Man wearing a hardhat and holding a clipboard stands on a large commercial shipping dock; paper to software concept

From Paper to Cloud Based Construction Software: A 4-Step Guide for Trade Contractors

In theory, cloud-based project management and document control sound great. Every business would love to automate some of their most tedious work and make their teams more efficient.

In practice, though, many businesses still do at least some of their documentation on paper.

Time sheets, dailies, receipts — even keeping that work in the pen-and-paper world prevents a trades business from enjoying the benefits of integrated, cloud-based collaboration.

Let’s fix that problem here. Below is a four-step guide for moving any pen-and-paper process to cloud-powered software.

1. Find All of Your Data and Documents

Any companies that work in construction or engineering generate a lot of data. And all of that data usually ends up somewhere. Daily reports might get put into binders. Time sheets might get logged in payroll software then dropped in a filing cabinet.

Your first task is to track down all of these things.

Then, you’ll also need to take inventory of what you have saved digitally, too. That information will be going to the same place your paper-based records, so it’s best to find it now, says Jenifer Hein, VP of marketing at Naviant ECM:

“Accounting may use one platform while human resources uses another. No two systems seem to be alike. What’s more, is they don’t speak to each other. Now is a great time to decide what electronic information is the most important to your day-to-day business practices.”

Be thorough during this step. You probably have lots of institutional wisdom tucked away in those paper documents. In an industry where talented people retire by the thousands annually, trades businesses need to preserve what they’ve learned over the years, as National Fire Protection Association President and CEO Jim Pauley argues in Forbes.

“In the fire, electrical and life safety industries, there’s a lot of ongoing conversation about how to preserve veteran wisdom,” he writes. “With traditional communications methods, older generations are typically sharing information via email or in the margins of code books. Once they retire, their company-issued laptop is wiped and given to a new employee for use.

“Save for digging through the retiree’s email for any important lessons learned throughout their time, it’s almost impossible to ensure that their industry-specific knowledge is preserved for the use of future generations.”

Cloud Based Construction Software

2. Sort, Catalog and Migrate Your Old Documents

Once you’ve found where all of your paper documents are currently stored, it’s time to prep them for digitization.

First, sort documents by type, then order them chronologically or in whatever sequence makes sense.

Next, you’ll need a way to digitize those documents. In general, you have three options:

  • Scan the documents.
  • Take photos of the documents.
  • Hire a document scanning service to do this work for you.

Once your files are in a digital format, you need to create a standardized convention for naming each of those files. “This is incredibly important because records can then be stored logically, retrieved easily, or browsed efficiently, saving time and minimizing frustration,” writes Steven Voight, knowledge development manager at InfinityQS International.

Voight has specific tips for creating those naming conventions:

  • Make sure file names are meaningful but short (e.g. 012022Payroll).
  • Don’t make file names unnecessarily repetitive or redundant.
  • Don’t use spaces or underscores.

Once the files are sorted and named, they are ready for migration to wherever you plan to store them. Ideally, that would be in a cloud environment, easily accessible to everyone on your team who needs access to your documents.

3. Establish Digital Processes For Creating New Documentation

With your old files moved into a digital space, it’s time to set rules for how to document and manage information going forward.

That means you’ll be creating new processes for a variety of tasks, including:

  • How you take worksite photos and share them with the office team.
  • How you ensure documentation and change orders are up-to-date.
  • How you record the time and money spent on tasks, as well as date and duration of the work.
  • How you record meeting notes and agenda items.
  • How you upload all of that data to your cloud.

All of that will get done in the software you buy for documentation and project management. Ideally, that would be a single application.

When creating new processes like these, Deloitte researchers Jurrien Veldhuizen, Ilse Habraken, Peter Sanders and Rogier de Jong recommend starting with processes that aren’t business-critical. Instead, pick two or three processes (e.g. worksite photos and reporting hours) and try those in your new software. This lets you see what works and what doesn’t without disrupting normal business operations.

Gradually, then, you can begin moving other processes over to the software.

As you do, be sure to document all of your changes, DocuWare’s Joan Honig advises. “Then if issues arise in testing, you can determine whether they are due to the new platform or the new process.”

4. Guide and Manage Your Team Through the Change

Change is hard in any business. People tend to focus on the work that’s right in front of them, and asking them to change how they work can invite resistance.

Support that change and power through that tendency toward resistance by doing three things:

  • Make the change mandatory. Once the process is proven, make it an essential part of how you operate.
  • Train your team. Host training sessions if you need to, but do what it takes to make sure every single person understands how to adhere to the new workflow.
  • Hold people accountable. Set clear expectations for how and when you need people to adopt and begin using the new process, and hold your teams to them.

Learn More About Cloud Based Construction Software

This guide is a broad overview of several complicated projects. Moving paper documents to the cloud and then creating new processes is a lot of work.

We built eSUB Cloud to be the software that supports that change in trades businesses. If you have any questions about how eSUB can support your company’s move from paper to software, contact us today to schedule a demo.

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