Strategies for Effective Design and Document Collaboration and Control

We here at Systemates would like to thank those who were able to attend our first webinar in the Projectmates Power Hour series on June 11th. The topic of this webinar was Strategies for Effective Design and Document Collaboration and Control.

During the webinar, Hemant Bhave and I discussed optimum organization of documents and best practices from managing drawings and specifications from design through bidding and construction. Hemant Bhave is Vice President of Systemates and a registered AIA Architect with over 30 years of experience and has given numerous seminars on project management and Internet technology. I'm involved in the implementation and training of Projectmates construction program management software. Hemant offered great points on effective document collaboration and control, which I'll share here.

Document Structures
While there is no definitive method for organizing your project documents, we find the best approach is to organize project document groups by phase. For example, on larger, ground-up projects, create document groups for Site Selection, Planning, Design, Construction, and Closeout. Smaller projects such as remodels or capex projects will likely have a smaller set of document groups, such as Design and Construction.

Within each project phase, you can further organize your documents into threads (or left-side menus). Since Projectmates is role based, structure your threads to give your users access only to the document threads they need. This keeps documents secure and makes them easy to find for your different internal and external team members.

Utilize the keywords feature in document management to add descriptors to your files. Keywords make navigating and searching for files much easier. You will be able to find information about a file even before downloading it, saving you and your team time.

Design to Bid Process
Once you have your CDs at 100%, keep a copy of this set in a folder as a historical snapshot of those documents. Copy these documents to a Bid Set area, which can be done quickly using Projectmates copy function. For the Bid Set, create folders for construction drawings, specifications, and instructions for bidders. Once these are in place, then distributing these documents is easy to do using the Bid Management tool in Projectmates.

Bid Amendments
Amendments should be added to a different folder than the published bid set. Your bid set should remain locked, ensuring your contractors are all estimating off the same set of plans. Once an amendment or drawing revision has been uploaded to the appropriate document folder, be sure to publish the amendment formally through the Bid Manager so that all bidders are equally made aware of the changes.

Managing Documents during Construction
The most common practice is to make another copy of the construction documents in an area called Issue for Construction. The contractor awarded the project should not be able to access the earlier bid set. These are historical documents, and not for the contractor at this point in the project. The Issue for Construction set is the complete set compiled after all the amendments have been added to the Bid Set. This new set is the basis for the general contractor to perform the schedule of values with the owner.

There are a couple of ways to handle the periodic changes to construction documents during the construction phase. The most common way is to have a separate folder for revisions where the architect uploads all the new changes to the documents. This is easy for the architect to do with little or no training. However, this does make it more time consuming for the contractor to get a complete set of the latest drawings.

The ideal method is to utilize the labelling feature within Projectmates. With this method, the architect uploads the revised construction drawings to the same Issue for Construction folder, but adds a unique label for each new revision uploaded. As part of the upload process, the architect can also send a notification to team members that a new revision has been published.

With this method employed, the contractor only has to go to one location to download the latest files. Because labels were applied, it's also easy to refer back and download earlier revisions of these documents.

In conclusion, a disciplined approach to the structure, security, and construction document workflow will pay dividends in ensuring your construction team is working on the latest documents. Employing features like keywords and labels makes it much easier for your team to keep up to date on the latest drawings and specifications. The Projectmates Bid and Plan Room is also an ideal way to distribute bid document and receive bids electronically.

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