Just one version of the truth … please!

SpreadsheetsOne of the most ubiquitous documents in a Construction office is the common spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are used for everything: estimating, budgets, forecast, tracking of submittal – production statistics – performance metrics and other types of critical events and data, and even used to create Pay Applications and invoicing … and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

It is no surprise why the spreadsheet is popular. The functionality of modern spreadsheet applications empowers even the novice users to develop effective tools to apply to specific tasks.

This is all well and good up to a point. Once the spreadsheet is deployed as a business tool and subsequently disseminated throughout the Company and applicable Project Partners, a systemic problem happens — totally unintentionally.

I’m confident you have heard the following in your office.

“What is – Where is – Who has” the most up-to-date version of the spreadsheet?

The echo we hear is folks obviously grasping to locate that “latest” version, the “One Version of the Truth” from which decision are made, plans are formulated, and action taken – and most importantly so they are not embarrassed by being caught in a meeting with an out-of-date version.

But how to know which version is the correct version? With the spreadsheet in so many hands to edit, on countless PCs, or in any number file server directories, the task of determining which version is the most current is prone to human interpretation and error. As a result a whole market was created associated to document management and control.

Document Management Systems come in many flavors and offer a wide range of functionality.

In my opinion the most critical functionality is the Check-Out/In control coupled with automatic version control.  Yes, other functionality is also important – Access time, Cataloguing, Document Linking, Text-Search, Meta Data, and Security. But when I am reviewing document management systems, I want to be confident that the system 1) acts as the gate keeper for edits and saves to ensure everyone’s input is recorded and not lost due to multiple and simultaneous file use, 2) compares every file at the bit level during the save/check-in to avoid multiple versions of the same document taking up space and 3) automatically handles version control with a complete audit trail of the changes affecting any document. Having access to and being able to review the progression of a document throughout the life of a project could mean the difference between winning a legal dispute and costing you big bucks.

Document Management Systems are NOT designed just for spreadsheets. A document of any nature – in almost any format – is a viable candidate.

Document Management Systems, while simple in concept, provide significantly more than just a fancy catalogue system.

Document Management Systems can be purchased stand-alone. Some Document Management Systems are embedded in other applications where an abundance of documents require management.

The Spitfire Project Management System is one example of a solution that provides Document Management as part of the complex management of construction projects.

In order to always find that “One Version of the Truth” ensure that your company starts with the fundamentals and deploys a good Document Management System.

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