Information management is becoming increasingly important in the construction industry, especially during times of uncertainty and economic downturns, new building regulations, and an ever evolving threat landscape. This was the focus of the recent Construction Management and BIM plus webinar, "Information Management's Role in Easing and Avoiding Disputes," hosted by Mail Manager.
Ellie Greatholder, UK Director of Commercial and Legal at Buro Happold, spoke about the challenges of information management and the potential solutions for avoiding disputes.
Good records act as a shield and sword in disputes
Ellie began by providing context to the current climate, which she describes as uncertain, and highlights the impact of the economic recession, staff churn, the Building Safety Act, hybrid working, and technology.
“We are living in very uncertain times at the moment...I think there was talk about the UK economy being the only one in Europe that had shrunk post covid. Things certainly aren't cheerful, even if we are not technically in recession.”- Ellie Greatholder.
She stressed the importance of accurate records in the success of a construction project and for managing a contract and monitoring progress. Why? The challenges associated with managing and storing this information are increasing with technology.
Navigating the complexities of record keeping in an evolving threat landscape
During the webinar, we analysed Ideagen Mail Manager's 2023 State of AEC Project Management Report results. The survey found that nearly half of the 550+ respondents reported that project information relating to scope changes resides in staff emails. This highlights the need for better information management practices to avoid disputes.
As technology improves and people become more accustomed to its use, the challenges of managing records become more complex. Ellie emphasised that records go beyond just emails and documents, “there's increasing challenges as technology improves and as people are using and adapting to the use of technology more and more.
"Fundamentally we're talking about any kind of record of anything that happens during a construction project. So, we're talking about photographs, site diaries, timesheets, handwritten notes during meetings, text messages, and WhatsApp. I've even heard about Snapchats being used recently.”
Keeping information accessible and secure for building safety compliance
Ellie asserts that the importance of records must be emphasised and that it is essential to maintain written records, especially in the event of disputes. The contractual requirements around record maintenance in standard-form contracts, such as JCT, ICE, and NEC contracts, are also highlighted. She notes that NEC contracts are well-known for their condition precedence requirements, which are pretty strict regarding providing records for certain claims, that she says “shouldn’t be forgotten”.
The importance of written records and information management has increased with the introduction of the Golden Thread requirements under The Building Safety Act 2022, which calls for a higher standard of information. These requirements aim to ensure that buildings are managed safely and that the original design and intent of the building are preserved.
Ellie emphasises that keeping information to support the building safety regulator is essential. The data must be easily accessible, presented in a way people can use, and held securely and digitally.
The ability to prove what happened at the time with real-life evidence, such as meeting minutes, emails, and drawings, helps those unfamiliar with the history. The more detailed and complete the record is, the easier it is to support assertions and avoid a prolonged battle. Ellie stated, “ultimately, from my experience working on construction disputes for the time I have been, is that the party with the most record is most likely to win.”
The impact of hybrid working on evidence management
With employees leaving and working from multiple devices, locating evidence buried in chains of emails or hard-copy notebooks has become increasingly difficult. Ellie points out the importance of having document management processes and search functions in place to locate evidence quickly. She emphasises the importance of contemporaneous records and suggests ways to fill gaps in evidence.
Information management's role in avoiding and easing disputes
Accurate records and effective information management are essential to avoiding disputes and ensuring the success of construction projects. As Ellie notes, "fundamentally, accurate records make the difference whether an issue will grow legs and become a bigger issue and full dispute. And if it does, whether a case is won or lost regardless of what actually happened."
Don't let disputes derail your construction project!
Learn how accurate information management can help you avoid and ease disputes. Get expert insights from Ellie Greatholder and discover practical solutions for managing complex project information.
You will also receive key stats on project management and collaboration challenges faced by businesses globally in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries — all shared during the recent Construction Management and BIM plus webinar, "Information management's role in avoiding and easing disputes", hosted by Mail Manager.