You’ve heard the stories I’m sure––a contractor is on the losing end of a dispute or even lawsuit because he couldn’t produce paperwork showing he’d done work correctly, or followed a strict set of project guidelines, or paid his vendors or workers. Or maybe it’s the contractor that has a complaint or took legal action, but couldn’t prove that the vendors didn’t pay or that materials were not delivered.
Disputes in construction happen on a daily basis. Most are ultimately resolved amiably. Others can grow quite heated and lengthy, resulting in significant delays in work and lost profits. And when they get to the legal stage, they can involve significant sums of money.
So how do you ensure that your company is protected? Document everything—and keep those documents accessible.
The Digital Document
It wasn’t all that long ago that maintaining documentation meant storing reams of paper plans, specs, invoices, employee files, safety documents, tax documents, and much more—likely in a wall of filing cabinets in the office. Thankfully, technology has rapidly evolved and most paper documents can be scanned and saved to multiple forms of electronic storage, while more and more construction-specific documentation is actually being created digitally, avoiding the need for paper.
Most contractors today are storing the bulk of their documents digitally. Some rely on scanners and hard drives for things like records, invoices and more, while larger plans, blueprints, and specs are handled by reprographics firms and distributed via online plan rooms or other services.
In a growing number of cases, construction software packages are offering integrated solutions for document imaging and management. This means that not only can a contractor eliminate paper from their operations, but that the electronic documents can be linked to or associated with the jobs and activities to which they belong.
Though technology has advanced to the point where digital documentation is the norm, it still means little if you cannot find a document quickly when you need it. In leading-edge construction software packages, powerful, built-in document imaging solutions allow documents to not just be scanned and stored, but also connected directly to multiple areas of functionality throughout.
Call up the data on a specific vendor invoice in the system and instantly see the attached documentation to compare the data to.
Need to check the quantities and estimated cost on a change order? The original, signed change order is attached.
Have an accident on a certain jobsite? Call up images of the daily safety logs to see if proper protocols were followed.
Having this documentation attached and at the ready can save significant time. More importantly, specific workflows or alerts in leading software solutions let users know when documentation is needed, or missing, allowing them to take proactive steps to make sure that documentation is in place—long before an issue occurs.
Accessibility and Collaboration
Another benefit that today’s tech-savvy software solutions offer for document management is expanded access. Web-based software that allows users full, yet secure access no matter if they are in the office or the field means that they can access documents quickly, no matter where they are.
Collecting time cards and other labor data in the field, for instance, used to be a paper-dominated process that involved waiting until managers got back to the office to turn in, or enter payroll data. Today, project managers can enter hours directly into the system remotely, while any accompanying documentation can be scanned and attached instantly.
Other mobile-friendly solutions allow project teams to review the latest versions of plans, specs, and other documents with tablet devices to ensure everyone is working from the same page, at all times. Strict document security and version control on documents allows multiple parties to review and update documents in real time, facilitating true collaboration that keeps projects moving.
When you consider it, it’s pretty clear that documentation is key to the operation and success of your construction business. If you’re still relying on outdated technology or processes to manage documents, then you could be missing out on significant efficiencies and safeguards, and ultimately a better bottom line.
About Dexter + Chaney:
Dexter + Chaney is the leader in cloud-based construction ERP software and has been providing construction management software solutions for more than 35 years. From the office to the field, Dexter + Chaney’s Spectrum® Construction Software is used by more than 1,000 companies for accounting and business management, project management, equipment management, service management and document management. Dexter + Chaney’s web-based software applications allow customers to get work done anywhere using any device with a web browser and without the need to download any software.
About Andy Holtmann:
Andy is the Public Relations and Communications Manager at Dexter + Chaney.