Article #516 How Can a Project Management Information System (PMIS) Allow Document Controllers to do More for Less on Capital Construction Projects?

Document controllers are one of the key positions that will always exist when it comes to delivering capital construction projects. Although their role and responsibilities could vary from one project to another, nevertheless, there are six major tasks that most document controllers will be always required to do regardless of the project type, size, or even location. Those are (1) setup and maintaining the project’s filing system, (2) logging and distributing received documents, (3) Maintaining the latest revision of each drawing and technical document, (4) preparing and submitting transmittals (5) preparing correspondence, communications and documents and (6) maintaining and updating tracking logs of all records that relate to managed business processes on the project.

Although the first three tasks can be done by either using a Document Management System (DMS) or a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb, nevertheless, the remaining three tasks can be best done using a PMIS and not a DMS. Not only those tasks can be done in a more efficient manner that will save much of the document controller valuable effort and time but also, they can be done in a way that will enforce transparency, accountability, and adherence to the approval authority levels for each managed business process as defined in the Delegation of Authority (DoA) matrix of the project management plan (PMP).

Starting with the first task, the PMWeb document management repository enables the document controller to create folders and subfolders to exactly match each project filing system. Permission rights can be set to each folder to restrict access to only those authorized users who have been permitted to have access to the folder and uploaded documents. In addition, PMWeb users can subscribe to alerts so they can be automatically notified when new documents or revisions of documents are uploaded, downloaded, or even deleted within each folder. Those notifications can be sent via email or on-screen when accessing PMWeb.

Documents of different file types approved by the document controller can be uploaded individually or in bulk to their relevant folder or subfolder. The document controller can add the documents’ attribute values that are defined at each folder or subfolder level. This provides the document controllers with the flexibility to capture the data fields that are best suited for each uploaded document or document. The attribute values can be defined as text, number, Boolean, date, or a value from one of the predefined selection lists in PMWeb.

There is also the option to create user-defined fields that will be common to all uploaded documents regardless of the folder they belong to. The type of those user-defined fields could be text, number, Boolean, date, currency, memo, or a value from one of the predefined selection lists in PMWeb.

The uploaded document can be shared with other project team members by either sending it via email to those individuals or submit via a predefined workflow to those who need to review and approve the document. For a document that is sent via email, the document controller can select the individuals who need to receive the document or better select them from a predefined distribution list. There is no limit on the number of distribution lists that can be created in PMWeb to ensure that the document controller does not waste his/her effort in determining who should be receiving the uploaded document.

If there is a need for a formalized sharing or communication of uploaded documents, the workflow option can be used to add a workflow to formalize the review and approval tasks of each uploaded document. The workflow will map the sequence of the review and approval tasks along with the role or user assigned to the task, duration allotted for the tasks, rules for returning or resubmitting a document, and availability for each task.

In addition, escalation alert rules can be defined for the workflow to send email notifications to selected users when a workflow task is delayed. In addition, the workflow could be designed to include conditions to enable automatic distribution of the uploaded document depending on the document category or type values defined when the documents were uploaded.

Similar to any document management system (DMS) and to address the third task requirement for maintaining the latest revision of each drawing and technical document, PMWeb allows checking-in and checking-out each uploaded document to maintain the version history of the document. This process will ensure that no one has access to a document when a new version is being uploaded. The folder can be set to show only the latest document version or all past document versions.

Of course, the value of the massive granular data captured for the uploaded documents is that this data will enable the project team members to search and locate documents that have certain values either in the file name, file extension, data fields, attributes as well as the content of those documents if they are searchable. The search can be restricted to a specific project or a location where more than a project could exist.

The fourth task that a document controller needs to do is to prepare and submit transmittals for shop drawings, as-built drawings, material submittal, inspection requests, method statements, pre-qualification, test results, insurance documents, warranties, material samples to list a few. Those transmittals will be recorded to the respective log sheet and be made available to all project team members who need to have access to those transmittals.

Using PMWeb out-of-the-box submittal module allows the document controller to upload the submittal register usually created in MS Excel. This register which is usually part of the project’s baseline schedule submission will include all types of submittals that must be done for the project. The register also allows capturing the project schedule activity that is associated with each submittal. Of course, there is no limit to other data fields that the document controller might require submittals to have.

The project schedule will be uploaded into PMWeb to ensure that start, finish and float values for each submittal-related activity are captured and are available. Although this might appear to be basic functionality, nevertheless it has great benefits when setting the priorities for submittal submissions, review, and approval as well as when trying to determine the impact that delayed submittals had on the project schedule.

The additional benefits of using a PMIS like PMWeb for managing submittals are also noticeable for the distribution of submittals for review and approval. Not only there will be a workflow assigned to the submittal review and approval tasks, but the workflow could also include conditions to automatically forward submittals depending on their type, project system, specification section, and others. This not only takes out the guesswork on who should be involved in the review and approval process but also saves the document controller a great deal of effort in performing this task.

Another out-of-the-box benefit of using a PMIS like PMWeb when managing submittals is that there will be almost zero effort needed in maintaining and updating submittal tracking logs as those will be automatically generated and updated as the submittal business process progresses. Those logs can be made available online for those individuals who require them or simply schedule for them to be emailed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to all those individuals who need to receive those logs.

