intelligent search and smart documents for project closeout

You would think that when a commercial construction project heads into the Project Closeout phase, the entire team would be excited. Field superintendents are high-fiving workers, and the Project Foreman has the champagne chillin' on ice in the job trailer.

Ummm, no, not really.

Yes, the job is near complete, and the final payment should be on its way soon. However, construction project delays are an industry-wide norm. There's a ton of administrative work left to do, such as file and organize documents, follow-up with the subcontractors, and turning over the package design and keys to the building. The punch list is usually daunting. Adding to the complexity, the contract can call for profit margin percentage points if the project is completed within time, performance, and budget parameters. To say there is a mad dash at the project's end is an understatement.

But Project Closeout shouldn't be taken lightly. Below, we've listed five ways a Document Management System (DMS) with an intelligent search function and smart documents can help make the final construction phase significantly easier.

To quickly review two definitions, intelligent search eliminates data silos and helps the project team quickly find information without using a file tree structure. Smart documents are sharable, editable digital forms that can be annotated with information as a project evolves. These dynamic forms can be updated and reviewed on mobile devices in the field.

1. Start with the End in Mind

It may seem logical to not worry about the final construction stage until the first four phases are complete, but you would be wrong. Without a formal, documented Project Closeout process, you will risk critical details falling through the cracks—maybe even literally. If so, you risk having dissatisfied client and liability issues resulting from incomplete payments or contract breaches.

It seems counterintuitive to talk about the final stage during Pre-Construction meetings. Still, it is essential to have a documented process agreed to by all stakeholders and subcontractors early on. Having a document project closure plan lets the stakeholders know what to expect when the project is transitioned and opened.

One of the primary documents for the final phase is the Project Closeout Checklist. This list can include the following, which should be easily accessed and modified in your cloud-based DMS.

  • Review contractual agreements to ensure all terms have been
  • Review all change orders and their completion status
  • Review completeness of as-built drawings
  • Review all warranties, terms, and contract information
  • Obtain Unconditional Final Lien Waivers
  • File a Notice of Completion with the local jurisdiction

But, as we know, there's no crystal ball used in Pre-Construction. As the project progresses through its stages, items will be added to the Closeout Checklist by the project manager and appropriate field personnel.

A cloud-based DMS with intelligent search will make this task easy to update and see checklist items in real-time.

2. Review of Deliverables

One of the first steps to closing out a project is formally transferring all deliverables to the client. With the project plan stored in your DMS, the project manager and field superintendent can identify all deliverables and see that they are appropriately handed off.

This seems like a straightforward exercise, but it is not as simple as a professor waiting by the door for students to hand in their assignments. The larger the project, the more construction documents to collect, with many sending emails with attachments to the project manager.

However, if the team uses a cloud-based DMS, the notification can go out, and final documents can be uploaded and reviewed in real-time.

3. Project Handover & Delivery

Once all the required documents are in the Project Manager's possession, they will organize them into a "handover package" for delivery to the client. This handover package must be comprehensive without being redundant. It is assembled and should be organized and designed into an aesthetically pleasing set of 3-ring binders. Of course, with large projects, this can take considerable time to collect and organize.

 Again, a cloud-based DMS with intelligent search will speed up this process considerably and make it less difficult.

4. After Project Review & Lessons Learned

Conducting an internal after-project review and documenting the lessons learned is one of the most valuable steps a contractor can take, but many do not. In their haste to close, they do not capture the project's successes, failures, and challenges. In failing to do so, they cannot identify opportunities for improvement with future projects.

Using a cloud-based DMS with intelligent search allows future project teams to review lessons learned from previous similar projects and hopefully avoid current project pitfalls.

5. Archive Documentation

When the Project Review is completed and Lessons Learned captured in the DMS, it is time to finalize all the documentation, including contracts, schedules, plans, costs, etc.

All states have a statute of limitations of filing claims for construction projects, so it is essential to retain all documents after Project Closeout. For example, in California, the statute of limitations is ten years. Once again, the benefit of an intelligent search function and smart documents in a cloud-based DMS allows for quick access of archived projects when called upon for reference.

Key Takeaway:

Closing out a commercial construction project can be an immense undertaking. Instead of having a paper checklist, employing a cloud-based DMS with smart documents and an intelligent search function will make the final phase significantly easier. A general contractor not using a DMS with these features is at risk of missing details during the final stage, which may create a claim and client dissatisfaction.