With the recent changes in how we work, going paperless has become a necessity. The days of everyone working together in a centralized office may be gone forever, so we need to adapt.
Construction companies are particularly challenged when it comes to going paperless, mainly because we deal with so many documents and files. Keeping them updated and making sure everyone has the documents they need when they need them is difficult in the best of times. Now that we’re separated and many are working with smaller teams, it’s become even more complicated and difficult.
We’ve got five strategies to help you go paperless and increase your team’s efficiency. But first, we need to look at why it’s a good idea to go paperless.
Why go paperless?
Because you have to. With face-to-face meetings and project visits canceled due to the pandemic, virtual documents are now the only way to go. Since everyone’s working from home or remotely, handouts for a meeting don’t make any sense. Besides, passing out papers at a meeting is risky as it might potentially spread the virus.
Accessibility. Since teams are working remotely with only small office staffs, there’s no central place to store documents. A virtual document hub gives all workers the ability to get the information they need. If your data is stored in the cloud, it’s much easier for employees to get the documents they need from anywhere, at any time.
Improved efficiency. Employees don’t have to spend hours searching for a document they need when it can be looked up in the project management software or cloud-based storage system. Files are stored securely and can be organized for easy retrieval.
Good for the environment. Saving on printing and paper costs is not only good for the company, but it also helps save the environment. These savings are good for a company’s triple bottom line.
Transition to a cloud-based filing system
The first step to reducing paperwork is to transition to a cloud-based file storage system. This can be a stand-alone system or can be integrated into other software that you are using. Stand-alone systems are often free with limited storage capability. A free account is a good way to test the product and make sure it’s a fit for your company.
Using a cloud filing system offers several benefits. These systems reduce the need for email communication, as files are accessible by anyone on the team. Since so many of us are overwhelmed by the amount of emails we receive each day, it’s easy for important items to get lost in our inboxes. A cloud system will reduce the chances of losing important correspondence.
Team members can also instantly access any information they need through a cloud-based system. There’s no waiting for someone to send a file, let alone find it. And they know the information is always up to date.
Files are available anywhere any time when they’re stored in the cloud. All you need is a tablet, laptop, or even a smart phone and you can view and even edit them as needed.
Use project management software
Construction project management software allows project teams to organize documents and files and send correspondence easily and quickly. It keeps all the records of a project in one secure location and organizes them for easy search.
With all project files located in one handy location, there’s no searching emails or folders for just the right file. When combined with cloud-based storage, teams have access to all project documents at any time.
Getting current information, from the status of documents to cost reports, is key when managing construction projects. PM software allows team members to get status reports on submittals, RFIs, or the budget status with a quick inquiry.
Integrate accounting and project management software
When a company’s accounting software is integrated with their project management software, project teams can get up-to-date cost reports instantly. This access allows them to analyze the project from wherever they are without having to ask the office for a certain report.
Often project managers have to ask accounting to give them the latest cost report so they can complete their cost projections and know where they stand on the budget. When the software platforms are integrated, there’s no wasted time or energy waiting for a report so they can complete their projections.
Integrating accounting software also saves time and improves accuracy, as an entry to one system updates the other and there’s no double entry. This helps ensure that project records are accurate and current.
Use electronic signatures
Using electronic signatures reduces paperwork by allowing team members to quickly approve or sign a document from anywhere. There’s no printing required, and any electronic device can be used to provide the signature.
Electronic routing of documents also allows for tracking who needs to sign a document next. With this information, teams can quickly determine who needs to do what next to move a document along.
With everyone working remotely, you’ve probably already updated your hardware, but it’s still worth mentioning. Make sure that everyone on the team has the appropriate hardware in order to access documents and files electronically. This means everyone should have a tablet or laptop that they can use. Desktop computers don’t allow for mobility, making them less useful when going paperless.
You’ll also need to make sure everyone has access to internet and Wi-Fi so they can retrieve and download files, as necessary. Large documents or drawings can be difficult to download on a cell signal.
Paperless is here to stay
With the five strategies above, you should be able to take your construction business to paperless operations. It requires patience and determination to make any new system work, so take it slowly and begin with just one or two project teams. Once all the bugs are worked out, you can roll the new process out to the rest of the company. Easing communication between project team members will improve work efficiency, reduce rework, and increase project quality and profitability.
Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator. Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.