Well structured data that is properly stored, managed and governed is increasingly being recognised as a way to improve business efficiency and effectiveness. However, too many people still think that information stored in electronic format is good data…

In large construction and engineering projects the concept of BIM (Building Information Modelling) is increasingly being adopted in order to ensure a smoother and more efficient transfer of information when control of a project changes ownership. Examples when this occurs are when moving from design to construction to commissioning and then to operation/maintenance.

Similarly, the approaches to document management are being facilitated by suitable use of metadata and file versioning in order to allow documents to be transferred from one document management system to another whilst retaining audit trails and classification.

At a meeting with an engineering project team recently, colleagues and I witnessed an approach that was far from these ideals. The project was in the final stages of handover with many of the participating contractors having left site and been ‘paid off’. The project team were proud of their efforts to collate a full set of project information and pointed to the two bookshelves full of ring binders at the side of the meeting room as evidence of their good work.

When we requested access to electronic versions of the documents we were informed that they could provide a hard drive with PDF copies of the documents for us to upload. However, this would mean that there was no metadata associated with the documents and we would not be able to easily make changes to the documents.

Then we asked to be supplied with the original format electronic media which elicited two responses:

  • For the design information, the original CAD files could be supplied, but this would be treated as an extra as the designer wanted to retain ownership of the designs, despite the contract being for others
  • For the supporting contract documentation we were told that some of the PDFs were scanned documents of hundreds of pages including hand annotations, so it would be exceptionally difficult to gain access to the original media…

As the project is approaching hand over it means that there is very little that can be done by the site team to remedy the situation and the client data management teams will need to separate and correct this data.

There appear to be two root causes of this issue:

  • Poor contract specification with weak clauses for the provision of data and information
  • Poor awareness by the contractor of what good practice relating to documents, designs and asset information

Moral of the tale – involve data management professionals as early as possible in the project to ensure specifications are suitable, that contractor awareness is correct and that the overall process for information provision is closely monitored.

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