AEC Industry Professionals: Stop Losing Time & Money To Trivial Tasks
Projects in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry (AEC industry), not to mention project owners, are plagued with numerous “inconspicuous” tasks that users must complete daily. While these might appear trivial at first, compounded over time and team members result in HUGE drains on productivity and revenue. On this episode of the ProjectReady Podcast, featuring Joe Giegerich, CEO of ProjectReady, and Shaili Modi-Oza, Head of Development, discuss the overwhelming impact the little things, including logging in and out of various systems over the course of a day or uploading, downloading, zipping, and sending content, has on the big picture.
The Risk Of Non-Optimal Activities On The AEC Industry
So much time is spent on non-optimal activities. The time spent searching for information, duplicating data entry, and working across disjointed platforms, for example, adds up. Over the next 20 minutes, Joe and Shaili discuss not only how quickly these “little things” add up, but also some of the additional risks associated with inefficient processes.
In the landscape of AEC industry projects, where profit often hinges on margins, addressing these operational inefficiencies can significantly enhance an organization’s overall productivity. These often-overlooked “little things” in project information management emerge as crucial elements with the potential to exert a profound influence on efficiency and the bottom line.
Little Improvements Drive Big Result Across The Entire AEC Industry
ProjectReady has worked with clients to eliminate the major burden so many little inefficiencies ultimately have on the bottom line. To demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach, we’ve published several ROI calculators based on real-life case studies. Check out our ROI Calculators to see for yourself just how much you can save by automating those “Little Things” on a project.
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To view the full transcript of this episode of the ProjectReady podcast, extend the section below.
Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the ProjectReady Podcast. We’ve been cranking out a whole bunch of different topics over the last several months. On previous podcasts, we covered navigating the challenges of AEC industry project owners and managing the chaos of document control. Upcoming webcasts around the challenges of project managers in the AEC industry, as well as challenges of IT professionals within the industry. Today, however, the topic of today is the concept of little things and big results.
Little things, big results.
What really drives this is I’ve been in professional services my entire life, and running services practice over the years at one of our other businesses, it was amazing the little things that just sucked the life out of the room and would cost you nothing but money. There are all these little things that impact an end user’s day. Ten minutes an hour times eight hours times a hundred employees, this becomes incredibly impactful to your ability to drive a profit ROI, right?
For instance, simple things like how would you make sure an email is being responded to in the project accountably, right? This is one of the things that we do, and there are a lot of statistics out there McKinstry and a lot of folks refer to. The productivity out there, the industry is blowing like a trillion, trillion and a half dollars a year on productivity. Now, some of that probably also includes the productivity out in the field. I’m not going to say otherwise, but it’s usually impactful. For one, Shaili, some of the little things that you’ve seen big results around?
Yeah, definitely. I think one of the biggest ones, as you said, is the email. I think something even as simple as getting to the correct project site is one of the biggest issues.
We’ve seen a lot of our customers just getting to project sites and different systems in SharePoint and ACC Procore and all of these. It’s one central repository, and there’s no easy way to even get to your project.
Thinking about end users working in their day-to-day, working through so many different systems and different projects, it’s just very painful to get to where you need to.
Looking for the correct library, the correct location in SharePoint, it seems like a very simple little thing, but it adds up when you are trying to work in the system.
It kills you. One of our major sponsors had said … so folks, we have a chain link in our application that brings you to the exact location where content is, be it in Procore or Autodesk or BIM or PlanGrid or Box, or of course SharePoint and Teams and the group mailbox.
When you think about it, you will be using SharePoint, whether or not it’s a dedicated site, which is what we do, but we can do that because we automate it, which makes it very scalable, but it’s a bear. You have to log in.
There’s no way you’re not using SharePoint and Teams at some point on a project, and ACC and somebody else’s Procore. It’s just the inevitability.
Logging into each system, traversing it and finding where you’re going, having a thousand favorites that you have to constantly update in the one browser and you switch to a different browser, it just doesn’t scale.
What should take a click or two sometimes can take as much as two and three minutes per system, several times a day, and again, over a lot of folks using it. That’s one thing that we solve for, and I think a thing that is just a time suck. What else would you throw out there?
In addition to just getting to the systems, we also have a way to basically tag a lot of our different functionalities with metadata. I think that makes it that much easier, even within the projects, to get to where we need to get to.
We can tag, for an example, a project with a location, a division, department or different things. We can tag RFIs with certain properties, which just makes it easier to search, filter, report against all of the content.
Effective metadata tagging just makes the data … basically we have this whole data warehouse in the back end and there’s a lot of data, but enforcing the metadata makes it that much more effective that, okay, it’s all properly tagged and filed, and that makes it really easy for end users to look for that data.
Yeah, it makes for a very powerful search. Our search is based upon transactions, so RFIs with content in System X, Y or Z. To your point, the more descriptors that you have, the more powerful and meaningful and rapid that search can be. Then you mentioned the data warehouse. This is the other thing, is you need to not only know where your stuff is, you need to know how the project is performing.
