How on earth do we manage to make sense of the chaotic volumes of information that gets thrown at us every day? If you’re anything like me, in any 24-hour period you can get hundreds of emails, documents, txts, tweets and messages filling your inbox and various other mediums. It’s impossible to believe we can do a decent job of cataloging and organizing it all in order to get back to it later.
I don’t have any stats on this, but I bet that over 90% of people use Outlook as an information management system – supported by hundreds of folders located somewhere on a company shared drive. And to some degree that works ok. There does come a point, however, when that system simply breaks down. I talk to a lot of people who plan, manage and procure construction projects, and easily one of the biggest struggles they fight to endure is how to tackle the barbaric amounts of information they need to stay on top of. Contracts, drawings, change orders, vendor invoices, daily site reports, budgets, status reports and on and on it goes. Each document and email thread can contain important information that’s critical to a project’s smooth and healthy progress.
At some point, engineering and construction companies need to upgrade the systems they use for managing all that project-related content. It’s like when you used to have no kids, and now you have three kids: you have to face the reality that you need to upgrade your two-seater car to something that can haul around the whole family. I specifically wrote project-related content as opposed to enterprise content. There’s a very big difference. The difference is: Project Data should reside with the project – not in a corporate document management system (or in Outlook or on a shared drive).
In the world of procurement, for example, there is a tremendous amount of back and forth communications between client – or EPCM – and the dozens of vendors providing services and materials to that project. Buyers and Expeditors manage large amounts of information & documents related to RFQ bids, purchase orders, expediting status, revisions, material requisitions, drawings, etc. Without project procurement management software that provides an organized vendor log and portal to facilitate that information exchange, it makes it near impossible to stay in control of it. Not only that, but without a procurement and project management system, all that precious vendor data exchange will be lost. It will effectively disappear into the Outlook or ECM abyss, and provide little to no value for future reference. One of the most significant assets of a project is the history that it creates. If the procurement team is unable to tap into those data and document exchanges that occur throughout the project, they’ll have no context for performing vendor evaluations and vendor surveillance. They’ll also miss out on the ability to search, organize and catalog all those interactions for validation and evidence of confirmations and agreed-to activities.
It’s not that they can’t access that information if they use an ECM or Outlook, it’s that all the information gets spread-out and disconnected, and becomes really really tricky to organize. It swiftly becomes the content nightmare that kills project collaboration.