Most of us can point to a whole lot of everything in our email, and it’s often the go-to “file box” we turn to when we are trying to remember who promised what related to a project. Construction insiders remind us that while email is not going away anytime soon, over-reliance on it is likely impacting performance and profitability.
The volume of email involved in keeping building projects moving is formidable–but the quantity of messages does not always result in the clear, accurate and timely intel and agreements required to productively advance projects. Construction Executive points out:
Email remains the predominant form of communication for construction projects, both within a construction team and between the team and external stakeholders. In fact, a recent study conducted by Newforma and Dodge Construction Network cites email as the primary communication method across the project lifecycle.For example, 60% of survey respondents indicated that project decisions are tracked and documented through email. Another 67% reported that model clashes or issues are also communicated via email….
There are several pitfalls associated with communicating through email information that is time-sensitive or has cost implications.When survey respondents were asked, “What are the main challenges you have with communications between your firm and external parties?” all respondents—architects, engineers and contractors—cited incomplete information as the top issue, as well as receiving unclear information and not receiving information in a timely manner. In addition, teams also indicated that they had difficulty tracking project decisions due to reliance on email communication.
Over-reliance on email is a slippery slope for contractors, especially when the “information…is time-sensitive or has cost implications.” Email asks us all to be writers and interpreters, and neither of those skills always come easily, especially as we multitask our way through busy days. As Peg Landry points out, human errors have a big impact on collaborative work that put too much trust in email:
Humans make decisions on what information to include in an email and how to phrase their intent. They must also type the information in the email correctly. In addition, sending and receiving information in a timely manner is dependent upon humans sending or opening the email on time. It is no surprise that these human aspects of communicating via email can result in parties receiving incomplete or untimely information….Tracking and documenting project decisions through email is also a practice that may be slowing teams down. It’s not uncommon for staff members to spend an hour over the course of a day searching through their email folders to find information related to project decisions. When the time lost searching through email is multiplied across multiple staff members and projects it can add up to hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars lost.
Though there is no magic wand to replace email, contractors can improve workflows and productivity by better leveraging software and automation to ensure more complete and timely information is shared among stakeholders. Construction Executive observes that the importance of “cleaning up email communication” is likely a “hidden opportunity” for builders, and notes that doing so can save time and increase productivity. Specifically, experts suggest:
There are key areas where automation and software can have a major impact on reducing the errors, time delays and miscommunication associated with email. Firms can immediately benefit from implementing policies, procedures and technology, which resolve issues related to project communication that is siloed in staff email inboxes. Many firms have established a project email strategy for staff members to file project-related emails to firm-wide project folders. Filing emails to a specified project folder ensures that critical information is available to all project team members who need it. It eliminates the problems that occur when email is not forwarded in a timely manner. It also ensures that critical project decisions are not lost or misplaced … .Once an email is filed to a project folder, that email can then be related to other project information…. In addition, the email…can be searched for quickly, eliminating the need to spend hours finding project information.
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