Depending on your role in the construction industry, where and how you work can be completely different from the day-to-day of your fellow employee. Whether you are part of the office staff, or you have to transition between the office and the field frequently, communication is key to making sure things happen on time and inbudget. There are a number of technology tools construction firms can use to accomplish this goal, but Office 365 is the go-to solution for many small to mid-size construction companies looking for a cost-efficient, scalable, and easy-to-use solution they can deploy with minimal friction. The benefits of Office 365 for construction firms are felt across every part of the organizaton, from the office, to the field.
For a foreman or a supervisor, effective communication requires access to accurate information from the office, the job-site, or the car during their commute. Maintaining a consistent daily work experience is a challenge for these employees as they are often required to leave their desks for a worksite without notice. To make effective decisions on-the-spot, they need the ability to reference files and data associated with projects in real-time quickly. The technology they use must not only accommodate their specific role’s mobility and accessibility needs but integrate with the systems and processes used by both the field and the office.
What Are the Benefits of Office 365 for Construction Firms?
The built-in integration of Office 365 applications is what makes it such a powerful tool for construction companies who have historically faced challenges when trying to streamline the management of data, systems, and operations across the organization. The benefits of Office 365 for construction companies include the ability to:
- Access and customize built-in mobile tools for managing time and staff
- Update job progress reports while directly from the worksite
- Immediately receive critical project updates
- Manage close-out and punch list tasks
- And more
You are likely already aware of Office 365 and know a few things about the benefits it can provide. In fact, you may already be paying for a subscription, but are only leveraging one or two tools for basic services such as online file storage in OneDrive/SharePoint, or cloud-hosted email in Exchange Online. Either way, you’re probably curious about what Office 365 can do for your firm and how you can take advantage of everything it has to offer. The sections below outline how you can use the features included in an Office 365 subscription to achieve the following benefits:
1) Streamline Communication Between the Field and the Office
What the foreman sees in the field needs to be the same as what the office sees from their desktops. Unfortunately, the information accompanying a project can get lost in emails and chats, making it difficult to track the latest versions of documents and progress of both on-site and back-office operations. Online access to important files in One Drive or SharePoint enables real-time document editing, sharing, and collaboration all from directly within a document.
2) Manage Jobsites with One Source of Truth for Project Files and Data
Because all Office 365 applications sync, it doesn’t matter if your coworker is editing a document from their desktop Word, Excel, PowerPoint app, or SharePoint Online. If everyone is connected to the Internet and working on the same SharePoint document, edits will be made in real-time, and members can collaborate via chat directly within the file.
When someone’s input is needed, contributors can use @mention to tag the content for review, alerting the contact with an email linking to the content in SharePoint. Teams integrates with all Office apps, so everyone involved with a worksite can use their Teams application to do things like:
- Access the project’s Planner board to update the progress on their assigned task items
- Use SharePoint online to access the job-site related files, contractor Meeting Notes, Power BI project progress and costs dashboard
- Watch Stream Video channels for regular safety training
- Reference documentation in the job site OneNote notebook
- Search chat and activity history to verify shared information
- Integrate industry-standard applications within Office 365
3) Visualize Project Progress and Cost Reports in Real-Time
Power BI is a data analytics tool we have helped midsized construction companies configure to highlight valuable data insights their leadership team can use to guide business decisions and leverage opportunities. Power BI integrates with hundreds of third-party applications. These integrations allow Power BI to source business-critical data and organize this information in visual dashboards for better reporting.
Like Teams, Power BI integrates with all Office 365 applications, which means you can use tools like Power Automate to streamline processes for tracking and sharing data via Power BI. Such processes may focus on communicating real-time data on worksite progress and costs from the field to the office or help automate form fill requests for gathering information about a specific job from specific people.
4) Easily Train Contractors and Staff
The consolidated dashboard enables team leaders to easily train office and field employees on one application interface where they can access nearly everything they need to know about a job. The easy-to-use interface can be customized to fit your business and will require some changes to your traditional processes. However, Microsoft provides numerous resources to help with the transition.
Does your team need help getting moving with Office 365? Check out our library of Office 365 quick start guides.
Office 365 serves as your integrated information and data repository. Its flexible platform enables construction companies to easily train those employees who normally struggle to learn new technology while providing the flexibility of use and complexity to attract and accommodate new talent. In addition, everything Office 365 can be accessed online by logging into Office.com, enhancing the productivity and efficiency of highly mobile employees.
5) Reduce Manual Processes and Errors
There are some processes construction doesn’t consider to be manual, like timesheets, that are prone to error and require time and labor to manage. Automating checks on this data can help identify errors such as inaccurate time punches before they become a hold up for other departments like accounting when they are trying to do payroll.
Proactive measures for monitoring the worksite can also be automated. With Power Automate, workflows can be set up to notify key personnel about job-site issues. For example, notifications can be automated to alert the appropriate staff members when a site unit’s temperature is abnormally warm. The proactive alert allows the job site workers to check the unit and resolve the issue before it results in property damages and additional job costs.
6) Organize Safety Meetings and Manage Initiatives
With Teams, you can host and record online safety meetings directly from the application. Once the recording has loaded, you’ll receive a Teams notification and can access and watch the video through Microsoft Stream. Teams will automatically track attendees and archive chat history associated with the meeting. Power Automate can help remove the manual process of tracking attendance reports and task items using customizable workflows. These workflows can be configured to do simple tasks like set reminder emails and save meeting attendance reports in SharePoint, to more complex tasks that are unique to your specific business processes.
You can also use Stream to review any previously recorded meetings, reference videos, and channels that were shared with you, and create channels to share safety training videos with your organization’s relevant departments. You can add Microsoft Stream directly to your Teams dashboard simply with the Stream Channel link you want to display.
At Aldridge, IT Design is one of the main principles that structure our Framework for Successful IT. Our Chief Information Officers work with clients to help them identify how Office 365’s applications and features can be customized to fit their business, as well as how and when to implement the various tools available.
How Do You Know if You’re Ready for Office 365?
Yes, Office 365 can be customized around your business and the construction industry’s demand for mobile, easy-to-use technology. But you need the right level of dedicated internal resources and executive buy-in to successfully implement its applications across your organization. It can be difficult to gauge when it’s time for your firm to take the first step. Schedule time to speak with an Aldridge representative for more information about Office 365 and what an implementation may look like for your firm.