The Value of Instant Information Retrieval in the Construction Industry

By MySmartPlans In blog No comments

Document management in the construction industry has traditionally been a cumbersome affair. The sheer amount of documentation generated by and accumulated during a build can seriously hinder access to vital information when it’s needed.

Fortunately, the need for instant information retrieval has been recognized, driving the creation of several construction industry document management applications designed to facilitate flexible and rapid access to information.

However, program management information systems are far from enjoying mass adoption. According to KPMG’s 2015 Global Construction Project Owner’s Survey, only 50% of firms use informational software, and of those who do, 32% have yet to integrate it into their projects.

So while the value of rapid information retrieval cannot be overstated, a significant number of project stakeholders are handicapping their ability to effectively and dynamically access their vital data when it’s needed.

In this article, we’ll take a look at three ways poor information flow can affect construction projects and how having rapid access to it can mitigate these issues.

3 Common Construction Problems Mitigated By Instant Information Retrieval

Building projects will always face their share of issues, some more dire than others. However, there are some factors that can be considered repeat offenders in contributing to them. They are:

  • Poor or slow information flow
  • Lack of flexibility

These two elements have traditionally gone hand in hand, since a lack of timely information can rob a firm of the flexibility it needs to adapt to changing conditions. And rapid information retrieval is key to promoting a dynamic approach to successfully executing a project.

Let’s take a look at three key issues facing the construction industry and how slow information flow contributes to them.

Cash flow

Given the complexity of arrangements between vendors, contractors and subcontractors, maintaining a positive cash flow has always been an industry challenge.

And even though insolvencies in the industry are trending downwards, construction firms still rely on a very high level of bank financing to stay afloat.

Typical payment terms in construction are 30 to 60 days, with 90 days becoming more common. While some cash flow problems are beyond the firm’s control (i.e. late accounts receivables), many stem from a lack of up to date awareness of available liquidity.

Having immediate access to financial statements, forecast analysis and contractor payables tracking is a major step toward improving overall cash flow. Access to detailed finance-related documents at a moment’s notice can give the project manager the situational awareness to make dynamic spending decisions as they arise.

Fraud

Fraud has always plagued the construction industry, costing firms an average of $300,000 per case. It’s become so ubiquitous that many project leaders view it as a necessary cost of doing business.

Yet fraud can only thrive in environments lacking in transparency, and fraudulent documents can easily be hidden within the massive amounts generated by the project. Project auditors, in particular, can frequently be thrown off the trail by having to wade through massive amounts of documentation to find what they’re looking for.

Some of the common types of fraudulent activity include:

  • Billing fraud
  • Contract rigging
  • Fictitious suppliers
  • Manipulation of change orders

A robust document management system providing instant information retrieval allows auditors and managers to put a significant dent in the amount of fraudulent activity by proactively bringing it to light. The faster the information is brought into the open, the faster corrective actions can be taken.

Delays

There’s no one reason why a project’s completion becomes delayed, although four factors tend to be frequent culprits:

  • Scheduling
  • Resource allocation
  • Lack of subcontractor performance
  • Change orders

All four are major areas requiring dynamic and constant monitoring in order to properly retain control, and document handling plays a key role in maintaining effective oversight.

Scheduling issues can creep in over time when changes and revisions aren’t properly accounted for. Instant access to all of your critical path documentation can pay enormous dividends in the success of your project’s scheduling.

Similarly, even though resource allocation and subcontractor performance are extensively recorded, poor document management tends to underemphasize these items until much later in the project’s execution.

And being able to stay on top of change orders as they are received can also lead to proactive management leading to expedited delivery.

With instant information retrieval capabilities at hand, project managers can proactively deal with these issues before they evolve into major problems.

Construction projects never go off without a hitch. And while problems will always creep into a build, instant document retrieval capabilities through a strong document management system can lead to proactive problem solving that will head many issues off at the pass.

MySmartPlans provides document management solutions for the construction industry designed to provide unmatched transparency and  collaborative access to documentation. Contact us for a free demo and to learn how you can gain the flexibility you need to propel your build forward.