Why building sound communication and documentation practices is critical to construction projects
In a previous article, we discussed three important areas of project management and ended by briefly discussing project communication. For any company, it is a good exercise to ask how deliberate your project communication is. Far too often, communication occurs in passing at someone’s desk or in convoluted email chains. Without proper documentation and good communication practices, important information can be lost or doesn’t get to the right person at all. This can lead to angry clients, frustrated employees and loss of profit. How do you prevent communication break downs?
Evaluate Your Approach and Processes to Achieve Better Project Communication
Contractors need to proactively evaluate and address how project teams—including subcontractors and vendors—are communicating. It’s important to consider what processes are in place, what tools and software are in use, and the overall culture of your business. Project management software is only as effective as the people who are using it. It’s important to determine how communication happens and where it breaks down.
When periodically evaluating the way internal and external communications happen. Consider these three vital areas:
- Construction Project Documentation: Documents are the lifeline of a project. If they are not moving efficiently, chances are your project work isn't progressing as well as it could. How do documents move throughout your organization? What software are you using for document imaging and document storage? When documents are created or modified, are the appropriate people notified? Creating automated workflows within your project management software is a great way to ensure employees are completing tasks or signing off on finished work. Using software with document imaging capabilities will help reduce redundancy and ensure documents are available throughout the organization to those who need them.
There are many software packages with document sharing capabilities, but given the size and complexity of construction documentation, more contractors are turning to document sharing platforms that provide more than just a repository. The best solutions provide features such as version control, alerts, change and issue management, and more.
- Project Team Members: Whether team members work in the field or in the office, everyone who touches a project is part of the communication network. Making sure everyone on your team has the information they need should be a priority. How would you describe your company culture when it comes to communication? Is the correct information shared internally and externally? Does everyone have access to pertinent project information—only the information they need?
Two problems can arise within a company culture, under sharing and oversharing. Most project management software can help protect sensitive information with user permissions while allowing those who need information access.
- Project Communication Technology: Your team likely uses their cell phones, email and text messaging, but what other forms of communication are in play? To have an effective approach to project communication, you need the right set of tools.
Most project management software comes with multiple ways to communicate with the intention of being a communication hub. The benefit of having a communication hub is reducing the number of avenues conversations can take place. This in turn reduces miscommunication and encourages a more collaborative work environment. A common hub for communication also provides for better document version control and will often include tools to track the flow of communication so you can identify bottlenecks. Of course, like any software, best practices must be enforced or your hub becomes another place for information to be lost.
Creating a work environment conducive to good communication practices is an iterative process of consistent evaluation. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time, just evaluate each area to make sure communication is flowing efficiently. With practice this can become a simple task of checking that your processes are still in place and being followed. With improved communication over time you will find better profitably and happy clients.