ARC customers are some of the busiest design and construction professionals you’re likely to find. Their experience and changing needs make their opinions important to us as we serve them, but their insights also identify emerging trends and inform forecasts into the industry as a whole.
We’ve identified six topics that were top-of-mind from conversations, surveys, and research around the topic of document management conducted over the past several months. They point to the practices and preferences of construction professionals everywhere as they manage projects both in the field, and think about projects on the boards.
Here’s a look into the future of construction document management as they see it.
1. An Integrated Solution over Point Products
The downside to traditional project management tools is that project information is scattered across various products that often stand alone, without any practical or convenient way to interact with one another. Once status changes are noted in one tool, users often have to log into several others to bring their various records up to date. Access isn’t the problem, but rather capturing everything in a timely way, making sure it’s accurate, and avoiding errors.
Documents are the principal mode of communication across the various trades and disciplines in the AEC industry. More than any individual product enhancement, industry professionals want an integrated solution that enables a dynamic “single source of truth” to store, collaborate, and access documents from any digital device. An integrated solution also addresses the growing demand for better project communications and collaboration, both of which help keep construction projects on time and on budget.
2. Industry Specific Technology Solutions
Cloud-based file-sharing solutions started out as an experiment carried out on consumers and business-users alike. Free, simple and limited in their scope, they made believers out of nearly everyone who tried them.
Today, however, generic file-sharing tools don’t meet the specific demands of construction professionals. Communication is wildly unstructured. File-sharing permissions between team members is either too loosely structured, lacking in the controls that large project teams demand, or too cumbersome to use in the field. Identifying files or navigating the massive volume of files that characterize a construction is frequently reliant on manual procedures like naming conventions, or adding directory after directory. Specialized version control is non-existent.
In many ways these problems make going back to paper sound like a good idea. As technology adoption is growing and products mature, specialization is not only desired, it’s become a necessity.
3. It’s All About the Cloud
When cloud computing started to gain popularity, many people were hesitant to get on board. Initially there was some hesitation, years later, it’s clear that cloud is lead the way.
Cloud computing has revolutionized software in general, and has had a profound impact on information and document management for the industry. The cloud ensures that documents and information are available at anytime, anywhere and from any device.
Cloud based offers scalability, ease of access and reduced costs making it an ideal document and information management software for businesses both small and large.
4. Collaboration & Mobility is the Key
Construction is becoming more complex. Not only have building themselves ballooned in complexity – driving a corresponding increase in the volume of documents and information generated to construct them – but the number of people who have to collaborate on their execution has also expanded enormously.
And in the face of the increasing interactions between data and people, project members are expected to work, share, distribute and collaborate in real-time no matter where they may be working.
Hard copies of drawings, email, and FTP sharing and distribution can’t cope up with such a business scenario. That’s why cloud applications enabled by mobile devices are central to any technology solution on a construction site.
5. Scalability is Must
The smallest construction project is still big in terms of the volume of documents and data required to complete it. That means even a small contracting firm or supplier has to wrestle with the problems of dynamic scaling. One project can get complicated quickly; three projects can overwhelm if the tools aren’t up to the task.
Adding users has to be easy. The user interface has to be intuitive to cut down on training time. Project team members don’t want to think about how much data they have left on a subscription, or be stranded when there’s no Wi-Fi connection.
When construction professionals expand their teams, or join others; when they take on a new project in the middle of an existing one; when they have
to track a new set of documents or a new piece of data, their tools have to expand and move with them.
6. Security Concerns are Waning
Cloud-computing is maturing. As adoption grows, security concerns are shrinking thanks to the rapid evolution of features designed to address threats as they arise. The lack of hardware concerns actually frees staff to deal with more meaningful issues like data management and collaboration.
Cloud security management is evolving and maturing readily. The gaps are being closed rapidly. Vendors are work closely with their customers in setting and enforcing consistent cloud security policies. Data at rest and in motion is being encrypted.
This is not to say that one can dismiss potential threats to their data but it certainly means that we’ve passed a tipping point where the cloud is a pretty comfortable place for most users.