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In any industry, project management and coordination are a huge undertaking, and construction is certainly no exception. Coordinating teams of architects and engineers and getting everyone on the same page can feel like an uphill battle, and the stress is only compounded by pressures to deliver the final product both on time and within budget.
There's no question that the typical project involves hundreds or even thousands of moving pieces, and keeping track of them all can turn into a logistical nightmare. Though this has long been considered simply business as usual, have you ever stopped to wonder just how much time you're losing to common administrative tasks? Some of the most routine parts of your job are, in fact, real productivity killers that eat up hours of your week. When you add up those losses across all members of your team and through the lifespan of your project, the price tag of lost productivity due to everyday administrative tasks can be staggering.
The good news is there are ways to fix the problem. Identifying your biggest productivity killers and utilizing software that handles all those tasks can go a long way toward streamlining your workflows and freeing you from the administrative burdens that are keeping you from getting the job done correctly and efficiently.
Everyday Tasks that Kill Productivity
There are certain tasks that are part of your everyday routine that are hugely hindering your productivity, and chances are you don't even realize it.
- Email. Email is not only the number one means of communication when you're on a construction project, it's also a huge contributor to lost productivity. Just think of the hundreds of emails you get each week relaying project status, asking design questions, and sharing documents. When the email that kicks the conversation off arrives in your inbox, you likely have no way to attach it to whatever project it concerns. Instead, it just sits in your inbox. Two days and countless emails later, what happens when you want to find that email again? If you're like most people, you spend several minutes searching for it in vain and only sometimes finding it. Now think about how many times a week you do that same searching exercise. In the course of a week, the minutes quickly add up.
- Accessing documents. Construction projects revolve around documents, and typically they're big documents. With the recent widespread embracing of cloud technology, many parties have moved to central repositories for sharing documents, which certainly has its advantages. But think about the last time you tried to download a model from the cloud and just how long that took. And then think about how long it took to upload the model to the cloud in the first place. How and where your documents are maintained can have a real impact on how much time you stand to lose when you're trying to access them.
- Juggling systems. Think of the software you use every day. If you're an architect, you're likely using AutoCAD or Revit on a regular basis, but AutoCAD and Revit don't help you with accounting, project management or many other aspects of your work. You probably have different systems for all those functions, and chances are none of those systems are integrated, so you find yourself re-entering the same information multiple times. Even when you get everything in line, you then start interacting with your general contractor who has different systems altogether, and the whole process starts over. A task as isolated as working on a single RFI requires you to figure out how best to share information between the two systems and how to ensure that the information being shared remains up to date and accurate. The lack of connection and interoperability between your systems, both internally and externally, can add up to countless hours of lost productivity.
Of course, these are just a few of the biggest things you do every day that are leading to lost time. The list of administrative tasks that are killing your productivity could go on and on.
Killing the Productivity Killers
Once you realize just how much productivity you're losing to routine tasks, how do you stop it from happening? The answer lies in finding the right project information management tool to take the administrative burdens off your plate. By integrating a platform that connects with all the other best-in-class products widely used in the industry, you'll start to see your lost productivity numbers dwindle in no time.
Let's start with the email problem. Connect your current email of choice (be it Outlook or something else) to the right project management platform, and you'll be able to drag and drop your emails into a system that immediately associates them with the project to which they pertain. When you need to find them two days later, they'll be waiting for you right beside the RFIs, submittals, punch lists and other documents for that matter. If you still have to search for something, most platforms have much more robust search engines than your typical email program, because they index all your data from the outset to make it searchable. Either way, the time you spend trying to find the emails you need will be dramatically reduced.
It's estimated that the right project information management software can save you as much as 20 minutes each week on email administration alone. While 20 minutes may not sound like a lot at first glance, think about your whole team. If 100 people are each wasting 20 minutes a week on a project that runs for a whole year, that quickly adds up to tens of thousands of dollars in lost productivity. Email management suddenly takes on a whole new level of significance when you look at it that way.
The same is true for dealing with large documents. If you construct a platform that allows you to keep your BIMs on your own network rather than in the cloud, and instead simply link to them in the cloud, you still reap the benefits of having them be searchable and associated with all of the other documents pertaining to the same matter, but without the laborious upload and download times. You can access your document when you need it, instead of waiting for an hour and interrupting your productivity.
Project information management software can also tackle the problem of competing systems. With a platform that has the capability to connect with all of the most utilized software in the industry, sharing information becomes easy - which is incredibly important in an industry like construction, where you're dealing with a number of disparate companies working together toward one common end in what's typically a one-off process. Getting the most current and accurate information to everyone is absolutely imperative. A platform that allows you to publish that information with the click of a button, rather than navigating everyone's individual systems, can easily save anyone tasked with publishing 10 to 15 minutes a week. As we saw with emails, those minutes really add up.
Improving workflow processes to eliminate administrative burdens can increase efficiency by 30-40 percent. The idea behind project information management software is not to change the creative process; it's about helping those processes move along more efficiently so that everyone has what they need to get the job done right and on time.
You need to let technology work for you. Leave the administrative issues to the software, so the creative work can continue unobstructed. Let the designers design, let the engineers engineer, and let your technology deal with the rest.
David Wagner is a senior director at Newforma, where he has more than 30 years of development experience in the construction, architecture and engineering software industries.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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