J Tillman's Blog

Consistent Current Project Information Is Critical

John Basinger - Sunday, February 23, 2014

Project Information Is Critical

    The most important aspect of a construction project aside from hiring a licensed and insured contractor is communication. The primary goal of every project is to assure the progression flow is smooth and at the same time implementing specific details required by the client and applicable building codes.  In order to accomplish these goals communication lines need to be open and consistently updated throughout the project.


    Communications tend to breakdown when general contractors, contractors and homeowners are indecisive or don’t put forth the time and effort to make sure lines of communication are kept current. This may be obvious to you but it can be a very difficult task for your general contractor. Everyday during a project there are countless things that need your general contractors attention; sitting down at the computer to generate current communications isn’t their primary focus and typically the last thing that gets their attention if ever.

    As a corporate practice we use the internet as a tool to communicate with our clients. We call this presence our Client Portal. The client portal is a secure zone within our website that requires a login and password to enter.  This client portal has sections that include all the information pertinent to a successful project.  We incorporate accounting, permit documents, communications, change orders, contract documents and streaming video. Not everyone wants cameras mounted in there home but for those that work out of town or just want to be able to see what is going on during the day when your at the office or in transit its a great option.

Currently available within our client portal.

Schedule:
    We post our evolving job schedules online making it available to all contractors as well as homeowners 24/7. Only the general contractor can update our schedules so if there is a breakdown in schedule updating there is only one person to ask why this is.

Communications:
    Email communications is an ever favored mode of communication across the board. We take every email communication along with any attachments and upload them to our respective secure client portal for review and reference. Lets face it, we are all people subject to our memories and ability to recollect conversations accurately. Posting email communications avoids loss of email communications and makes them available 24/7 on virtually any device.
    We use email so much that in one case we actually found ourselves filling out a permit application for a job and realized we didn’t have the homeowners phone number because all communications were done either by email or in person and we never had a need to call and talk one on one about anything. This truly was an atypical situation but having every conversation in writing eliminates communication issues. There is never a he said she said situation when every word is in black and white.


Weekly Meeting:

    Weekly meetings are a must to have a smooth project. Missing meetings or putting meetings off can cause delays or a complete halt in progress. Weekly meeting are critical but more critical is the documented meeting. We take the information developed during our meetings and create a detailed summary of each meeting. Minutes style detail of the meeting helps everyone stay focused in the same direction and have a common understanding. If any one forgets what was covered or exactly what decision was made, its available for review.

Accounting:
    We post our job accounting for quick reference from anywhere. It is very important for clients to see what is going on with their finances. Its no different than having the ability to review your checkbook. If you can't see where you are right now you won’t know were you are going. Having an open book job accounting is very helpful and an option not many general contractors offer.  We believe in this process because it keeps everyone up to date consistently.

Permit Documents:
    We upload all documents involving the permit. You can look at your permit anytime from anywhere and see the progression of your project as the inspector makes their visits. If an inspector needs to see something corrected they generally will leave a correction notice. Most correction notices float around a job site and eventually get lost. We post these notices if we receive one so you can see first hand what the inspector wrote and what they are looking for.

Change Orders:
    Change orders are not something we want to see become a necessity but decisions are made during construction that require one. Change orders don’t always mean the cost just went up. We use change orders for all changes whether you are adding to or removing items from the total scope of work we require a change order.
    Change orders can be viewed and reviewed online 24/7. We have a link within the change order section to download a blank change order or fill one out online.   

Estimate:
    The estimate we agree on letting us move forward and call a project a job is uploaded for future reference and review including any attachments included within the estimate.

We are always working toward making the project process easier and more user friendly. We will be adding more online features to our client portal in the future.
    The schedule, ever evolving as they may be are a necessary aspect of communications and not only need to be updated consistently but available to everyone. An outdated schedule doesn’t work for anyone and if a contractor doesn’t constantly update the schedule you might as well not have one. The diligence of schedule keeping falls on the general contractor and can very easily be considered a non critical item when attending to the daily intricacies of a project. This may sound a little on the oxymoron side when mentioning the “attending to daily intricacies of a project” but from moment to moment throughout a day in the life of a project scheduling time to work on a schedule doesn’t seem quite as important as making sure people are on site making progress, working together or running for that one material that will keep the contractor working all day and not leaving early because they forgot something.
    
When interviewing general contractors for your next project ask if they have a secure zone or client portal where you can see the aspects of your project 24/7

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