Online technologies are changing the way the design and construction industry does business. As project management, estimating and scheduling software has moved to online platforms, the work takes considerably less time and requires far less physical storage than it did just a few years ago.

Contract management has been slow to adapt to 21st century innovations, but now that’s changing, too. New online technologies such as cloud-based data storage and custom document libraries are modernizing contract management and empowering contractors to work more efficiently, securely and affordably through contract accessibility and collaboration among project stakeholders.

Accessibility
It no longer makes sense for a construction professional’s contract management capabilities to be tethered to a specific computer in an office. Trips between the jobsite and the office waste time and delay project goals. With an online contract management system, contractors never have to be offsite because their legal agreements and forms are housed in the cloud, available wherever and whenever they need them.

Many contractors already use their smartphones and tablets at the jobsite, while others work from home. Now, they can use online document capabilities to efficiently create and manage contract documents anywhere, from any device. Payment forms can be quickly processed from a project trailer. Change orders can be drawn up and even signed by the owner at a jobsite while discussions are still fresh. The ability to produce and finalize forms from any location on any device means contractors can translate verbal agreements or decisions made at a jobsite into written words in a contract in mere minutes.

Removing locational and technological obstacles from the contract process saves time and money, so builders can focus on their projects.

Every building project is unique. A standardized contract is a starting point—a template that can be changed to meet the specific needs of a project or team member. As unforeseen circumstances arise, contractors must be able to quickly and efficiently customize their documents.

Custom clause libraries allow businesses to save company-specific language and insert it into any document template in seconds. Those who work in multiple jurisdictions can quickly tailor their agreements and forms, saving each as a jurisdictional template. This allows businesses to take advantage of time-tested standard contract language while also accounting for the specific ways their company conducts business. Online contract document management enables building professionals to save their team contact information and commonly used document templates for continual reuse, so they never have to start from scratch.

Collaboration
Online contract document management is making collaboration among project team members more efficient. The normal contract review process can go through several rounds of edits and negotiations, delaying a project start-up and costing money. An online sharing feature allows project members to share their documents for review via email without the need for a special license. Colleagues can make edits and track changes online in real time from anywhere, so a finalized document can be delivered faster. 

Companies with several active jobsites can decentralize their contract document management and empower project managers at specific sites to tailor their agreements and forms to their project without a trip back to the office. Project managers can work directly with the subcontractors at the jobsite or remotely to finalize agreements and memorialize each party’s duties and responsibilities.

Cloud Security
Confidentiality is a must for contract document management. Contractors should look for solutions that include password protected cloud storage in which private project data is encrypted twice, both during transmission and while at rest, ensuring that unauthorized users can never access project files.

Affordability
Lawyers can be expensive. Standardized contracts allow building professionals to harness the power of a legal team for the price of a single contract. Contractors are increasingly choosing to purchase project-specific documents one at a time and including them as reimbursable expenses to the owner.

A New Era

The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) ACD5™ Documents-on-Demand® Plus service gives contractors the freedom to
work on their terms.
  • Purchase and edit single documents anywhere on any device.
  • Share them for review with the project team and track edits in real time. 
  • Utilize the custom clause and template libraries to save and insert commonly used language in any agreement or form.
  • Store all of the data securely in the cloud. 
With just an Internet connection and a browser, companies can access ACD5’s full capabilities—saving time and ensuring a high level of legal protection.

“As a small general contractor/civil construction company that works in both the government and private marketplace, thereby encountering a variety of contract types, we appreciate the convenience of AIA’s Documents-on-Demand Plus for specific projects,” says Jason Stouffer, vice president of ES&H, Inc., Knoxville, Tenn. “The clear delineation of client/contractor/consultant responsibilities combined with the proven legal protection afforded by AIA’s documents reduce our administrative headaches and allow us to focus more of our time on actual construction field work.” 

New online technologies such as cloud-based data storage and custom document libraries are changing the way the industry does business. It’s a new era for contract document management.


Deborah M. DeBernard is vice president and general manager of Contract Documents at the American Institute of Architects. For more information, visit www.aia.org/contractdocs.