- 31st January 2020
- Posted by: Mark Dodds
- Category: Office 365, Technology
Some would say that the construction industry has been a little slow to adopt digital transformation.
That’s a shame for a sector which relies heavily on communications, documentation, and process. Taking a project from initial concept to completion often involves architects, construction managers, builders and even government bureaucrats. How do you keep all of those constituent elements in check with paper-based processes?
Things are changing. Research by Sage in 2016 revealed that over half of UK construction firms were using cloud-based software, and that number has continued to rise.
Central to many of these operations is Office 365, Microsoft’s venerable suite of tools designed to boost productivity in virtually every area of modern architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms.
If you’re yet to adopt Office 365, here’s why it could benefit your AEC company.
Fast, secure access to project files – from anywhere
One of the main challenges in the construction industry is obtaining access to project files when working out in the field.
In the past, firms would have to set up their own servers and VPN connections or go to the hassle of providing everyone with less-than-secure USB drives.
Now, with an Office 365 Business subscription, construction firms can take advantage of SharePoint, a document management system that works with OneDrive to provide easy, secure remote access to files.
All the remote worker needs is a smartphone, tablet or laptop and an internet connection. Files can be selectively synced and are backed up automatically. They’re also kept out of harm’s way thanks to the latest in cybersecurity defence technology.
Microsoft launched their Teams platform in 2016, and it has proven incredibly useful for construction companies who wish to reduce their reliance on email.
Teams is essentially a chat-based tool which works closely with the rest of the Office 365 suite. One-to-one and group chats can be held via instant messaging, voice or video, and files shared instantly.
What’s more, users of Teams can neatly organise chats into specific channels, making it super-easy to categorise communication based on the stages of AEC projects.
Teams also works with a number of third-party applications and includes project management functionality construction managers will find very useful indeed.
Better project management
At the heart of every successful construction, architectural or engineering team lies the ability to manage projects effectively.
Office 365 includes an app called Microsoft Project Online, which, when combined with Teams (see above), enables construction staff to work effectively both internally and with external contractors.
Project resourcing, the tracking of variances and keeping on top of progress is where Microsoft Project Online excels.
Buried deep within the Office 365 suite is an app called Microsoft Flow. Available on devices of all sizes, this tool enables construction firms to optimise and automate key processes.
This extends from project management to HR-related tasks, too. For instance, holiday tracking, expense management, and employee reviews can be made more efficient by leaning on Flow’s ability to automate the mundane elements of each process.
Finally – a useful intranet
Intranets aren’t new, and if you work for an AEC firm that has attempted to build its own in the past, you’ll know how easy it is to end up with something that people simply don’t use.
With Office 365, you’ll have access to SharePoint, which includes intranet functionality people are far more likely to use.
Information and documents can be shared via the platform no matter where employees are located, and it can contribute to a much better sense of community internally at the company.
When it comes to document management, SharePoint is hard to beat. Some of its benefits include:
– revision tracking to ensure there is a full history associated with every document;
– up-to-date security which keeps documents safe no matter how they’re accessed;
– top-notch compliance that aids regulatory checks; and
– time saved thanks to the reduction in paper files or disparate digital files strewn across multiple servers.
Better business decisions
Using the myriad of tools included in Office 365 isn’t enough – construction firms need to use the analytical tools on offer to make better business decisions.
With Power BI, you can do just that, thanks to the ability to create dashboards and reports that clearly display KPIs and business performance. All project financials can be tracked in real-time, enabling decisions to be made that are based on real data.
How easily can you do that now?
If we’ve whetted your appetite about Office 365 and its benefits for AEC industry firms, just get in touch with our team to find out more.