This is where in Q1 we’re going to be rolling out AI tools against this, because we capture every transaction that runs through us. It’s really quite profound.
There’s the search, traditional search, our unique search, but also I would argue searching through data. It relates to our other podcasts and garbage in, garbage out.
You want to get meaningful data out of there through reporting? Not having adequate metadata, not having a taxonomy that scales and glues everything together, really makes that a moot point.
Another thing in terms of the finding of stuff, one of my favorite things to rail on against or about is Teams.
Teams is fantastic. I use Teams all day, et cetera and so forth, great. There are too many Teams teams, typically, within an enterprise.
I would argue you may or may not want to dedicate a channel per project. It really depends on the size and the duration and the complexity, but let’s say you even keep it to a moderate throttle. You have a hundred projects a year, a thousand projects, and you can see very quickly where it’s become difficult to find that exact Teams team.
This goes back to our notion of where’s my stuff, right? It’s in the chain link. Go right to that Teams channel. Gets rid of the noise, gets rid of inaccuracy.
Another thing that takes a lot of time is, again, if you’re going to use a system like ours with the chain link, is the constant logging in and logging out. Why don’t you explain how we handle that authentication?
Yeah. We basically have, in terms of APIs, there are the OAuth APIs that each of these systems have with Microsoft Autodesk Procore. The first time the user comes into ProjectReady, they would be prompted to just log into each of these systems, and it persists that login, unless they are inactive, for 60 to 90 days. It’s different for each system, but otherwise, every day they come in, they’re just logged into all of these systems.
The chain link that we keep mentioning, it’s just going to stay consistent, where across projects, across systems, the one time end users would log in, they’ll just be able to easily browse to all of these different systems without having to re-log in again and again. It’s going to maintain that authentication in the back end.
Because we put everything in the context of the project. Your CDE is not your project, right? It’s your project, with all that different content and all those different authentication points.
Throwing out more fun factoids, I’ve seen this stat from Autodesk and FMI. I’ve seen it from other places as well. A third of your workforce. Certainly, one thing, it’s professional services at the end of the day, guys, and anybody in that professional services context.
People who aren’t walking around the field, which is most of, certainly, an A and an E firm. Spending a third of your week, 14 hours a week, just looking for stuff? Dealing with the fact that the information is stale out of date, causes rework, this is … boy, those little things add up really large across your organization.
Talking about the ability to log into all those systems, this brings us to the way we handle document control and Connect and Attach, which is our feature that allows you to send multiple attachments out from different systems.
Once we connect all that stuff, once you have an authoritative way to glue it, the efficiency just goes bizarrely up in a great way. We have a number of AEC industry ROI calculators on the website to speak to this.
If you think about it, if you’ve got to send out an attachment, even one document, from … I don’t care about the system. Name the CDE. SharePoint, ACC. Got two documents? You’re downloading them into a zip file, unpacking them. Now you have attachments in different systems. We have a little video, it’s time lapse. It’s real. Seven and a half minutes by hand if you’re lucky, versus a minute, minute and a half if you have these kind of connections.
Let’s go to that stat. If you have 10 people sending out 10 emails a day with attachments, very quickly that adds up as well.
Let’s talk a little bit more about email, and email, one of the things that I’m always on about is what do you do with stuff that’s not an RFI, that’s not a submittal, but is essential content to the project? There are a few things we do. Why don’t you pick up from there, Shaili?
In terms of emails, I think the biggest one is the ability to register content, so basically bringing in email attachments in context of a project. There is always a case where clients, vendors, even team members, they just send you project documents through email as attachments, and it’s a lot of manual overhead. You would download them on your local machine and then you would have to go find the correct place where they belong and then upload them there, versus with ProjectReady, it’s an add-in in your Outlook.
Right from there, you can select the attachments, the email, and then you can select where you want to send those attachments to, so right from the email. It reduces the whole downloading and re-uploading of the files.
You can just select your project, select where we want to send them to. We can send them to any of our systems, SharePoint.
Right, the CDEs.
Any of the CDEs, and down to picking the subfolder or the library and then just basically sending the content there, making it that much more faster and regulated.
Yeah. It’s the other end of what Connect and Attach is, which is sending them out from any system quickly and conveniently. This is capturing them from any one of those, right? Exactly.
Yeah. Correct. Yeah, both of those are equally important, and both of them generally take up a lot of time across the AEC industry. So definitely I think both directions. People are always going to be using emails and attachments for that easy access to content.
This just brings a process on top of it, making it more manageable. It also keeps a record of everything that has been brought in and sent out.
Yeah, auditable. The other one, which was really a consequence of the years I spent in services, managing a services firm, was emails. “Oh, did you answer the email? Did you track the time against the email that you answered? Did anybody know that this email was answered one way or the other?”
The ability to create a task out of an email quickly within the AEC industry, easily. Associated project, capture time against it if you so choose. This is another one that, my God, the amount of time I afforded it.
“Let me look through the inbox. Can you resend it so it’s at the top of my inbox? I’ll answer it today.” Two days later goes by. “Damn, never did answer that.” Right?
