Working as part of an advanced content services solution, an ECM platform can streamline and automate document handling, and make up-to-date data centrally available across teams and organisations.

An enterprise content management (ECM) platform provides the basis of a modern content services solution, delivering fast, safe and secure information to approved stakeholders throughout an organisation. Services include advanced document capture, workflow tools, electronic signature, case management and records management. While the construction industry worldwide has been slow to realise the benefits of ECM and other content services solutions, Australia is starting to become aware of its possibilities.

Jamie Atherton is Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand at Hyland. Hyland’s product portfolio includes OnBase, an enterprise information platform with powerful ECM capabilities, as well as content services tools such as Sharebase and Brainware.

Atherton suggests that sensitivity to established document practices is key to guiding companies through the transition to a content services solution.

“We spend a lot of time understanding a business, then we look at how content services can be applied to help streamline internal processes within that organisation,” he says.

An end to data silos

Individual departments in an organisation tend to have their own data systems that are added over time for specific purposes, and these are often incompatible with other IT systems.

An ECM platform puts an end to these data silos, providing enterprise-class infrastructure, ensuring real-time guaranteed data exchange and driving efficient and confident decision-making based on a 360-degree view of all files and information.

For example, OnBase connects all the organisation’s information systems, so all information is updated simultaneously in real time. Employees spend less time double-checking documents, which leads to increased efficiency, and can make decisions based on a complete view of the necessary files, rather than having to search through different systems and locations to find what they need.

Additionally, users have instant access to the data they need, from where it sits in the company’s various departments. At no time does an employee have to go outside their familiar core applications, so there is no training or reskilling required.

Data is also secure – there’s no risk of loss if an employee leaves the organisation and has critical data saved on their desktop.

Risk management and compliance

Construction insurance requirements vary, but usually include:

  • Domestic building insurance.
  • Professional indemnity insurance.
  • Public liability insurance.
  • Structural defects/builders indemnity insurance.

When on-boarding, each contractor must supply detailed information about their licences, insurance and staff training. Any of these elements can be crucial if a dispute emerges between the construction company and the contractor. ECM platforms provide great benefits in these situations to reduce the risk of litigation and the time it takes to find a particular document.

“Gaining access to those important documents is key,” says Atherton. “If I’m a project manager on site and I need to see policy procedure documents, I want to see them immediately.”

Compliance and proactive monitoring

Using content services solutions leads to fewer disputes, because contracts and invoices are easily retrievable and centrally stored. Better management of documentation results in fewer errors, and an increase in the general efficiencies required for improved governance.

A complete view of the company’s files is also a major benefit to human resources and OH&S compliance.

“If you have 100 employees working onsite, health and safety records must be noted on each employee file,” Atherton says.

“In an electronic world, you can say that everyone who works onsite must have a health and safety form in OnBase. If it isn’t there, the system will automatically generate a warning to flag that.”

So not only does a content services solution show managers what they have on file, it also points out what they do not have, and that’s a major advantage.

Construction challenges solved with ECM

Atherton says he has witnessed a familiar scene in construction companies before they transition to using content services: project managers arriving at head office on Friday afternoon to approve invoices.

“With an advanced ECM system, they can stay onsite and use a mobile device to approve invoices via email. The burden of waiting until Friday afternoon to approve invoices is completely eliminated.”

And it’s not only those on site who benefit. Other benefits include automated workflow processes for:

  • Routing and payment of invoices.
  • Job document handling and storage.
  • Storage of OEM manuals, warranties and part numbers.
  • Staff records and HR documentation.

Gaining a competitive edge

Atherton believes companies that lag behind in the transition to content services solutions will struggle to compete.

“The industry itself keeps advancing at a quick pace. We see it pushing the boundaries of technology, and content management is one of many essential bits of technology that smart companies are introducing to their business.”

The movement towards national digitisation standards in the Australian construction industry, Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand (SCCANZ), believes data-driven infrastructure is a national priority.  However, Atherton believes construction companies are already taking digitisation and their future in to their own hands.

“I think if they waited for government to legislate change many companies would be way behind their competitors,” he says. “Every company likes to be a little bit different, but construction companies have very similar pain points, and OnBase can help alleviate those problems.”