Read the article in Construction Executive magazine - February 10, 2020
An e-forms and reporting tool beats paper for capturing “institutional memory” and making it easily searchable
Review meetings are a staple in the construction process for looking back at projects or project phases. Contractors relying on outdated tools to record the findings of these meetings, however, may miss out on opportunities to use this valuable information to look ahead at ways to improve future performance.
An e-forms and reporting application is a preferable alternative. These tools are being implemented across construction workflows to replace paper with electronic forms for added efficiency, immediate access to better data and extensive reporting capabilities. Safety, inspections and human resources are among the most common construction workflows where eliminating paper forms is paying big dividends. The same principals apply in the project review process, and similar advantages can be achieved.
An essential purpose of the post-project meeting is to document results. Estimators, project managers, superintendents and finance managers typically convene to share their perspectives. Executives, engineers, equipment managers and other personnel may also participate, depending on the company structure and the nature of the work. The goal is to determine what went well, what did not and, most importantly, what can be done differently to improve the performance of similar projects in the future.
Time makes meeting that goal a challenge. As months or years pass, institutional memory—the collective recall of employees regarding what happened on past projects—fades. Key people involved may leave the company. Specific details become hard to remember. Experiences from multiple projects blend together.
Recording the results of post-project meetings goes a long way toward preserving institutional memory. Typically, this data is captured on paper or static, disconnected electronic documents and stored in physical or electronic files. The good news is the information is captured and not lost. The challenge is accessing it and turning it into intelligence. The information is not easily searchable. Aggregating data from several projects to compile reports and identify trends is extremely difficult.
Let’s say, for example, a contractor wanted to evaluate records of four or five subcontractors on cost, quality, timeliness or other criteria to determine which one may be best suited for an upcoming job. Identifying the specific projects those subcontractors worked on and then pouring through the individual post-project meeting files for each of those jobs would be a tedious and time-consuming manual process. Even then, inconsistencies in how subcontractor performance was measured and recorded from job to job could also make comparisons difficult.
The same challenges would come into play in analyzing production rates and budgets versus plan, change order management, materials, resource utilization and other aspects typically covered in a post-project review.
An electronic form offers contractors the opportunity to record information shared and conclusions reached during post-project meetings in a consistent, structured manner. Configurable form templates make it easy to customize and update forms for the specific needs of each contractor or project. Drop-downs, checklists, radio buttons and other features of electronic forms ensure that data is entered consistently. The structure and the electronic access then make it easy to search through the data and report on it. Another advantage is the opportunity to attach files and media, such as photos or videos of the job being reviewed.
Going back to the example involving subcontractor performance, with an e-forms and reporting application, a contractor could quickly run a report pulling the required information from post-project files for each job that an identified subcontractor or group of subcontractors worked on in a designated time period. The same process could be applied to any other variables or subset of previous projects.
Learning from and building on past experiences is a characteristic of leading construction companies. So is the ability to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Improving the post-project review meeting process by replacing paper with an e-forms and reporting alternative is a proven way to preserve and standardize the institutional memory needed to do both.