Digital Builder Ep 72: Master Document Management & Collaboration - Insights from Experts

Construction projects don't happen in a vacuum. There are always multiple stakeholders, project phases, and layers of coordination. 

One of the keys to construction success is ensuring that everyone—especially folks in the office and field—are closely aligned. The best teams are the ones who work well together at every stage of the project. 

To that end, we've invited two remarkable guests who are effectively implementing document and field collaboration in their projects. Matt Edwards, the Director of Digital Delivery at CRB, and Mat Poulos, the Electrical Engineering Manager at Gaylor Electric, join us to discuss the tools and processes they use to enhance project efficiency and team workflows. 

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On this episode

We discuss:

  • How fields and office teams can collaborate more effectively. 
  • The best way to figure out the right tech stack for your projects.
  • How to ensure your tech solutions are adding value to field teams. 

Making the right info accessible to the right people

We can't expect teams to work well if people don't have access to the correct information. That's why the first thing we discuss is how our guests ensure that field teams have accurate documents and data.

Over at Gaylor Electric, Poulos says they implement consistency in their documentation and review processes. These workflows are facilitated using robust tools like Autodesk.

"We're big fans of the Autodesk Build and Docs. Every one of our projects that we coordinate uses its own build site. And those are set up with the templates that we have all agreed on. So every file structure is the same on every project," he explains. 

Poulos continues, "Every review process is basically the same. So, when I create a document or a model, it goes through a review process similar to every project. Everyone has a chance to make comments or corrections. Then, I'm the final QA/QC on that document. We publish it to Sheets and make it available to the team so they can see it on their mobile devices."

Edwards echoes the importance of standardization and adds that having a common data environment (CDE) has been highly beneficial in keeping field teams aligned.

"Having all project data and documentation structured in one place is key. We rolled out Autodesk Construction Cloud (ACC) in June, and it's been a game changer."

"Previously, we had BIM 360 for our design and engineering workflows and then PlanGrid as our field tool. We had this siloed data between design and construction. Having one unified platform has been great with our field teams, office, clients, trade partners, and vendors all in one place. It's been great."

Figuring out the best tech stack

Our discussion then shifted to the topic of technology. In particular, what best practices should teams follow when figuring out their tech stack for each project?

According to Edwards, the conversation about technology needs to happen "in the pursuit phase of a project."

"I'm typically working with a VDC regional manager as well as project leadership to define our tech stack when responding to a proposal," he explains. 

While they have a standard tech stack for most projects, Edwards says they make specific technology choices on a per-project basis.

"That all depends on the complexity of the project. For example, reality capture is always a big thing. If we're doing a renovation project, we want to capture those existing conditions. So, we're making decisions based on the complexity of this project. Should we use a Matterport scan, or do we need a terrestrial laser scan?" 

"So we're learning more about technology before we even say go on the project. And then once we onboard our trade partners, we discuss the tech stack, finalize it, and get buy-in."

Poulos, for his part, brings up the practice of considering owner-specific needs. 

"For some owners, this is not their first rodeo, and they want things done a certain way. We're more than happy to accommodate their needs and adjust our means and methods."

Encouraging tech adoption in the field

Poulos and Edwards recognize the importance of involving users (particularly field teams) in technology decisions. That's why they both work closely with their colleagues in the field to ensure that the tools being rolled out actually make their lives easier. 

"As soon as we send a piece of anything out into the field, we want instant feedback. We will send somebody there from our innovation department to help with those first couple of stages and get immediate feedback so we can make corrections."

CRB implements a similar process. Edwards says, "We're involving our field team in evaluating and testing the new technology and making those decisions."

The objective, Edwards points out, is to "nail it before you scale it."

In addition, he recommends helping people understand the broader goals of your tech initiatives. In other words, you need to show them the "why" behind the technology. 

"If people understand why we're doing something, they're willing to do things differently or recognize that while something is a burden initially, there's more to be gained on the other side."

Bringing 3D and BIM modeling to the field

BIM isn't traditionally used in the field, but we're increasingly finding that integrating BIM into on-site workflows can improve project execution. 

And just like with other tech solutions, it's essential to involve key stakeholders and teams early in the process. As Edwards puts it, "The best way to leverage BIM in the field is to have early onboarding of our trade partners and involve them in design."

"In an integrated project delivery scenario, we're doing a lot of co-authoring in Revit with our trade partners. The goal is eliminating those handoffs that have just plagued our industry with reworking problems."

Poulos offers similar advice, adding that he serves as the bridge between field and design. To that end, he encourages feedback and input to reduce guesswork and back-and-forth. 

"I encourage them to give me some initial layouts and designs that we can implement. This takes a little bit of pressure off of us. We're not guessing as much, like, 'Okay, this is where he wants to put it.'"

"So by having their input and the input from my people and me being that glue in between, we've been quite successful with our designs."

Never underestimate the human side of communication

Regarding how teams can ensure they stay on the same page, Poulos underscores the importance of keeping the human element present in all projects. While technology certainly helps, there's no substitute for real interactions between people. 

"It really is just the human side of all of this. You've got to be talking to each other. You've got to get input from each other. We can have all the tech in the world, but if we're not communicating, we're never going to learn what's working and what's not."

New podcast episode every week

Digital Builder is hosted by me, Eric Thomas. Remember, new episodes of Digital Builder go live every week. If you're ready to level up field collaboration in your projects, this episode is a can't-miss.

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Eric Thomas

Eric is a Sr. Multimedia Content Marketing Manager at Autodesk and hosts the Digital Builder podcast. He has worked in the construction industry for over a decade at top ENR General Contractors and AEC technology companies. Eric has worked for Autodesk for nearly 5 years and joined the company via the PlanGrid acquisition. He has held numerous marketing roles at Autodesk including managing global industry research projects and other content marketing programs. Today Eric focuses on multimedia programs with an emphasis on video.