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After-the-fact Reporting is Not Data, It's Project Suicide


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For every piece of missing, inaccurate, or incomplete performance records, people are making decisions based on bad information. The chaos is compounded when information flow doesn’t keep up with the speed of the project. People have to make best guesses, substitute materials or processes, and then try to deal with the consequences of those errors. One of the main reasons project documentation suffers is because of the difficulty people have fitting documentation tasks into their project workflows.

Maintaining documentation is just as important as creating it in the first place. Documentation that no one can find is as useless as no documentation at all.

Ronald E. Downing, a senior principal with Long International Inc., recently acknowledged the difficulty in making sure project documentation is done, and done correctly. But he followed that with a strong warning of the consequences of not maintaining adequate performance records.

“However, when the exigencies of the job cause attentions to be directed to other matters such that project records suffer, the inevitable result is the creation of unreliable data upon which critical project decisions are based. When that occurs, the consequences can be profound,” Downing wrote in the paper, “The Impact of Poor Contemporaneous Project Records on Claims Preparation and Expert Analyses.” He went on to call the primary economic impact “devastating,” and named the company’s inability to defend against claims as “equally damaging.”

Here is just the ‘short list’ of ways poor performance records affect projects:

  • Prevents claims for the costs of delays and disruptions

  • Lowers productivity and reduces awards for productivity losses

  • Delays processing change orders

  • Delays preparing claims

  • Increases costs for change orders and claims

  • Increases disagreements among project participants

  • Increases chances of breach of contract charges

  • Increases legal expenses

  • Decreases ability to prevail in legal proceedings

There’s More to this Picture

Maintaining documentation is just as important as creating it in the first place. Documentation that no one can find is as useless as no documentation at all. 

Over the course of a project you have to frequently update and amend existing documentation. For example, when you discover errors of fact, or when new information comes to light, you have to update the affected records. Failing to do so leaves the records incomplete or riddled with errors. In both cases, people don’t have the right information for making decisions. 

Inadequate performance records can come back to haunt you on future projects too. 

When you are actively tracking your project processes, you are trying to see where you can make improvements. Tracking equipment use, tracking materials movements, and accounting for changes arising from submittals and RFIs, are all efforts that will come up short if record keeping isn’t accurate, consistent, and well-maintained. You may also find that your estimates are coming up short because you didn’t accurately track job cost codes. 

The Advantages of Accessibility

Most important these days is the idea that performance records are easily and quickly accessible. The quicker the information is available to those who need it, the better your project outcomes. Finding out the materials requirement for a foundation changed as the concrete is getting placed, spells disaster for the project timeline and budget. If it takes a major effort, and a lot of time to find and update records, then they won’t get updated in a timely manner, or worse, they may not get updated at all. Accessibility also helps people incorporate documentation tasks into their other project duties. When documents are easily and quickly accessible, it’s possible to update and maintain them in real time.

New Ways to Improve Performance Records

The old days of paper documents are giving way to electronic documents, and that’s opening up new ways to improve performance records. Electronic documents can now exist in “real time.” Meaning that whenever a document is created, accessed, or changed, a record can exist that will show, not only the dates and times of those activities, but also the identity of those involved. 

It also means that changes are available in real time so people will have the most up-to-date information. Of course, it takes a state-of-the-art software to manage the transactions accurately and in a timely manner, but a cloud-based construction platform makes that possible. Unlike paper processes, using a solution in the cloud reduces costs and setup time. Trying to achieve the same advantages with paper documentation just isn’t possible.

Add the Power of Mobility

More than ever before, accessibility of documents in real time is greatly helped by mobile devices. Not only can people easily see changes anywhere on the job site, but they can also make changes to documentation from anywhere. At the same time the carpenter finds out an opening is added to the plans, so too can the electrician, plumber, and drywall installer. For all the trades coming in after the carpenter, having the information in advance provides opportunities to improve performance.

Not having all the information you need, at your fingertips, in real time is increasingly becoming a liability both when competing with other firms and when trying to attract the best clients. The good news is: technology today makes it possible for performance records to finally be accessible to whoever needs them, whenever they need them. It also means that keeping your records accurate and up-to-date is no longer a pipe dream, but a reality.