What features should document controllers look for when choosing construction software? Tamara Higham, marketing executive at Viewpoint, takes a look

Multiple teams are involved during the lifecycle of a construction project. What one may consider an essential functionality for a software platform, another team may never use. That’s why it is important to know what “good” construction software looks like from different perspectives. This way, you can make an informed decision in choosing a platform that ticks the right boxes for employees across multiple teams.

Document controllers — who must keep track of project plans, blueprints, vendor contracts, drawings, and data backup and security — need construction software to enforce consistency and makes documents easy to share.

Document controllers should look for these features:

  1. BIM framework
  2. Integrated drawing viewer
  3. Markup and revisions
  4. Repeatable, collaborative workflow
  5. Quick-search functionality
  6. Unlimited document storage.

To see what construction software features are most important to document controllers, we talked to Charlotte Thorburn, document controller at Sons & Co. Thorburn coordinated her company’s move towards a Common Data Environment (CDE) to standardise, simplify and scale up how her company managed projects.

Thorburn reveals the six key features that were vital for her, as she helped roll out the new system at Sons & Co.

  1. A BIM framework

In order to achieve building information modelling (BIM) Level 2, a document controller requires a few critical features:

  • A consistent approach across drawings, and consistent naming conventions the ability to ensure that all stakeholders can collaborate
  • The ability to export the Construction Operations Building Information Exchange (COBie) data from these documents.

It may seem simple, but a consistent, logical naming convention saves time and increases overall project organisation. It also allows the team to combine relevant documents and construct a federated model.

  1. Integrated drawings viewer

Being able to see documents in one place, rather than having to leave the system just to see a document in full, was an essential functionality for Thorburn and her team.

Navigating in and out of the system slowed down all users because it required them to download documents and take up space on their computer. This became a problem, because team members would then rely on their saved documents, instead of the updated source material, which may have added edits or comments. “When the drawings were taken offline,” Thorburn says, “we forfeited live visibility of a project and created a break in the project timeline.”

Site drawings (DWGs) often go on-site earlier than their corresponding PDFs, so it was vital that these documents could be linked at all times. Document controllers need a system that avoids the need to store DWGs and PDFs in different locations.

  1. Simple mark-up and revisions

Mark-up is a common occurrence during a construction project. When consultants were not able to view, mark-up, or comment on documents, they had to spend their time downloading, manually adding comments and mark-ups, and then re-uploading the amended documents. This caused delays in response — and therefore action — every time a mark-up or comment was added.

Good construction software for document controllers enables consultants to annotate, stamp and sign off drawings digitally — without leaving the system. This keeps project momentum high and avoids unnecessary delays.

  1. A repeatable, collaborative workflow

“As a document controller,” Thorburn says, “I’m more than aware of the importance of integration between project drawings and drawings for comment. Lacking a standardized, automated workflow with updates and sign-offs leads to delays as well as confusion over which drawings to work from. It also increases the risk of beginning a build with incorrect drawings — which we definitely do not want to happen!

“Sons & Co wanted a standardised workflow in place to prevent items from getting lost in the review section.”

Sons & Co created customisable workflows that connect the review process to the main document repository. This means all versions of a document are in the same place and that all teams are collaborating on the latest version of the drawing or document.

  1. Quick search functionality

Project lists can be 200 items long. Not having search functionality can make tracking down the relevant design review or RFI difficult, to say the least. Even with manual tracking, it was arduous to update the project list, and required a time commitment from the project manager and administrative support.

As document controllers must split their time between these extra admin tasks, this adds up to hours and money over a project.

“Construction software with comprehensive search functionality helps our team search and sort RFIs. Each user has a dashboard linking them directly to items assigned to them, doing away with the need for a manual tracker, and the hours spent updating it,” Thorburn says.

  1. Unlimited document storage

Document storage is something no document controller wants to worry about spending more money on.

Thorburn knew the price of document storage was rising, and larger items like photos and CGIs had to be stored elsewhere to save money. “To prevent data storage costs from eating into our project profit margins, we resorted to storing things in multiple locations, which made it difficult to find items quickly.”

By choosing a construction software where the storage cost was allocated per project, she knew the team gained access to unlimited data storage, and everything could be stored in the same place. And as a document controller, that made life easier for Thorburn.

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