Illustration by Rae Scarfó
Construction projects are loaded with complexity. Hundreds — sometimes thousands — of documents are assembled and distributed to scattered teams on frenzied jobsites, where dozens of subcontractors are hard at work building off carefully detailed plans.
Time is money in construction, which means the clear, accurate and expedient transfer of information is paramount to a project’s success. Aside from the hordes of design plans (many now digital) construction workers need to complete their work efficiently, there are several additional resources that they need at their disposal, most of which live on the internet or in other cloud-based tools.
Thankfully, the evolution of construction technology, digital transformation and collaboration have made accessing and organising this information more convenient. Bluebeam Revu is one of the tools that has grown to help construction, engineering and architecture workers in this area.
Revu allows users to create customised digital dashboards for their project teams so that all relevant construction documents and supplemental reference information can be neatly organised and accessed through Studio Projects — regardless of whether team members are in the field or in an office.
“The whole point of a digital dashboard is to eliminate that file hierarchy of folders and eliminate the time spent looking for files,” said Lillian Magallanes, Bluebeam’s industry alliances manager, who has extensive experience creating digital dashboards.
Here are four considerations to keep in mind as users build out digital project dashboards:
Start with the end in mind
What type of worker will be using the dashboard to retrieve information?
Will they be architects or engineers in an office on a desktop computer or laptop? Or will they be field superintendents or subcontractors needing to track down a design spec in the middle of a hot, blistering day on a jobsite?
What’s more, aside from the user’s environment, what frame of mind might they be in when looking for the information linked in a digital dashboard?
Starting with this end in mind, according to Magallanes, is essential before starting to assemble a digital dashboard in Revu. “The last thing most people involved in a construction project want to do is have to learn something new that is complex just so they can find a file and send it to someone else,” Magallanes said.
Map out information and navigation
Once the frame of the end-user’s mind has been determined, then it’s time to map out the navigation of where the different hyperlinked buttons and elements of a dashboard will lead. Simple dashboards may only include a handful of buttons leading to the most relevant design documents.
More comprehensive digital dashboards, however, may involve a few different layers of navigation that allow users to find and access disparate pieces of information for a project in a few quick clicks, while also linking to tools and resources either found on the web or as part of other cloud-based digital applications.
“This is really going to help someone think what levels of information need to be brought up,” Magallanes said.
Understanding how information is presented — as well as the user experience of navigating through it — is essential when building an effective digital dashboard.
Bolster collaborator access with Studio Projects
Creating a simple-to-use project dashboard is only half of what makes it so valuable. The other half is making sure that the people using it can access it easily and efficiently.
This is where Studio Projects, a document management capability in Revu, comes in. After creating and configuring a detailed dashboard in Revu, the most efficient way to make the most out of it is to host it for both internal and external collaborators with ease through Studio Projects.
Hosting a project dashboard in Studio allows teams to access corresponding documents from the dashboard without having to leave the Studio environment. This makes accessing often-viewed documents faster because those documents are not hosted in a company’s protected server or other cloud-storage service but in a shared Studio Project.
Consider making design a priority
Some projects may see a digital dashboard as a simple, easy-to-access portal for a few significant project contributors on a jobsite. Others, meanwhile, may decide to build something expansive for a large build where dozens and dozens of subcontractors are using the tool, often jumping in at the mid-point of a project.
Still, for some general contractors, creating a comprehensive digital dashboard is an opportunity to create a branded experience — not just for the subcontractors collaborating on the project, but the building’s owners and facilities managers after the building is fully operational.
These situations might call for a more extensive and thoughtful digital dashboard design using enhanced graphic design and web development tools.
“Larger contractors are definitely going to want to invest in creating something beautiful that’s aesthetically pleasing,” Magallanes said, “because that project dashboard is something that is going to the building’s owner, so it’s something that the owner and their team are going to use and remember.”
Smaller contractors, however, may not feel like they need to worry about design if they’re simply looking for something functional. But if the dashboard is going to be viewed by other contractors — or even owners — it might be worthwhile to ensure the dashboard is built with the end-user in mind. If the owner will eventually view it, the design might be more critically important; if the dashboard is only for workers in the field, a basic setup may be more acceptable.
Keep it simple
Above all, don’t be too concerned with creating an expansive digital dashboard if the team or project doesn’t require it.
The goal of a digital dashboard is, after all, to reduce complexity and the amount of time that workers spend looking for relevant project files. The less users have to think when using the dashboard, the better.
“We’re reducing learning time, we’re reducing the time looking for files,” Magallanes said. “And we’re also just reducing the number of clicks that people have to get through. We’re trying to expedite the information for the right person at the right time.”