There's a massive gap when it comes to contract management on the job site and in the office. And the funny thing is that ANY decent contract admin STARTS in the field. Think about it: is the guys sitting in a cubicle the one who's going to notice scope changes, extra work or unforeseen conditions? NOPE. Is he the one who is going to notice when one crew is being delayed by other crews? NOPE.
And yet when we talk about a solid contract admin plan, we FIRST think about what the office folks are up to. After all, a lot of what happens in the office is centered around managing the contract.
But the most crucial part of any decent contract management is where the boots hit the dirt.
My hope is that you can use this post to look in the mirror and see where your team might be falling short.
There are lots of reasons why claims get rejected. And a lot of it is centered around the information (or, lack of information) that makes it from the job site to the office.
Just one step in the right direction can totally change the probability that your claim gets paid.
Let's talk about a few ways we can make sure our team is on top of our contract.
Know & UNDERSTAND Your Contract
Surely we all know at this point that knowing our contract is imperative to running a tight job site. It never fails, though - just knowing what the contract says doesn't mean that we understand the contract. The difference could mean a solid claim vs just crossing your fingers.
An example: knowing that you're entitled to actual overhead costs on a time and material change order vs being capped at a fixed fee for overhead costs. The difference could be considerable.
Another example: knowing that you have to formally submit a claim with backup to prove the claim. But understanding that the backup required involves getting the Prime to sign off on daily work tickets in order to be considered will make a major difference in how the work gets completed.
I've seen LOTS of subcontractor claims either be completely rejected or drastically reduced for thinking they understood the contract. Don't get caught up in that mess. Let's talk about what we can do about it.
Standard Operating Procedures
One way to get a leg up on this contract admin stuff is to get some standard procedures in place. We already mentioned the gap that exists between the field and office. But one without the other is a wasted effort. So the first step is to find a way to work together and close that gap.
Start be establishing a clear line of communication. Do not assume people are comfortable working (or even talking) with each other. Make it clear who talks to who and how that should be done. Do you want the Foremen to talk to the PM? Probably not. Do you want the Superintendent to talk with the PM and Contract Admin? Yes. And how does that happen? Maybe it's an email. Or maybe it's a daily report with photos.
We always have a flow chart. That flow chart has names or job titles, timeline, and required documentation. And it flows from the crew on site all the way to the Owner.
This reminds me of what Checklist Manifesto had to say about creating checklists for truly complex problems. A checklist isn't just a list with boxes that get checked off. It can come in the form of a schedule, a workplan, and even a flow chart.
Tools That Can Help
Luckily for us, we live in a age where there's an app for everything. And, of course, there's an app for this! There are some apps and software out there that are full-scale solutions for project management, like Procore, Buildertrend or Sitemax. Remember, these are only as good as the information that gets captured, so that standard procedure is still imperative to call this a success.
But, you know how I like to keep things VERY simple.
So here are a few options that are available TODAY and have a totally inexpensive price tag.
Good contract admin starts in the field.
First off, go find a way to get a copy of the contract on the job site. My favorite for this is Goodreader. For a couple bucks, you can put a copy of the contract, specifications, and even that flow chart we just talked about in the hands of the front line builders. It's a fairly easy to use app for PDF's that comes with great functionality for highlighting text, bookmarking, and word searching.
RELATED POST: 5 Software Tools You Can Start Using Right Now
Next up, part of that flow chart needs to be the documentation of the issue. This will probably include timecards and definitely daily reports. Photos, weather and notes are all necessary to make sure those daily reports are good backup. Incomplete or poor quality field reports aren't even worth the paper they're printed on. If you're going to do it, do it right.
And there are two more things you should have in place that will make a difference in how smoothly this whole process goes. First, get some templates in place. Things like a template cover letter or cost worksheet will simplify getting claims turned in. Second, keep track of what's been submitted, what's outstanding and what's been settled. A simple log to keep track of these things will eliminate future headaches. If you want some extra credit, include some space for notes from meetings and negotiations.