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Managing the Paper Trail

The job isn?t finished ?till the paperwork is done By Tim Bigoness

Weve all been there at one time or another. Youre at a critical point of the project and faced with a particularly nasty issue that hinders your progress and stops you cold as you frantically search for any documentation that will help solve or work around the issue. It could be something encountered on a previous installation or a setup trick for a certain piece of equipment, or a wiring issue at the jobsite that should have been addressed while the walls were still open - but the bottom line is, not installing this project with adequate documentation is costing you time and money.

How can we as professionals ensure that we have the answers we need when we need them? First off we must take a more structured approach to project management. Many people Ive talked with over the years have described their basic management system: a bunch of file folders plastered with sticky notes, copied and distributed to everyone working on the project. This system quickly breaks down once the folders get to the field, as any changes to the project (made by anyone) immediately render the files out of date. This obviously makes it difficult to keep everyone on the same page and creates confusion when communicating project issues with other departments, trades, sub-contractors, suppliers, and oh yes the client.

As our projects become more and more complex, so does the amount of information we need to track, manage, and ultimately deliver to all internal and external constituents. Technology can help organize and structure the vast amount of design, specification, product information, installation instructions, pricing information, job costing, and contracts which now make up the majority of system integration projects. 

Many of us look at paperwork as something to be feared or dread, much like that term paper we never quite got around to finishing or our annual exercise with the IRS. But it doesnt have to be that way. Accurately tracking project information and documenting the process actually helps make it easier to do the job better, faster, and at a lower cost ultimately making us more profitable.

So to that end Ive put together the Top 5 reasons to have better documentation:

5.  Makes a better impression on clients A well organized, detailed, nicely designed proposal will instill confidence in the client that you can complete the project on time and within budget and help you win more often.

4.  Knowledge = Power Documenting the process makes it easier to learn from past mistakes, and gives your team members a heads up on what to avoid for future projects.

3.  Improved communication (internal and external) = Competitive edge over less organized players see #5 above.

2.  Streamline processes = reduced time and costs, enabling you to make more money per project and complete more of them.

And the number 1 reason for better documentation is:

Happy customers = lifetime customers = a more profitable business.

Aside from the basic tools such as Microsoft Excel and Word, which many people use to track projects (as they are readily available on your computer with no other investment required), some of the other products in the market that can help you better track your projects and accomplish the lofty goals listed above include Simply Reliable Software, Stardraw, and D-Tools System Integrator. 

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Related Keywords:project, adequate documentation, costing you, time and money, Tim Bigoness

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