Death to the Binder: Digital Project Closeout With Bluebeam
Envisioning the end of a major project starts from day one, so why doesn’t the project closeout package follow suit?
- Using multiple hyperlinked “landing page” documents, teams are transforming standard tables of contents into custom closeout package guides that are not only functional, but engaging, intuitive and attractive.
- Provided with an interactive closeout package, clients can easily navigate the documents and can locate specific information quickly.
- Additionally, Barton Malow makes use of 3D PDFs in Bluebeam Revu to allow clients to view their project’s coordinated model right from within the closeout package. Projects that utilized a 360-degree camera can present those photos in the closeout package using the built-in 360-degree photo viewing functionality in Revu.
While not exactly the most glamourous aspect of the built world, a project closeout package is still a necessity. Handing over everything to the project owner is a crucial step in project delivery that is often still seen as an exercise in procrastination. Warranties, inspection certificates, product specifics, O&M manuals, attic stock and more are often crammed in a closeout binder within the last stages of project completion, organized by a member of project staff who may or may not be familiar with all aspects of the project. “Very often, the packages are Microsoft Word docs or even an Excel sheet,” explained Barton Malow Sr. VDC Engineer Steffanie Schrader. “A lot of us are still printing out binders of information. Especially when you get down to facility management, where it is usually someone who’s been doing this for a long time and they’ve got an entire room full of binders.”
Given her document management ethos, Schrader saw a different vision for project closeout. “We’ve been giving them what they asked for, although I liked this whole idea of doing this interactive closeout package.” Barton Malow intern Tyler Dutton had also seen this possibility, so he created a project closeout package workflow that Schrader was able to build upon. Together, Dutton’s foundation and Schrader’s vision ultimately led to the creation of a new digital closeout package with Bluebeam Revu.
“I think the real payoff is that instead of being relegated to a mad dash at the end of trying to gather a policy document, this workflow will just be an accepted part of the entire project process so that when you get to turnover, it’s already done.” – Steffanie Schrader, Sr. VDC Engineer Barton Malow
StrXur: What would be some of the pain points behind typical closeout packages? What was the motivation to improve the closeout package?
Schrader: Typically, you have a scramble to find information at the end of a job. If you factor in employee turnover, especially just those staff members reassigned to other projects, you might have an issue in finding the documents/information you need. Also, being left with a general binder full of paperwork isn’t very user-friendly for the client. Another pain point of closeout is not being able to complete it all at once. It’s an information gathering thing that happens at the end of the job, so it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. The answer to that is using the dashboard, as it almost gives you the format of your finished product, but you are just dropping things in the correct buckets as you get them. And once you get to the end, you don’t even have to wait till the very end, you hyperlink your things to the correct folders or to another sheet. Mainly, the end results are in those folders and so you’re just filling them up.
StrXur: Can you expand upon the advantages of a dashboard layout?
Schrader: It’s almost like you don’t have to wait for this big box of paper to be filled so that then you can forward it out. You’ve got the structure already made and you’re just taking the information as you get it and you’re filling it in, and, in the background, you’re going to have to make sure that you’ve got a checklist to say that you’ve gotten everything required. I think it really helped make it less painful, and it can help you look forward to the end of the job. You’ve already got this nice-looking template. It’s ready to basically just customize a little bit, hyperlink the information and you’re done.
StrXur: Can you break down how the process works?
Schrader: Sure. This whole thing hinges on a particular file or folder structure. So, it’s kind of a self-contained folder structure. Revu allows us to create a dashboard, which features buttons or menu choices that correlate to a folder with hyperlinking as the connection. So then, when you click on it, you’re presented with a list of documents, which are hopefully named, so that you can go directly to what you’re looking for. The documents are stored in Box, a cloud-based storage solution that we use for our internal storage and project sharing, so the closeout items are stored on Box under the appropriate project-naming conventions. That makes it very easy to share a Box link so that they can download it in their location. But the whole thing being self-contained, it makes it portable, and with the templates, you don’t have to figure that whole thing out on a new job. It’s already done.
StrXur: Are there alternative ways of setting this up, for instance, if your firm does not use Box? What about Studio Projects, would that work?
Schrader: We have a team folder for private files, and then an outside folder to share with clients. We haven’t run across too many project partners using Studio Projects yet, although I did note in my testing while I was putting this together that project closeout could easily be shared on a Studio Project, if that was desired.
StrXur: What are some key aspects of project handover that make this digital handover workflow appealing?
Schrader: One key aspect is keeping everything self-contained. Also, the digital closeout package comes with its own explanation, so clients don’t need to consult the GC—they just use the package. Going digital also makes it easier for owners to find what they are looking without ever previously seeing these documents. Attic stock is always an important inclusion. Another key aspect of closeout is the access to training documentation. We’ll do a variety of trainings at the end of the job, right. It may be with different small groups of people, and, in some cases, it could be training nurses on how to use a system that we’ve put in or training the facilities management group on the fire pump. Having either a copy of that training or even an attendance list to easily identify who was there and what they were trained on. I also think it is cool to include the model. I think the 3D PDFs are really cool and because the information from the model comes in, they can click on item and still see what it is, which can be very useful if you’ve got an owner or facility manager who’s versed in that kind of stuff. We’ll always have photographs and we’re starting to use 360-degree cameras more and more. I think that’s starting to become our standard, really.
StrXur: Playing devil’s advocate here, but what would be the advantage of creating this handover workflow as opposed to the traditional Word docs and physical binder?
Schrader: It all comes down to a better client experience and an easier and more comprehensive closeout process for the project team. Not only does it look nicer, but it can be a little more functional because it supports people who are visual versus people who want to read everything. We can customize it with customer colors or logos, and you could go with infographic style documents, which I think is visually appealing. Design goes along with how people think already, to just kind of direct their eyesight. Some people may be drawn to that visual first other than reading the words. Kind of like the difference between doing all your training documents in a word format or doing a video. Sometimes you want both. So, I think those are the big things that you must decide right off the bat, before you actually start the dashboard. It’s a good idea to get your folder structure in order based on the styles of documentation.
StrXur: How would you define the value for both Barton Malow and for the clients you might serve with digital project handover?
Schrader: I would say maybe 60/40. I believe 60% of the value is for the owners, so that they don’t get presented with something that makes it tedious to find and consume the information. I think this dashboard makes it very user friendly, and quick for them to be able to find what they need. The other 40% of the value is for Barton Malow in presenting a unified, consistent closeout package and making sure that our project teams aren’t starting from scratch every time.