In 1995, a Massachusetts woman returned home to find that all of her furniture was covered with dust. Only it wasn’t dust: it was asbestos. What happened?
She hired a contractor to place a new floor over her old floor. But that contractor then hired a subcontractor, who proceeded to pull up the old floor, contaminating the house and forcing her to throw out many possessions, leading to a hefty award in her favor.
This whole situation could have been avoided with a little bit of transparency: If a construction subcontractor management plan had been in place—enabling clear communication about the work that was to be done and an agreement on how the work was to be performed—the whole mess would’ve been avoided.
Transparency with your subcontractor is key, not just to avoid legal matters like the one above, but also to ensure the project goes smoothly.
Here, we lay out three actions you need to take to ensure you have total transparency with your subcontractor and a positive experience when the project is over:
Manage with software
Communicate through mobile apps
Hold face-to-face meetings
1. Software: Centralize and Manage the Subcontractor Relationship
Firms that aren’t using software when implementing a construction subcontractor management plan have trouble tracking down the right documents when they need them, such as requests for quotations (RFQs) or contracts. They also have difficulty getting in touch with their subcontractors—or even just looking up what the last directive was to them—resulting in miscommunication and mistakes.
And those who don’t use software will have to rely on memory when trying to determine if the contractor should be hired again for a similar task months down the line, which means you won’t have the necessary data on whether they met the standards you set and how much they ultimately cost you compared to your budget.
The right construction software should have the following capabilities:
Knowify’s contract management feature (Source)
Autodesk Constructware’s messaging platform (Source)
Cognibox’s performance evaluation tool (Source)
It can collect and organize RFQs. RFQs will tell you everything you need to know about a prospective subcontractor, such as proof of safety compliance, records demonstrating financial solvency, a list of equipment, staffing, project history and budget/schedule. This information will help you choose the right subcontractor to begin with.
It can manage contracts. Your agreement with the subcontractor lays out payment terms, the statement of work, provisions in case there is a breach, and rights and duties spelling out who is responsible for what.
It has some sort of chat or messaging feature. You need to keep in touch with your subcontractor in order to ensure that the contract terms are being met.
It has a tool for evaluating the subcontractor. Most likely, you’ll need this type of subcontracting work done for some future project. It’s useful to do a proper evaluation of the subcontractor after the fact and keep those records so you know who to turn to when you need help again.
A performance evaluation should measure whether they stayed on budget, whether they met the schedule and whether the quality of work matched up with what you expected.
2. Mobile Apps: Stay in Touch in the Field
Software is great, but construction firms that use mobile apps to complement them will find that they are far more effective in implementing a construction subcontractor management plan.
That’s because while software is perfect for managing and organizing your relationship with your subcontractor, when it comes to day-to-day operations in the field, it’s best to have some way to constantly be in touch—and that’s where apps come in, since everyone has their smartphones on them, even at a job site.
By using apps, construction firms can track:
- What subcontractors are working on right at that moment
- How many hours they’ve spent on the project
- What the current status of the project is
- Any documentation or photos from the project location
There are three capabilities in particular you should look for in a mobile app:
Your subcontractors need constant access to documents like specs, schedules or even installation instructions.
Find an app that will allow you to quickly and easily upload documents from the field and organize it in a way that makes it easy to locate.
Another feature you’ll want is one that allows you to edit and mark up the documents, and then pass it around to the team for further revisions. This allows you to make adjustments on the fly.
Sharing and receiving progress updates is a great way to improve how you manage your subcontractors.
The reality is that dealing with subcontractors is tricky. You don’t know subcontractors as well as your team, so you’re probably not on the same wavelength as they are: Perhaps they planned to work that day on a different segment of the project than you had assumed they would, putting them in a location on the job site where they interfere with something your team is working on.
Look for an app that has a progress report or workflow sharing tool and then get together with your subcontractors to determine when you can expect quick progress reports from them and what information they need to provide. That way there are no surprises.
Field reports are a bit more intensive than progress updates in that they include a detailed breakdown of what your subcontractor has accomplished, including photos, documents and data.
These reports provide the needed context so you have a 360-degree view of what your subcontractor is up to. You can fill in field reports once you return to the office, but it will be far more accurate if you have the capability to fill in the data directly from the job site so nothing gets lost later.
Apps with a field report feature makes this process super simple and accessible.
3. Meetings: Boost Accountability With Face-to-Face Interactions
Don’t neglect face-to-face meetings in your construction subcontractor management plan, even after you’ve improved communication using construction software and mobile apps.
In order to really achieve transparency with your subcontractors, you need to set aside time to meet with them and any other interested parties to talk about goals, challenges and performance.
Face-to-face meetings are important because conversation evolves more naturally, leading to more efficient brainstorming and surprising new opportunities. And at the end of these meetings, everyone feels like they’re on the same page. When you’re just communicating via app or sending emails, you don’t have that same dynamic.
That said, it’s really easy to waste important time on unnecessary meetings, so follow these tips to have productive meetings with your subcontractors:
Improve Transparency With Your Subcontractors Now
There’s no reason to delay improvements in transparency with your subcontractors. Transparency means agreements are kept, projects stay on schedule and everyone goes home happy—you, them and, most importantly, your client. Take these steps now to get on the same page with your subcontractors:
- Use our construction software directory to find a solution that offers features specifically geared toward managing subcontractors.
- Find an app that both you and the subcontractor can use to stay on the same page.
- Schedule a brief but regular meeting over the course of the project that will allow you to keep each other accountable to the terms of your agreement, and work better as a team.
Note: The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. The applications selected are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.