Part 2 in Digital Transformation: Document Management

May 28, 2020
Nick Nieder
Nick Nieder
Senior Director, Product Management

By Nick Nieder, Director of Product Management, Deltek

One of the biggest challenges many architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) companies face is how to manage the abundance of documents associated with their projects. Whether it’s drawings and reports, contracts and schedules, or simply internal project management files, documentation is always being generated, consumed and updated.

Recent digital technologies are both the source of and the solution to this proliferation of documents. How can the concept of digital transformation help teams capture, organize and streamline all of these project documents?


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What is Digital Transformation?

We’ve defined this in several previous blogs, including Part 1 of this blog series. But as a recap, Gartner includes IT modernization in its description of digital transformation. It enables companies to optimize technologies to replace manual processes in an effort to save time, be more proactive and make better decisions. 

What is Document Management? 

According to Techopedia, the general term ‘information management’ is the process of collecting, storing, managing, maintaining and sharing information from a central location.

For the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, the number of documents involved in any given project has increased significantly in the last few decades. From drawings and reports to contracts and schedules, or simply emails and internal project management files, documentation is always being generated, consumed and updated.

Why is this the case in the AEC industry? Buildings and other structures have become more complicated, requiring higher due diligence and quality assurance measures. Not to mention the increased number of stakeholders involved with the single focus of delivering a great project. It’s more crucial now than ever before to have a proper document management system in place so that all of this information is stored in a central location for the entire project team to access, all the while knowing that they are accessing the latest version.


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History of Document Management 

The 1980s and 1990s introduced ways to digitize the amount of data associated with every project, which is simply turning those documents into electronic information. Beginning with the availability of personal computers to the invention of AutoCAD to being able to share files on CD-ROMS, AEC firms were now able to create, store and share information digitally.

Enter the need for document managing and ensuring that every document is associated with its respective project, phase or function. Companies began implementing a combination of naming conventions and storage locations (oftentimes in Windows Explorer and on shared drives), requiring consistent manual approaches to be used by project teams.

The downfall to this approach is that it relies on individual employees to follow the guidelines in how documents are stored and managed, which only leads to mistakes. IDC found that a staggering 75.9% of companies experienced significant business risks and/or compliance incidents as a result of broken document processes. McKinsey reports that 19% of an employee’s time is spent simply looking for information.

What’s more is that AEC are reliant on the accurate and timely communication of documents. Therefore it is critical to make sure that the right document, in the right version, is shared 100% of the time. Employees can’t simply update a document once it has been sent to a subconsultant, contractor or client. If a mistake has been made or the recipient receives the incorrect version of a document, confidence in the company’s abilities is damaged.

As a result, a different way of managing documents was introduced. A true document management solution not only stores all project documents and communications in a central database providing access to the entire team, but also is easily searchable when teams need to locate a specific document.

Digital Transformation’s Influence on Document Management

Now that effective document management systems are available, how can we improve those systems through the use of digital transformation and technology innovation? How can we make these systems easier to use, making project information easier to find?

With new and emerging technologies all around us, figuring out how to incorporate these types of functionalities into an existing portfolio of solutions is no easy task. Deltek’s approach is practical and purposeful, making innovation investments that enhance our products and provide real value to our customers. We look at where we are today, where we are headed tomorrow, and more importantly, where we should go in the future. By looking closely at the challenges the AEC industry is facing, we can begin to uncover how digital transformation can merge with document management to solve those challenges.

For example, today the Deltek Project Information Management (Deltek PIM) product already indexes a document’s metadata (AKA data about the data) so that search queries return results far more quickly than searching through countless layers of folder structures in hopes to find the right document. But how could we make document management better?

Our plans for ‘tomorrow’ include introducing a ‘smart’ interface of the Document Management System (DMS). By updating the look and feel of the solution and applying simpler logic to the filter options, we could make the DMS more intuitive to navigate. Over the last two years, we have been working closely with a variety of our customers, specifically observing how their employees interact with the existing DMS. Trends we noticed include that 87% tend to look for information created within the last year and 70% of the users only input one keyword when searching for documents. Using that data, we are streamlining the available filters and overall layout to ultimately make Deltek PIM more digestible, encourage the project community to publish their documents in the DMS more frequently, and enable them to find the documents they need even more quickly.

In Conclusion

By leveraging technology, forward-thinking AEC firms can transform the way they manage and deliver projects to pave the way to better margins and a more profitable, sustainable future.

As we look to the future of Deltek PIM, we anticipate some transformational changes that will further capitalize on these digital transformation concepts. Our ultimate goal is to help AEC companies better manage their project information so they can be more productive, create better projects and provide increased value to their clients. 


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About the Authors

With over 20 years in the industry, Nick Nieder brings a wealth of knowledge and 15 years of experience working within the construction sector, specifically managing a wide range of major system implementation and transformation projects. Now as Director of Product Management, Nick leads the Deltek Product Information Management (PIM) product development group.  He is passionate about working collaboratively, unlocking the potential of organizations' unstructured data management and utilizing mobile solutions that can support cross-disciplinary teams working on site to deliver outstanding projects.