Think about just the human waste of time just trying to track down something, which you really just need to go, “Oh, this email, these attachments, please respond,” and have a way to track that.
I’ll throw more fun factoids at you that our marketing team provided. Non-standardized data input, 41% percent of contractors in the AEC industry agree this is a major, major problem, and it’s inaccurate, it’s unusable data, and it’s these edge cases. It’s these little things that keep slipping outside the purview of more formal workflows like RFIs and submittals. There’s a lot more to the management of data and content than that. Those are some of the things that we solve for.
All right, let’s talk about another little thing which I don’t think is so little, frankly, but we do it very quickly, is to set up and secure content in projects. If you think about it, normally we go, “Okay, We’re at the RFP stage.
I’ve got to have someplace to stick the request for proposal. I’ll put that somewhere in SharePoint. Oh, I need a SharePoint site.” Now, if it’s a generic catch-all for the entire place, I honestly think that’s not a good approach, because it is just a dumpster that you have to go diving into all the time to find your information. It really should be that one-to-one.
Be it that, ACC, Procore, filling out a help desk ticket, having IT do this, in the case of M365, adding and removing users for security … which you can’t do easily by the way … you end up with a taxonomy that’s really not the best fit for the project. It’s just the best fit for IT governance in the AEC industry, and that should not get in the way of what’s best for the project.
The project is everything. All the different systems, all the different players. It’s the context of the project, so even getting people in that system especially.
Why don’t you describe some of the challenges around let’s say it’s M365 and the like? How do you get people who are external to your company into the system easily? How do people do it normally?
Right. Normally there’s basically involvement of IT, because there’s no easy way to add somebody who’s external to your company. It requires a whole Azure AD registration and setup, and there’s no out-of-box way to basically just invite someone who’s outside of your organization.
Right. Don’t you have to send them an email and then they respond, and someone in IT, just to add them even in?
Yes, yes, correct. Yeah, it’s a whole process of, if you want to add somebody, it’s not that simple.
Microsoft has APIs for that, so because of that, we could use the APIs and we have that easy-to-use user interface, where you would just type in the user’s email, a name, you can put in a custom message. In the back end, it still does all those manual steps, but we automated it using our APIs. I
t’ll invite the end user, and then the Microsoft process takes over where they would register. Once they register, the user who invites them is notified. It just makes it that much more efficient where there’s no involvement of multiple parties, and they can just send an invitation and add the person to a project and start working with them on an AEC industry project.
It’s the time to delivery. If you finally get the green light or you want to get that bid out quickly, you really don’t want to wait two days for it to go through the queue.
That little thing really drags out the time to delivery as well. Then of course there’s the, how do we sync content back and forth among others in the AEC industry on a project, which is a big thing of ours.
We enable the synchronization of content across a number of systems. Again, the big thing from our program management feature release is the ability to synchronize content in one person’s ACC and a vendor’s ACC to the owner’s ACC, with Procore and BIM 360 and everything else in between, and so the ability to synchronize that content.
I mean, let’s face it. You get the project close-out, you’re just trying to get a receipt of another vendor’s documents that are related to the AEC industry project that you need to work with.
The notion that people are going to find that system, log in, traverse, find the project, then select the files, download the zip file, go to lunch, the weekend hits, come back Monday and it’s all out of whack.
Nothing is even relevant at that point. Shaili, why don’t you pick up from there on the benefit of being able to automatically ship this content back and forth?
Yeah, definitely. With sync, it’s basically a one-time setup on a project level. It can be set on the level of folders. As Joe mentioned, if there’s a particular folder in one CDE that needs to sync for the same project in another CDE, like from ACC to Procore, Procore to SharePoint, any of these combinations, once it is set up, it just automatically syncs.
We have customers who would set up a particular folder, because we don’t want everything to be synced all the time. We can have a folder that is published or approved, a folder in one location. Anytime files are dropped there, they just automatically sync to the destination.
Then there’s no miscommunication or any data that’s been old, because it’s just always real-time syncing.
Right. For those of you who are afraid of going, “Well, I don’t necessarily want it to go out automatically,” one of our clients, they have all their working copy. When they’re ready to close out or hand off, they move or copy that content to a different folder, in this case, Procore, which then the sync hits on.
There’s a myriad of ways to even control that, but the big thing is you’re not hand-tooling it, which is just not a good use of time, folks, like many of the things that we’re forced to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
All right, I think that’s enough of us going on about the little things. This going to sound self-deprecating, but we focus a lot on the little things in the AEC industry.
We have a lot of focus on the big things, but the little things that come together as a consequence of addressing the big things is something that we think we really bring a lot of value to the AEC industry marketplace on.
If you guys get a chance, it will be on the page where we announce this and the whole bit, but project-ready.com/home/roi and you’ll find lots of calculators. Put in your data. Feel free to challenge us. I’m happy to defend it. We really think we bring an awful lot to the party.
As always, thank you for coming out. Shaili, thank you for being on the show with us every time. For further information, do contact us, email@example.com. Hope this was somewhat informative to you today. Catch you next time.
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