1. Too Much Of A Good Thing - The Construction Industry Is Drowning In Email

    by JB Peters & Alysa Williams

    Email went mainstream around 1995. It was that year that AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe came to the table, followed closely by webmail services such as Hotmail and others. For about the next 15 years, the business community was looking for ways to use email more often, until the inevitable email overload happened. Today, Mashable estimates that 144.8 billion emails are sent every day, and that workers spend 28% of their time using their inbox, when in fact only 14% of these emails are noted as ‘important.’

    The construction industry is perhaps more susceptible than others. With contracts, plans and change orders to name only a few, the industry is paper heavy in general. Now that all of these documents are sent via email, it’s easy to lose track of the items that are important, or to forget to copy the right people. Those in construction know that collaboration with all stakeholders is key, and they want to be sure everyone is working with the most up-to-date information, but it’s easy to lose things in a sea of attachments. Email does not allow organizations to track the progression of a document through a specific workflow, nor does it let stakeholders know if the right person is getting and reviewing what is needed. You may be sending dozens of emails a day, but are you getting the results you want? Plus, when you need these documents, can you easily find them? Our customers in the industry tell us that email has fallen into the category of ‘too much of a good thing.’

    Several years ago, Info Tech saw this as an opportunity to innovate and began envisioning a new service. To ensure the resulting system would meet the needs of the users, we partnered with the end users and other project stakeholders in the development process. This approach is Info Tech’s standard, and has proven successful in the past. What came out of the initial discussions was more than document management, and we shifted our focus to a relatively new term: paperless contracting.

    When we spoke with potential users of the service, we began by having them envision the ever-present steel filing cabinet that has been a construction trailer standard since the 1920s. The question was ‘How can we innovate this?’ Could we create a virtual filing cabinet with virtual drawers and folders? Could we lock certain drawers and leave some open? Could we set up a route for a document so that it got to the right people in the right order? Could those people sign the document, digitally or electronically? Could they use the same system to archive the project, at a decent rate? Could we do this all with no FTP or VPN? With real-time access for all stakeholders, internal and external, anytime, anywhere? Could we do it all on a mobile device?

    This concept eventually became Info Tech’s Doc Express service, and its familiar structure and simple interface has made it a success. In fact, it has been the most quickly adopted service in Info Tech’s history.  Why? Since it was designed by the users, it really changed the game. If you are using the Doc Express service, here is what you are not doing.  You are not desperately searching through folders on your desk, at the trailer, or in the back seat of your truck, relying on a coffee-stained piece of paper to prove your case. You are not stuck on the phone, calling, faxing or even emailing back and forth regarding the current status of a document. All of the files for a job are safe and secure all of the time and they are easily accessed by those who need them. This is especially helpful at audit time.

    The Doc Express service is based on Info Tech’s deep understanding of the construction management workflow and the need for paperless contracting.  Info Tech has spent the last three decades partnering with public agencies and their contractors and consultants to help them leverage technology to improve processes.  As agencies look to implement FHWA approved e-Construction initiatives relating to paperless construction administration delivery, the Doc Express service is an ideal fit that can be implemented quickly with a very low total cost of ownership. We invite you to say goodbye to cumbersome email exchanges and learn more about the Doc Express service.