Blog Entries

Process is the answer, now what’s the question?

Have you ever had to deal with:

  • Marking up a set of drawings, only to find out that really basic information is missing time after time; North arrows, references, sheet titles not matching the index page?
  • Each employee re-inventing the wheel or doing it their own way when it comes to contract administration forms? Everyone having their own special template or spreadsheet tracking system?
  • Looking for information on the office server, only to find out that it was saved locally on a personal computer and that the employee is not around when you need it?

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Covid changed how we work. The question is, was it for better or worse?

In March 2020, it became clear very quickly that architecture firms in Canada needed to jump headfirst into embracing technology in order to keep working. Remote work became the norm almost overnight. This was easier for some than others—plenty of firms were already using contract administration software like RForm to do many tasks online—but there were those who faced an extremely steep learning curve as they raced to get teams in synch and sign up for Zoom accounts.

More than two years later, the pandemic may still be raging but we’re living with it, going back to the office, and right now planning in-person holiday parties. As a society, we’re in a weird place. While, of course, the pandemic has been truly terrible, some of the work changes it forced upon us were not. As employers, we need to reflect on these changes and the impact that they had on our teams. 

Going remote, staying remote

The US Census Bureau reports that the number of people working from home tripled in the first year of the pandemic. Canada saw similar stats, and as we moved through the pandemic, Canadians have been slower (dare we say more reluctant) to head back into the office than their US counterparts. For most of us, working from home holds a strong appeal. Not contending with long commutes, being more present for our families, and being able to work in comfort is of huge benefit.

Stats Canada reported that 90 percent of employees feel they are just as productive, if not more when working at home. Some businesses have fully embraced remote working, some going so far as to shut down brick-and-mortar offices and save on the costs of rent and administration. This isn’t the case everywhere. Some employers are eager to bring their team back into an office eight hours a day. 

Consequences to consider

Demanding that employees come back to the office may not be wise. With so many empty positions and so few skilled workers to fill them, the last thing you want to do is drive good people away from your workplace. And, you may be fine with coming back to the office but plenty of folks still do not feel safe doing so. Consider why you need them there. If you don’t trust them, if their work is not up to snuff, then that’s a bigger problem than where they are working. 

You’d be more prudent to consider hybrid work models where employees can split their time between the home and office. Perhaps everyone needs to be in on Mondays for team meetings, and on other days as negotiated (and for team building). For some, this is ideal, especially if they enjoy their colleagues and there is a positive environment when they come into the office. 

Embracing tech for contract administration

A Zoom meeting that follows an agenda can be a whole lot more productive than a rambling team meeting, especially if people are having to travel from job sites or far locations to attend. Many of us had never heard of Zoom before the pandemic, yet now more than 300 million people attend meetings on the platform every day. Usage grew exponentially in 2020 but never slowed down which is a clear reflection of how useful businesses find the platform. Clearly, video meetings have made our work lives more efficient, and there’s likely no going back (or should there be). 

In many ways, the pandemic made us more nimble. Who would have considered that even site meetings could be turned virtual? If you had the right systems in place, then distributing information among teams became way more efficient than we may have thought possible in pre-pandemic times. 

Some companies were able to handle the remote work transition better than others. Offices that had already transitioned away from Excel sheets and Word files were already at an advantage when the world changed, but some no doubt had to contend with worries about vital information such as shop drawing reviews, changes, submittals, requests for information etc being left at home on someone’s computer (or locked in a cabinet in a locked-down office). We were able to help many firms make this transition during the past few years, and once they were onboard with RForm, all their contract administration processes were automated so with every change all team members were instantly updated. 

Taking the leap

Communicating online in general makes everyone’s life easier, and increases productivity and efficiency. Adopting industry-specific software such as RForm takes the stress out of contract administration and keeping up with the many, many changes that occur through the life of a project. As our users tell us, RForm handles many of the tasks that can take up far too much valuable time, and ensures that fewer changes slip through the cracks creating those annoying issues that slow projects down unnecessarily. Moving these systems online is definitely a positive change (and if you didn’t do this already, then you really should. Click here to access a free 30-day trial). 

Ultimately, employers need to examine how new practices have made work better, and how to keep it that way. 

With a Labour Shortage, Increased Productivity is Paramount

Project management in today’s climate is tough. We’re dealing with supply chain issues that result in ridiculous hold-ups. Record-high job vacancy levels are hitting our sector hard. Add the fact that there’s such high demand for construction projects that we could truly be making hay while the sun shines—if only we had the materials and skilled labour on hand to allow us to. Delays impact our bottom line and cause huge issues for the clients relying on us to get them into a new home, office, hospital building etc. Many of us are having to say no to new projects because we simply don’t have the resources to take them on.

Where did everybody go?

Putting supply chain issues aside, clients and laypeople people can’t help but wonder: where did all the skilled labourers go? Many of us in the construction industry have seen the current skilled worker labour shortage looming on the horizon for decades. We knew that plenty of skilled tradespeople were edging closer to retirement. We also saw that there weren’t enough young people stepping up to replace them. According to Employment and Social Development Canada, this problem isn’t going away anytime soon. By 2028 an estimated 700,000 skilled trades workers are set to retire. 

However, foresight doesn’t make dealing with this thorny issue any easier. When the construction industry bounced back with a vengeance after the initial pandemic slowdown, those people that were still wanting to work were snapped up fast. Ultimately we still need to get the job done, whether we have enough people on our teams or not. 

So what can we do to mitigate this? Streamline our systems to make every action count on each and every project. And, when we are lucky enough to make new hires, we need to get those team members up to speed fast. That’s where project management software becomes crucial. It’s time to ditch spreadsheets and inconsistent communications. You need to implement systems that make project management more effective and efficient. 

Better systems bring better outcomes

When you use a cloud-based project management software, you ensure that all stakeholders on a project have access to the same information, the second that decisions are made and any documents are updated. With RForm, onboarding new (and existing) team members is fast and simple. When you invite team members, the invite includes a quick start video that outlines the basics of the software in just five minutes. Employees learn just how easy RFrom is to use and buy-in is generated from the get-go. As team members use the software, helper videos throughout are on hand to go over each section (though we find many users are able to jump right in with very little support needed). 

In this superheated market, we no longer have time to just keep doing things in the same way that we always have and hope for the best. It’s time to move workflows onto systems that free up more time to actually do the work. Who has the time to deal with communication breakdowns and errors caused by someone using an old document? Or because somebody missed the email with the new one, or forgot to update the spreadsheet? Contract administration software can help with productivity and efficiencies.

Innovation as a new-employee attractor

Using a cloud-based system may actually help you attract more skilled workers to your company. Having a central repository for all project data gives better control over projects, and the ability to see how workflow can improve as you move forward. Automating and expediting some of the paperwork especially submittals on projects appeals to potential hires who would much rather be doing the jobs that they trained for than staying on top of documents. New hires are actively looking to work for companies that encourage innovation. It’s time for everyone in the construction industry to work more effectively using the tech tools available to them.

RForm is free for 30 days. Sign up now or schedule a 20 min webinar to learn more.

Designing Canada’s Railway Hotels

Image credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. 

Though it opened in 1911, the Chateau Lake Louise hotel has likely never been as popular as it is now. Room prices are exorbitant, and unless staying there you aren’t even allowed to visit most areas of the hotel. The fact that many of the hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and Canadian National Railway (CNR) more than a century ago (and some that are soon to be centenarians) are still considered to the utmost in luxury and style is a testament to the vision and talents of the architects that designed them.

These grand buildings showcase both Canadian architectural prominence and the grit of the builders in those days.

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