Are Administrative Tasks Killing Your Project Team's Productivity?
BY DAVID WAGNER, SENIOR DIRECTOR
In any industry, project management is a huge undertaking, and construction is certainly no exception. Coordinating teams of contractors, 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 of moving pieces, and keeping track of them all can turn into a logistical nightmare. Though this has long simply been considered 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 of those tasks in one centralized place 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.
- Document access and uniformity. Construction projects revolve around documents, often hundreds of them. When everyone on a team is working with their own disparate systems and leaving their data scattered across multiple disconnected sources, the potential for confusion is unbelievably high. Whether you’re a contractor, a subcontractor, an architect, a designer, or an owner, you need to be sure that you’re working with the current document set at all times. All too often, that involves searching through emails to find the latest draft that was circulated, and not always being sure that you actually found it. If you’re constantly struggling to locate or verify documents or re-entering data on a daily or even weekly basis, those lost minutes quickly add up to lost hours of productivity.
- Manual workflows. In today’s digital world, most manual processes just don’t cut it anymore, and the construction industry is a prime example. Think about the traditional process of submitting an RFI and waiting for an answer, or getting submittals approved. You inevitably end up with double entries, things get lost, or, worse yet, being assigned to or reviewed by the wrong people. Even when the process goes smoothly, it can take far too much time. When it doesn’t go smoothly, the delays can completely stall your productivity.
- Using desk-bound systems. Much of today’s tried-and-true technology was initially developed with the expectation that people would be sitting in offices and working from desks. That couldn’t be further from the reality of the modern general contractor’s life. If you’re still tied to technology that doesn’t go where you go, you’re likely losing tons of time either prepping to take things with you or scrambling to find information when you’re on the road. All those minutes add up to a serious loss of productivity over time.
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 systems and workflows that improve communication and take the administrative burdens off your plate. By finding a platform that works the way you work and allows you to efficiently manage all the work being done by everyone else, no matter where you are, you’ll start seeing your lost productivity numbers dwindle in no time.
Let’s start with the document uniformity problem. The best solution for making sure that everyone on the team is accessing the current document set at all times is to have everything related to the project on one cloud-based system that’s equally accessible by everyone. When you do that, your repository becomes your place of truth. No matter what stage of the project you’re handling, you know where to look for the most current data and you know you’ll find it the first time, rather than digging through troves of past exchanges. This not only removes any concern that someone might be relying on old data or building things off outdated plans, it also saves you the time and energy of having to re-enter data into multiple systems every time a change is made. Your communications aren’t going out through third-party email systems at the risk of being lost, but instead they become part of the workflow and join the universal record for the project. And, when the project ends, you’ll have a much easier time pulling your own information back down to archive it for future risk mitigation purposes.
Automating your workflows is another key way to boost your productivity and decrease response times. Intelligent workflows that automate the process of submitting and responding to RFIs, approving submittals and fixing punch list items, or releasing the current set of project documents are crucial to eliminating delays that kill productivity. With an automated system, you’ll always know you’re submitting your documents to the correct parties, and it will be much easier for them to efficiently respond. It also creates a useful log showing exactly what every party did and when they did it. Less downtime and fewer of the delays, that were just part of the process in traditional systems, means an improvement in overall project productivity.
The final key to killing the productivity killers that plague general contractors is to have anywhere access to all your important project documents. Project teams rarely work from desks — you have to have everything you need at your fingertips, whether you’re on the road, in the trailer, or even on the construction site. The only way to do that is to have systems that you can use on mobile devices or via mobile apps. Without it, you risk missing a lot of data or failing to make the most crucial information available to the rest of the project team. The only way for a mobile general contractor to maximize productivity is to work with technology that’s equally mobile.
Improving workflow processes to eliminate administrative burdens can increase efficiency in ways you never thought possible. The idea behind technology is not to change the creative process or alter how you do your work. It’s about helping those processes move along more efficiently and being able to manage them effectively, 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 without obstacles. You should focus on managing the project, 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.