your e-discovery review costs before you need to.

Finally, if you are considering using SharePoint for Enterprise 2.0, there’s one more blog you need to read, “SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools“.  You’ll thank me for knowing what’s viable and what’s not. 

I’d like to hear from you if you’ve deployed Sharepoint…both successes and challenges you’ve face.  Comments on this blog are always welcome.

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