Making the Switch to Digital Documentation

In our last e-Construction series post What is e-Construction?, we defined the term “e-Construction” and discussed some of the benefits and challenges of transitioning to a paperless system. Making the switch is not always easy and there are steps that can be taken to ensure success. An initial analysis of current practices and systems is important to understanding how to integrate new digital systems with traditional paper records and any existing digital records. Some agencies or companies may already be using some digital documentation, while others might have to convert all of their documentation. This is why sufficient planning and internal socialization of the system is important to success. Getting buy-in from those involved can go a long way to easing the digital transition.

Getting the Team On Board

One of the biggest keys to e-Construction success is including all stakeholders in the planning process. An agency or company will be more receptive to change and be more prepared for a successful transition if a comprehensive plan is in place and stakeholders are aware of changes before they happen. Getting input from users of all types through the planning process can help secure their support for future usage as well. Including personnel at all levels can help to avoid implementation issues that decision makers might otherwise overlook. It can also be important to include other parties that may be included in documentation, such as contractors, designers, and public agencies. Getting input from multiple partners may result in them adopting similar documentation techniques and improved processes for submittals, approvals, and other document exchanges. If all participants in the field and the office buy-in to the benefits of e-Construction, the many improvements that can occur when going digital will likely be improved and occur more quickly.

Find Champions

It is crucial to the success of any e-Construction implementation effort that enthusiastic users be identified as “champions” of the change. These users can help ensure success by generating enthusiasm for the changes, helping train others that may not be as comfortable with technology, or by participating in pilot projects at the beginning of implementation. These champions might be able to help convince any skeptics of the benefits of e-Construction. Champions can help to maintain the system as well by serving as sources for training and ongoing support of other users in their area. Identifying some internal champions is one of the best ways to achieve buy-in throughout the larger organization.

Building a System

An e-Construction system requires both a way to collect and a way to store and retrieve the data that was traditionally collected in paper form and stored in boxes. To collect data in the field, personnel need to be outfitted with mobile devices to capture the data. Many different devices can be used, but to get the most out of an e-Construction system, the devices need to have certain features. Cellular coverage in the field allows quick response between the field and the office. GPS capabilities allows for more accurate location record keeping for quality assurance. The ability to access online or local folders to view plans, specifications and other documentation keeps field personnel up to date and able to easily collaborate with other parties. Field access to email, electronic signatures, and automated forms are other features that can make an e-Construction system a powerful tool. The data that is collected in the field will need to be stored and retrievable by office personnel. Make certain the tool you select has both offline and online capabilities so that data can be easily captured, organized and stored even in remote locations and then easily synced once connectivity is available.

Next in our e-Construction series….Using technology for mobile project inspections in the field.


One Response to “Making the Switch to Digital Documentation”

  1. Ruth McIntyre

    Thank you for helping me stay informed. I enjoy the articles and have participated in some webinar training as well. My future plans include supporting use of this technology to all of the local agencies I may work with here at WSDOT.

    I would have loved to have this kind of record keeping and tracking ability during my days in the field, it would make juggling all of those forms and papers less daunting.

    No more “Truck Mounted Bookcase” required. What’s not to like?

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