Calculating Project Control Software ROI? Start With File Search

Posted by Steven Gentles on Apr 13, 2017 10:25:52 AM

Before you jump into some new project and document control software you need to do a software ROI analysis. The biggest impact on your analysis will be search efficiency improvements. If the numbers are compelling, getting the green light from your Finance team will be a no brainer.


Investment (Software Costs)

Once you’ve shortlisted the software vendors and solutions, ask them for quotes.

So that you can compare project and document control software quotes that are ‘apples-to-apples’, I’d suggest coming up with a simple concept of operations. If your business operates out of multiple sites, this can be as simple as a geographic map showing the user count at each location (don’t forget to include contractors, vendors and partner companies in your ecosystem). Provide a few high level details regarding where you’ll be locating the IT infrastructure and assets if you are considering traditional non-cloud software.

Although software vendors will use different quoting formats, costs can usually be attributed to these three distinct phases:

  • Software licenses
  • IT Infrastructure (hardware, software & related licenses)
  • Legacy data migration
  • Software configuration
  • Software customization
  • Software integration
  • Disaster recovery
  • Training
Maintain & Support:
  • Annual software maintenance fees (traditional software) and monthly user fees (cloud software)
  • Downstream IT infrastructure upgrades and recurring support

On one end of the spectrum, cloud document management software with no integrations or customizations will be the simplest, cheapest and least risky options. For example, Tina5s costs just $39 per user per month with no upfront fees and free training and on-boarding.

On the other hand, a SharePoint document management solution may have a complex licensing model, require the purchase and implementation of expensive hardware, additional software, third party web parts and custom development.  And you will have to hire specialist resources to configure, develop, maintain and support what is deployed – all at high risk (a recent AIIM research report indicates that 60% of SharePoint projects are stalled, struggling or failing).

Biggest Return – Document Search Efficiency

Most companies jump into new project and document control software because they would like to improve regulatory compliance, reduce liability, increase safety and/or improve productivity. For this blog, we’ll focus on the productivity piece. That’s because no matter what your company does, project and document control software will improve the productivity of your team through better file search.

A 2012 McKinsey study (The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity Through Social Technologies) indicates that knowledge workers spend nearly 20% of their time looking for the information they need to do their jobs.

A 1993 AAAI study (Where Design Engineers Spend/Waste Their Time) concluded engineers in the study group spent 14% of their time gathering information. Further, the engineers felt that information gathering was the most frustrating and wasteful activity they undertook on a daily basis. This is a dated study. But if you’re still relying on network drives, Excel spreadsheets and Email to get things done, it remains 100% relevant and applicable.

Numbers can be endlessly debated, but the only ones that really matter are your numbers. So here’s an audit tool you can download to scorecard your current document search environment and determine how much search inefficiencies are costing your projects.

Scoring Your Current File Search Environment

How your current search environment scores will depend on the tools you’re using and the maturity of your document control procedures. If your business is large and/or complex, your search score will also be influenced by the number and experience of people dedicated to Project Control and Document Control (I haven’t included this in the score card – feel free to add).

The ‘searchability ratings’ in the download are obviously subjective (change them as you see fit), but the relative rankings are sound. Electronic files stored in Tina5s (or similar software) will be found in seconds and files stored locally on an engineer’s PC may never be found. Likewise, paper drawings in a controlled technical data library will quickly be found and not so much if on an open area bookshelf.

How Much Are You Spending On Document Search Today?

Unfortunately, there is no easy and accurate answer to this question – I recommend that you undertake your own study. Provide a search log sheet to a representative sample of your engineers and get them to take good notes (see the download for a structured format). For best results, find the guys and gals with the neatest desks.

Make sure you consider and account for the true cost of search challenges if information cannot be initially found:

  • Does the information need to be re-created? If so, how many hours? Make sure you add this to your search tally
  • If you need to ask a colleague to resend an email with attachment because you can’t find it, how much time does your colleague spend looking for you?
  • If you need to interrupt someone else to tell you where to find the document you are after, how much of their time was wasted?

Regarding the last point, check out this interview (Worker, Interupted: The Cost of Task Switching) with Gloria Mark, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. Consider adding 23 minutes and 15 seconds to your search tally every time someone needs to be interrupted.

Your engineering team's productivity is directly impacted by the ability of everyone to autonomously find the information they need to get their work done. Team productivity has a direct bearing on your ability as the PM to control the costs of your project. Check out my blog on How to Improve Engineering Project Control.

How Much Will You Spend On Document Search Tomorrow?

The answer to this question depends on the solution you buy. If you use Tina5s project control software, file search times will drop to 15 seconds or less. Contact us for a demo and we’ll show you how, or check out this video (more search videos are available on our Tina5s Youtube channel):



If you plan on using other project and document control software, get some demos arranged and draw your own conclusions.   

Calculating the Benefits of More Efficient File Search

Just take the difference between pre and post-buy search burden and extrapolate across your organization. If your projects are done under fix-firm contracts, engineering hours saved will go straight to your bottom line. If your projects are done on a fee per hour basis, you’ll get them done sooner at a lower cost to your customer – always a recipe for more work and long term success.

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Topics: Productivity, Solution Framing, Project Control

Comments Welcome!

How much time does your project team spend looking for information?

Studies show that it's probably way more than you think - like up to an hour a day.

Tina5s takes the pain out of document and file search. Your team will spend less time looking and more time working. Would you like to see how?

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