This article was originally published to the ARC blog on February 18, 2016.
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 because their insights identify emerging trends and inform industry forecasts.
Over the past several months, we conducted research about the topic of document management and identified six topics that were top-of-mind for our customers. These topics can apply to the practices and preferences of construction professionals everywhere as they manage projects in the field and think about future projects.
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 manually update each record. In these situations, access isn’t the problem. Instead, capturing everything efficiently, without error, becomes a daunting challenge for even the most tech-savvy user.
Documents are the principal mode of communication across the various trades and disciplines in the AEC industry. More than any other technology solution, industry professionals want a single tool that enables a dynamic way to store, collaborate, and access documents from any digital device. An integrated solution is also in high demand because it addresses the growing need for better project communications and collaboration, which help keep construction projects on time and on budget.
2. Industry Specific Technology Solutions
Generic file-sharing tools aren’t meeting the specific needs of construction professionals. Communication is wildly unstructured. File-sharing permissions between team members is either too loosely assigned—lacking the customization that large project teams demand—or too cumbersome to use in the field. Simple tasks like file identification are complicated by the massive volume of files that characterize construction projects. Adding manual procedures like naming conventions or adding directory after directory only makes things more complicated and cumbersome. And specialized version control is non-existent.
As technology adoption grows and products mature, the demand for specialized tools continues to set the pace for innovation.
3. It’s All About the Cloud
Cloud computing has revolutionized software in general and has made 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. Construction professionals all seem to agree they want more access to these types of features.
Cloud-based software offers scalability, ease of access, and reduced costs, making it an ideal document and information management solution for businesses both small and large.
4. Collaboration & Mobility Are Key
Construction is becoming more complex. Not only have buildings 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—regardless of their location.
Hard copies of drawings, email, and FTP sharing and distribution can’t keep up with this scenario. That’s why mobile cloud applications are central to any technology solution on a construction site.
5. Scalability Is a 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. While one project can get complicated quickly, three projects can instantly overwhelm the most experienced professionals 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. Team members don’t want to think about how much data they have left on a subscription or worry about being stranded when there’s no Wi-Fi connection.
When construction professionals expand their teams, join new teams, juggle projects, or track a new set of documents, the bottom line is 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. Vendors are also working closely with their customers to set and enforce consistent cloud security policies. Data is being encrypted and protected as it’s transferred and stored.
This is not to say that one can dismiss potential threats to their data, but we’ve certainly passed a tipping point where the cloud has become a comfortable place for most users.