Document Management systems have become a normal part of delivering a construction project. As a result, it’s important to assess which one will best suit your needs.
There are a number of document management, or more accurately file management systems available on the market. The options for project managers range from sharing drives on your own servers to cloud-based document management systems.
Using normal emails can be ok for small or simple projects. This means you can use shared drive systems and control and store the data. However, your IT department will have to manage a number of external users with varying access needs, which can be a nightmare. Third-party cloud-based systems offer the opportunity to buy the service without owning the problem.
There is a wide range of cloud-based systems on the market. Some are simple and basic (like Dropbox) and allow easy file sharing. For low-risk projects, this may be a good solution. For more complex projects there is a need to track and audit the progress of files, who provided them and when etc.
Some project file management systems can handle large volumes of data. However, they can become very complex and cumbersome, especially when it comes to using metadata. Metadata is used to describe the type, subject matter, purpose, status, file type, actions, and the like. Some systems have as many as 15 metadata fields that must be completed in order to upload and share a file. The time and effort to complete the metadata fields can be excessive and in many cases, not needed.
In most cases the original files uploaded into a cloud-based system come from simple folders or directories on the users’ PC. These folders and subfolders are organised in a simple structure to suit the work, project, discipline, stage etc. In many cases, it can be a lot easier to simply re-create the same folder structure with appropriate shared access.
When looking at procuring a document management system ask the following 5 questions:
- Does the system allow you to use a simple folder structure to upload and share files?
- Can the system extract ZIP files?
Extracting folders and documents from a zip file will improve productivity; as opposed to creating new folders and uploading 100’s files individually.
- Does the system offer the option of using metadata and or shared folders?
A shared folder approach may be more suitable for your project than a system that solely relies on excessive metadata.
- Can the documents be used by other applications within the system?
Documents uploaded to the doc management system should be available for use within the entire building information management solution without having to re-upload them.
- Is the system interface user friendly?
If the system requires excessive training, and users need to attend special courses, then this indicates that the system is not user friendly nor intuitive.