Before becoming a virtual accountant, I worked in an accounting department for a development firm. One of the larger divisions of this firm was custom construction of single-family homes. The craftsmanship of the final project was spectacular; it was always amazing to see so many skilled hands came together to build these elegant houses. Processing and filing the build paperwork? Not as spectacular. One custom home could have several boxes of files filled with engineering specs, blueprints, punch lists, and more. There was little place to store these files and often they were never reopened once the project was finished.

This scenario is not unique – many construction firms have converted their accounting systems to the cloud to reduce paper waste. However, paperwork isn’t limited to accounting. Where do you store the REST of the paper? There are many all-in-one solutions on the market for construction businesses, but they can be expensive and cumbersome. Is there an easier and more collaborative method available? There is – Google Drive.

What is Google Drive?

Most people know Google Drive as a free file system that comes with most Gmail user’s accounts. In a nutshell, it’s a file storage system that lets you save a variety of file formats in the cloud for easy access. It also has features that enable users to share and collaborate together on documents. Files are securely encrypted – for more detail on security we recommend you look here. At BBB, we use Google Drive to communicate and share files with our clients. Construction firms also use Google Drive in their line of work. Here are a few examples of how they use it in their practice.

Store building plans and activities all in one place

Construction firms generally organize the activities of a project by CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) divisions. These divisions help separate the various aspects of construction and help with communication among all parties about the project. It can also mean a burdensome filing process.

Google Drive works in a user-friendly file format with a good amount of storage to start. Out of the box, the individual free version provides almost 15GB of free storage across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. Firms that sign up for G Suite start with 30GB but can even elect to get unlimited storage! Creating new file folders is very easy. You can create single folders for each project and subfolders for managing punch lists, receipts, and change orders by division. Choose to share certain folders so that construction supervisors can easily upload & edit documents as the project moves forward.

Streamline your bidding process

For general contractor firms, sending and receiving bid requests is a long arduous process. In the past, subcontractors would have to come to their office, pick up a copy of the plans, review them, then submit their bid for the work, often via snail mail or fax. Keeping track of numerous bids was a challenge, not to mention the frustration when lower bid requests came in past the deadline date.

Google Drive’s collaboration features can solve many of these problems. Rather than arranging an appointment to get the plans or sending a large file via email, you can upload a document containing the plans under consideration and share it. Google Drive allows individual files as well as entire folder contents to be shared with others. You can even designate if those invited have “View Only” or “Edit” permissions. Anytime you share a document, the recipient will receive an email notification with a link allowing them to access the file.

Improve management of Punch Lists

Most construction firms act off of a “punch list”. A punch list contains a list of all the repairs and incomplete work items that need to be finished before a contractor can receive payment. If you are a general contractor, these lists are vital to your project. Traditionally, if you were managing punch lists in a desktop spreadsheet (like Excel), you could, in theory, share the file to collaborate with other members on your team. In most cases though, only one person could edit the spreadsheet at a time. Also, since overwriting edits was common, reverting to a previous version was very complicated.

Google Drive provides a much better experience for teams when it comes to editing documents. Up to 100 people can edit and comment at the same time!  No more “read-only” errors waiting for other team members to close the spreadsheet. All active users on a document are clearly displayed in the upper right corner. In addition, Google Drive also gives users the ability to view and revert to a previous version of the document. Overwritten documents can easily be restored to their previous state!

Google Drive has been a huge asset to our clients who specialize in construction. Are you interested in finding solutions to better organize the process at your firm? Contact us to schedule a value conversation with us on how we can help you improve your workflow and get control of your financial health!