A client calls and has a question about a design document he sent you four weeks ago. You soon get another client phone call asking if he could make some changes to his project’s pre-design phase without exceeding the existing budget.
Are these types of questions from clients something your firm can effectively handle in short order? Having the information at your employees’ fingertips to quickly respond to client inquiries doesn’t happen by accident. In fact, management gurus have come up with a new phrase to describe this kind of planning, organization, and cooperation among employees: Knowledge Management.
A rapid response to client inquiries can elevate your firm’s reputation for providing outstanding customer service. Here are several suggestions for implementing a knowledge management system in your AEC firm:
Enlist Your Employees to Help
E-mails, phone calls, project sheets, client-prepared documents, and firm-prepared documents. Your employees are the first individuals to touch most of these documents and are the logical choice to put in charge of organizing your firm’s knowledge management system.
Your employees are also most likely to be the first contact from a client who has a question, and should be able to find an answer to the clients’ inquiry the quickest.
As the firm owner or managing partner, your job is to team up with your employees to create and agree on a format that will be used to store information on every client and project.
Once a format is agreed upon, it should be easy for the employees to consistently apply when archiving information.
Project Management Software to Assist Your Employees
Your firm’s knowledge management system is only as good as the software that supports it. With many different moving parts, it’s imperative that you find a software program that fits the needs of your firm and that you feel comfortable using.
Some considerations when looking to invest in a project and document management solution such as Core include integration with other AEC firms that may be partners on a project; cyber security to keep confidential information secure; document retention that complies with local, state and federal regulations; and has a user-friendly portal that allows clients, subcontractors and your employees to easily and securely send and receive documents.
With AEC firm stakeholders more and more on the go, your knowledge management system should also feature an ability to access documents and information through the web and mobile devices. Decision makers need to have easy access to information whenever and wherever they are.
Your firm’s project management software, document management software, and other administrative-related software such as time and expense tracking and accounting reports should all be available on mobile applications.
With mountains of new information and documents coming into your firm every day, it’s essential that you have a plan for organizing and accessing all this data. An effective knowledge management system will help you be prepared to quickly respond to a client inquiry when they need your assistance.