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The fifth task that the document controller would usually be involved with is the preparation of correspondence, communications, and documents. Using a PMIS like PMWeb, many of the communication input templates required on capital construction projects come readily available in PMWeb. Those include Request for Information (RFI), Safety Incidents, Transmittals, Meeting Meetings, Punch Lists, Daily Reports, Change Orders, Interim Payment Certificates among others. Access can be given to those templates by the project’s responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). PMWeb also allows setting access rights to the data fields within each input form.

Each business process input template can be attached with all supportive documents that are relevant to the record. PMWeb allows attaching all types of documents that are needed or associated with each type of project management business process. It is highly recommended to add comments to each attached document to provide a better understanding of what was the document for.

The attachment tab also allows the user to link other records for business processes that are implemented in PMWeb as well as associate URL hyperlinks with websites or documents that are not stored in the PMWeb document management repository.

The workflow tab of each template will capture the planned review and approve workflow tasks for each business process as well as the actual history of those review and approval tasks. PMWeb will capture the actual action data and time, done by who, action taken, comments made, and whether team input was requested.

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The great value of capturing this granular workflow data is the document controller will have a real-time report of the status of workflow tasks whether they were completed, due, or delayed. The out-of-the-box report displayed below is an example of such a report that can group workflow tasks by business process, project team member, workflow task number, record status, project among others. Of course, this report can be fully customized to include visuals to summarize workflow tasks by user, status, business process, etc.

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For the many other templates that are not readily available in PMWeb, PMWeb custom form builder will be used to create those templates in any desired form, format, or even language. Examples of those custom-built templates include Non-Conformance Reports (NCR), Confirmation of Verbal Instructions (CVI), Site Work Instruction (SWI), Work Inspection Required (WIR), Material Inspection Report (MIR), Permits to Work, Gate Passes, Safety Violations list a few. For those custom-built templates, documents can be attached to transactions, other PMWeb records can be linked as well as unique workflow can be assigned to each newly created business process.

For each business process that requires formal communication, an output form will be designed to allow printing and wet-sign the communication or save it in PDF file format so it can be digitally signed. The output form can be designed to include the list of documents that were attached to the transaction as well as a log of the workflow tasks assigned to the business process and their status. PMWeb comes ready with much of the output forms needed for the business processes that are available by default in PMWeb.

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Of course, each entity can also design its formal communication templates in any desired form or format. Those can differ from one brand to another if needed. What is important to focus on is the captured data for each business process.

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The last task that a document controller is always required to do is to maintain and update the tracking logs and records for the many business processes required on capital construction projects. The document controller should make a separate log or register for each record type like RFIs, Submittals, NCRs, WIRs, MIRs, Concrete Pour, Permits to Work, Insurance and Bonds, and others for which those logs shall be updated regularly. Those updated logs shall be sent to all concerned individuals at the end of the week.

When a PMIS like PMWeb is used to manage those business processes, those logs will be automatically updated with the current progress data for each performed transaction of each business process. In addition, those logs can be scheduled to be emailed in a PDF or other type file format on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to individuals selected by the document controller. A start and end date can be also set for those logs’ distribution process.

The layout and format of those reports that need to be shared can be designed in any desired form or format. Those can be logs for a single business process like an RFI, WIR, Submittal, Transmittal, Change Orders, Interim Payment Certificates, or a report that combines interrelated business processes to provide a better understanding of the project’s business processes. For example, a report can be created to summarize the details of each contract awarded on the project including all issued change orders and interim payment certificates. The content of this report will be automatically extracted from the related business processes managed in PMWeb.

In addition, the document controller might be interested in having a dashboard that summarizes the details of the different types of business processes managed in PMWeb. The report which can be designed in any desired form or format can also include filters to enable the document controller to select the information to be reported on. The data displayed in the dashboard will be automatically extracted from the business processes managed in PMWeb.

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The advantage of managing the different business processes on the same PMWeb platform is that weekly and monthly progress reports that the document controller could be one of the project team members who have a role in preparing the report will become automatically available based on the data captured in the managed business processes. Again, the form and format of those progress reports are fully customizable to meet each organization’s reporting documents.

All of those progress reports as well as other dashboards and logs can be designed to allow the report reader to drill down for more details to better understand what is being reported on. The drill-down can be designed to allow the reader to reach the business process transaction or record that was the basis for the reported information.

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For document controllers are involved in multiple projects or programs, the reports and dashboards generated in PMWeb can be designed to extract and consolidate the information across those projects. Those consolidated projects portfolio and program reports and dashboards could be designed to include a map visual to show the location of those projects as per the geospatial coordinates provided to each project in PMWeb.

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About the Authorfounder

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 systems to over 200 projects with a total value over the US $100 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 on topics relating to Project Management, Strategic Project Management, and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 40 years, he has lectured at more than 350 events and courses at different locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and South America. He has written more than 500 articles on project management and information systems featured in international and regional magazines and newspapers. He is 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 Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (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.


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