Ah, email. Remember when it was the “new kid on the block” and it was exciting and innovative? Fast forward 20+ years and it remains one of the most used platforms for sharing information.
Yet one of the biggest problems of emails in the AEC industry is that they are self-contained. The vast majority of project documents are distributed using email, yet it is up to each employee to ensure those documents are saved to the right place and are accessible to all team members. Even when that happens, the context for those documents becomes separated – the communication exchange within the text of emails themselves is lost unless manually copied to a document management system. And because that is labor intensive, it simply doesn’t happen. As a result, project documents lose context, documents get temporarily or permanently lost, and project decisions are made with inaccurate, incomplete and out-of-date information putting projects at risk.
Obviously, proper email management practices are essential to project success. But how can the concept of digital transformation automate and streamline the seemingly tedious task of managing an onslaught of project emails?
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A&E Digital Transformation and the Evolution of Information Management
What is Digital Transformation?
Gartner includes IT modernization in its description of digital transformation. It is enabling organizations to optimize and reinvent their business models to be more proactive and make better decisions.
What does this mean to AEC firm? Digital transformation can replace manual processes and find new efficiencies through new digital platforms and technologies.
What is Email Management?
According to Techopedia, the general term ‘information management’ is the process of collecting, storing, managing, maintaining and sharing information from a central location. The same concept can be applied to emails as those conversations memorialize many decisions and provide context around the documents and drawings created throughout the design and construction phases of each project.
History of Email Management
As electronic communications gained popularity over the last few decades, employees are now faced with wading through countless emails every Monday morning or worse, every morning. Some of those emails are critical to their projects, some need addressed right away, some can pushed off to a later date and finally, some are completely irrelevant.
To address this growing challenge, companies have attempted to manage the increasing number of emails. For instance, Microsoft added the ability to create folders within Outlook to organize emails by project or topic. However a Microsoft Research paper reports that 70% of users don’t create folder structures for their email, and 90% of those who do, don’t use them. Even if they did use those folders, the emails are still stored on the employee’s local system which prevents other team members to access information critical to their respective projects.
Thus, the introduction of a true email management solution to not only store emails in a central database so that all team members can access, but also is easily searchable when needing to find a specific communication. Intelligent categorization and search functionality eliminates the inadvertent data gatekeepers and barriers that are imposed by traditional email systems and provides faster, more complete visibility into projects.
Digital Transformation’s Influence on Email Management
How can we take advantage of so many technologies to take email management to the next level, ultimately to save project teams time so they can get back to designing and managing projects?
By focusing on ‘purposeful innovation’, we at Deltek are always asking ourselves “what if?” or “how could it be better?” We look closely at the challenges the AEC industry is facing and think about how merging digital transformation with email management could help solve those.
For instance, how can the Deltek Project Information Management (Deltek PIM) product help minimize the time it takes to save project emails and associated attachments to the appropriate project records?
By introducing the concept of machine learning, we can begin developing algorithms that rely on a form of artificial intelligence to begin recognizing and adapting to an employee’s individual publishing/saving habits. As the system learns, it can make suggestions of where to store emails (i.e., which project record and which data pool or subfolder) which would minimize the time and effort involved in manually selecting that information.
Building onto that concept, incorporating a way to publish multiple emails at a single time (even if each one is associated with a different project) will not only encourage employees to use the system, but also save them a significant amount of time performing the tedious task of email management.
This is the first step to break down barrier of getting emails and project documents into a central location. Now that it is stored in the system, the rest of the team has access to provide complete visibility into every project and help improve decision making.
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 further develop the Deltek PIM product, we will continue to evaluate the usage of digital transformation technologies through machine learning, natural language and robotic process automation (RPA). Ultimately, we want to demystify and simply the management of all information (emails, documents and drawings) to help companies be more productive, create better projects and provide increased value to their clients.
Digital Transformation Guide
5 Steps to Success for AEC Firms
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.
Linda Dininger spent over 20 years creating marketing content for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms and earned her Certified Professional Service Marketer (CPSM) credentials through the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) in 2006, validating her expertise in AEC marketing and business development. She also is a former Deltek Vision user and has implemented a CRM solution that transformed the way the business development group managed their contacts and pipeline. Now in product marketing for Deltek Project Information Management (PIM), Linda combines her knowledge of the AEC industry with the power that proactive information management can provide companies. Connect with Linda on LinkedIn.