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If there is one thing that is constant in our lives, it is change. Sometimes, it is a slow and organized evolution; sometimes, as we are all experiencing today, change is fast and driven by factors we cannot control. In times like this, when there is so much out of people's hands, it is absolutely critical to focus on what is within control. This period of rapid change might be a good time for contractors to take a step back and assess the position of their organization, team, clients and, of course, themselves. Contractors’ attitudes will impact everyone around them—what they say and how they act in the face of sudden events like the COVID-19 pandemic has to be their first priority.

The construction industry has experienced a massive expansion period over the past few years. Contractors commonly find it difficult to find time to work on their business when there is so much to do. However, a constant truth is people’s outlook is positively impacted when they spend time working on their business, looking at lessons learned and exploring ways to best position the organization to thrive.

The reality is that we are all feeling the impact of the pandemic, but construction companies will still have to build all the projects they had been working on prior to the business disruption. As most projects are coming to a halt, now is the time to work on the business and re-evaluate best practices as you adapt to the current climate.

Here are some ideas of what to look for when taking a step back and evaluating a business.

Document Workflows Relative to Risk Management

Look back at conflicts and issues that arose over the past four to five months:

  • What caused the conflicts?
  • What information was available or what information should have been available to defend the contractor’s position?
  • Are any trends identifiable across disputes? 

Knowing whether a document was sent, viewed or agreed on is often the cornerstone of a contractor’s defense in a dispute. Analyzing the workflows preceding and following disputes can help find commonalities that may help mitigate risk once the industry enters a period of expansion. A workflow worth taking a look at is how the contractor lets contracts and manages change orders, controls document templates, and ensure the process is reliable, consistent and certain all is documented in a way that minimizes risk.

Company Workflows Relative to Time Management

When business is in flux it is often a good time to find opportunities for optimization. When looking back at workflows, focus on understanding the different steps taken by employees and quantifying—in dollar amounts—the time invested for each document type. For many, it is helpful to draw it all out and review with the team; contractors might be surprised by what they find out. All general contractors know subcontractor invoice management can be taxing and costly. With this in mind, a good example of retroactive analysis would be assessing the steps necessary to manage a vendor invoice and revisiting how these workflows could be streamlined.

Review Technology Stack

It goes without saying that there is a tremendous advantage in being able to work from anywhere by leveraging cloud-based technology. Once the industry is back on a new normal, will the business be able to move quickly and capitalize on market opportunities? Using this period to figure out the must-have versus the nice-to-have functionalities might provide contractors with a clear picture of areas where it should focus.

The analyses contractors have done up until this point will likely cause them to explore what technology might be available to help streamline and optimize document and company workflows. Think of where technology could legitimately allow the company to be more efficient, such as project management and accounting platforms.

While this is uncharted territory for all industries, it is an opportunity for construction professionals to work on their businesses. Once everything is back up and running, workflows will need to be efficient and streamlined for projects to be successful. Now is the time to determine what those processes will look like.

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