One of the many lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is how true Darwin’s theory “It Is Not the Strongest of the Species that Survives But the Most Adaptable to Change” was.
Document Controllers on capital construction projects are no different than other project team members who are facing one of the toughest times in their career life. Although the role that Document Controllers play on projects is an important role and will continue to be required, nevertheless, document controllers need to improve their skills to survive the new business norms. In addition to the work for home (WFH) and social distancing practices, there is also the challenge of less projects to build and less money to spend on projects, at least for the near future. This means that document controllers who continue to depend on the same skill sets and tools that are common to the tens of thousands other document controllers, will sure have less chances and opportunities to survive those tough times than others who have figured out how to develop their skills to increase their value to projects.
Document controllers can increase their business value when they can undertake more tasks for less effort by automating many of the processes that they are either responsible for or have to depend on others to do. For example, they need to automate the generation of all templates and registers where MS Excel or MS Word continue to be used to generate. Those include the forms and registers for shop drawing and as-built drawings, material samples, method statements among other submittal types, site inspection requests, non-compliance reports, request for information, confirmation of verbal instructions, daily reports, safety incidents among others. This automation will reduce the time consumed to create, verify, maintain and share the logs of those processes as well as the dashboards to report their performance. Also, the additional captured data will give document controllers more content to report the volume of transactions by status, location and other categories, average turnaround time for each type of process, time elapsed for submitted documents among others.
In addition, document controllers need to play a more proactive role by issuing warning notifications for delayed processes that they are responsible for. For example, having a detailed register of the project’s required submittals that is linked to the project’s integrated schedule activities, will enable document controllers to play the proactive role of identifying what will be the due submittals for next 30 days rather than just wait for them to happen.
Further, document controllers can improve their reporting on the review status of all types of documents they are responsible for. It is a fact that workflow tasks, duration of tasks, sequence of performing those tasks and the approval authority levels need to be specific to each document type as there is no single workflow that can fit all. Therefore, by automating all those workflows, document controllers will have a real-time register of all due and delayed workflow tasks grouped by process type that can be shared with those reviewers and other stakeholders.
Accordingly, for document controllers who are keen to increase their business value and want to differentiate themselves from the competition might need to consider using new tools that will enable them to do the additional tasks that maybe the current tools in use lack the required functions and features. In addition, document controllers need to understand that with the growing demand for digital transformation for project management processes, many of the tools that they have used in the past should now be considered as part of the overall new solution. In other words, not only the data captured in all those tools need to be consolidated but also need to comply with data protection rules that could make SaaS or cloud hosted solutions not permitted to be used.
Therefore, document controllers need to start seriously learning and mastering how Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb can increase their business value. For example, they need to understand how a PMIS like PMWeb can fulfill their current document control requirements while also providing the functions and features that enable them to do more tasks that will increase their value for the projects they are working on.
The first must have requirement for all document controllers is to have for a document management repository that can upload and store all types of documents that could be generated and exchanged during the project life cycle stages. There is also the need to assign attributes to the uploaded documents so they can be used to report and search for documents.
PMWeb document management repository enables uploading all type of project documents into folders and subfolders to match the filing structure used on the project. Access rights can be assigned to those folders to restrict access on who can access and edit the content of those folders. In addition, it allows assigning unlimited number of attributes and user defined fields to the uploaded documents. Of course, common document management system functionalities like checking out and checking document to maintain version control, document search and document redlining and markup are all by default in PMWeb.
The second requirement is managing the submittal process for which PMWeb provides two options to fulfil this requirement. The first option, which is similar to other document management systems is using transmittals for which PMWeb will create a new transmittal for each submittal and attach all related documents.
The second option will be using another out of the box PMWeb module which is the submittal module. This module allows changing the submittal process from being a reactive process into a proactive process. This change will become possible by having a submittal log of all project’s due submittal as soon as the project starts. This log which is usually created using MS Excel will be uploaded into PMWeb along with the relevant project schedule submittal activity included in the integrated project schedule. PMWeb scheduling module will be used to import and store the integrated project baseline schedule and all subsequent revisions and updates.
Each submittal can be attached with the documents that need to be submitted for review and approval. Those documents will be uploaded in to PMWeb document management repository as detailed earlier. In addition, PMWeb allows linking records from other project management processes that are managed in PMWeb but are relevant to the submittal. Those could include for example other submittals, meeting minutes, request for information among others. In addition, PMWeb allows linking imported MS Outlook emails to the submittal.
The PMWeb conditional workflow assigned to the submittal module will allow defining different workflow tasks and sequence for those tasks depending on the submittal type. In other words, there could be unique workflows for structural, architectural, mechanical, electrical and other type of submittals. In addition, there will be other additional unique workflows for the many other processes managed using PMWeb such as Non-Compliance Report, Request for Information, Safety Violation Report, Confirmation of Verbal Instruction among others.
There are a number benefits that a document controller will gain from having all these unique workflow predefined. The first will be the saved effort of selecting which workflow to assign for the review and approval process of a submittal document or others. The second is that the likelihood of having wrong distribution of a document or process will be eliminated. The third benefit is that ability to have a real-time report that is detailed to each process type showing due and delayed workflow tasks by responsibility.
By having all these processes captured in PMWeb, real-time registers of all processes will be automatically generated. Those reports can be customized in any desired form and format to enable to document controllers to make those reports readily available for their intended recipients. This will eliminate the time-consuming effort in using MS Excel to create those registers with the associated risks of wrong or incomplete data entry, outdated registers among others. Those reports can include both tabular and graphical visuals to provide the needed insight for monitoring, evaluating and reporting the performance of each document management process.
By having this wealth of real-time, trust worthy data, document controllers can provide the needed information for different dashboards that are designed to provide project executives with the insight to make better and faster informed decisions. Those dashboards are also examples of the benefits a document controller would bring to the project when it comes to monitoring, evaluating and reporting the overall project’s performance.
About the Author
Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM is a Senior Project Management Consultant with 40-year service record providing project management, project controls services and project management information system to over than 400 projects with a total value in excess of US$ 400 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment, Hospitality and Shopping Malls, Oil and Gas Plants and Refineries, Telecommunication and Information Technology projects. He is thoroughly experienced in complete project management including project management control systems, computerized project control software, claims analysis/prevention, risk analysis/management (contingency planning), design, supervision, training and business development.
Bassam is a frequent speaker in topics relating to Project Management, Strategic Project Management and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 40 years he has lectured at more than 400 events and courses at different locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and South America. He has written more than 400 articles on project management and project management information systems that were featured in international and regional magazines and newspapers. He was a co-founder of the Project Management Institute- Arabian Gulf Chapter (PMI-AGC) and has served on its board of directors for more than 6 years. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), a certified Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP) and Earned Value Professional (EVP) from the American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE) and Green Project Management (GPM).
Bassam holds a Masters in Engineering Administration (Construction Management) with Faculty Commendation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA, Bachelor in Civil Engineering – Kuwait University, Kuwait and has attended many executive management programs at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA and London Business School, London, UK.