Three Steps to Reduce Document Management Risk

Ensuring that a project’s construction team is working with the most up-to-date information is critical to its success; but this is not an easy task. Document management workflows are often disconnected or disjointed due to manual administrative processes and disparate systems. As a result, poor document management can result in schedule delays, quality issues, expensive rework, budget overruns, and litigation.

Document Management Challenges

Although there may still be filing cabinets filled with documents in many offices, it is much more common for project teams to use automated document management systems. 

However, design, engineering, and contractor teams often use different systems to manage project documentation. Each party’s system serves a slightly different purpose, and each party usually has a requirement to keep their own records. But project teams maintaining two or more disconnected document management systems can run into several problems. These systems can easily get out of sync, causing confusion on which document is the correct one. In addition, time delays and human error associated with manual data entry and file uploads between systems add to the problem. 

Effective document management and control is about ensuring that everyone on the project is working from the correct set of documents and is receiving information in a timely manner. A drawing update issued to the construction team a day after they have already completed that section of the build may result in rework. Or contractors working from an old or unapproved version of a document may have even more dire consequences. 

Risks Associated with Document Management

Document management and control processes are often fraught with risk.

The “document of record” is the current and approved version of a sheet, drawing, or document. But when two or more systems are in play, whose “document of record” is the “document of record”? Even when teams attempt to keep systems coordinated, it is not sustainable with manual administrative processes to transfer, upload and download files between systems. In addition, manual processes can introduce communication delays, which is another risk factor.

It is also common for questions, and sometimes litigation, to arise after the project has been completed. Without a comprehensive archive and retention plan, firms are exposed to more risk. Archives that do not include email conversations and associated comments create additional risk exposure. 

Steps for Reducing Document Management Risk

Risks can be reduced by taking an enterprise view of document management. This entails creating a firm-wide strategy and set of protocols to address where record documents are stored, who is responsible for maintaining them, who has access, and archive/ retention policies. 

1. Centralizing the way information is shared is a starting point. This does not mean that all parties are required to use the same system. There’s a big difference. A centralized process for sharing information provides full transparency. It also streamlines workflows by eliminating multiple transfers or movement of data (copying files from one folder to another). Cutting down the number of manual steps reduces errors and saves time.

Newforma Project Center – Project Files. Image Courtesy of Newforma

2. Look for ways to automate document control functions. For example, current revisions of documents can be automatically synchronized from systems like Autodesk Revit to the document of record keeping everyone up to date. Connecting or automating workflows across disparate document management systems can reduce manual administrative tasks that cause delays in getting information out in a timely manner. Newforma’s Connector for Autodesk Revit also enables sheets generated from Autodesk Revit to be synchronized to the record copy and downloaded to Newforma’s Plans mobile apps so that field teams have access to the most current version of sheets from their iPad or iPhone.

Newforma Project Center Connector for Autodesk Revit. Image Courtesy of Newforma

3. Capture all document issuance and revision history. Automated document management and control systems can take the pain out of tracking issuance and revision history. In addition, associated communication including email and comments provide a complete record of the project that should be included in the project archive in case questions arise months or years down the road. Having easy access to complete project archive information is essential to effective risk management. 

Multi-faceted engineering and project delivery firm, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors, considers document management and document control as a core competency for project delivery. Learn how this innovative firm is automating document control and integrating Autodesk Revit for maintaining record documents. Architectural practice Jestico + Whiles based in London and Prague have also recognized the benefits of the Newforma Autodesk Revit Connector. Sham Summan, Associate, explains, “The use of Newforma Project Center has optimised our entire issuing process from Autodesk Revit to final delivery.”

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