Digital Strategy Playbook: Project Closeout

construction project closeout strategy

 The majority of projects aren’t remembered by how they start – they’re remembered by how they finish. While design and planning are fundamental for setting up a project for success, a streamlined closeout is key to your ultimate bottom line. Like any big game or match, a strong kickoff always helps. Still, if you can’t get ahead before the buzzer goes off, you’ve lost. In today’s construction industry, a successful quality and closeout process not only impacts that immediate project, but it also impacts your firm’s ability to retain and win future business.

What better way to end our 2020 Digital Construction Playbook series than a discussion on quality and project closeout, our seventh and final key performance indicator (KPI) deep dive? As a refresher, so far, we have highlighted foundational, yet game-changing digital strategies to improve project activities like construction documents, RFIs, change orders, construction scheduling, safety and inspections, and labor productivity. These seven KPIs were revealed by a survey from Autodesk and Dodge Data & Analytics and explore the key processes that  have the most impact on project performance. 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s not too late to first learn where you stand when it comes to these KPIs. Our Construction Health Check, a free 15-minute assessment, will benchmark your performance against other construction firms when it comes to these KPIs.

So, are you ready to have a strong closeout to this series and your 2020 projects? Let’s discuss.  

The Current State of Construction Quality & Project Closeout

A construction project isn’t like an old car; you can’t just sign over the title, accept money, and walk away. You need to address everything from work performed by your subcontractors to the return of rented equipment and facilities to be sure that your site is truly ready for the end client to occupy. It’s the reason why the formalized project closeout procedures are essential for a high-quality and succinct handoff. As for the legal exchange that occurs during this phase of construction;  well, that could be an article all to itself.  

The Dodge survey explored a few key areas to understand the processes and technology used by today’s contractors to manage   the quality and closeout of their projects. . First, it looked at how contractors manage closeout activities and punchlists with software. While traditional projects typically punchlist at the end of construction, the survey also examined projects that deployed “punchlist-as-you go” (i.e., punchlisting continually throughout the construction process as parts of work are completed). Finally, the respondents were also asked about the frequency and impact of problems getting off the job.  

How are project closeout processes being managed on jobsites today? Take a look at some of findings from the report: 

construction closeout statistics

Opportunities to Adopt Technology 

It was encouraging to hear that 70% of general contractors use software to manage punchlist and closeout activities on at least 25% of their projects. Nonetheless, there’s still room for improvement. In fact, 76% of general contractors rated the value of utilizing software high or very high, citing it as a critical factor in improving the closeout process. However, project closeout software still is not being used frequently in the field where work is being finished, and issues are being closed. Today, 68% of trades are not using mobile tech on three-quarters of their projects. 

When it comes to punchlisting continually throughout the construction project (also defined in the report as punchlist-as-you-go), only 44% of general contractors are utilizing this method on at least half of their projects. This means a large majority of projects could be creating unnecessary complexities by delaying data collection and hindering efficient closeout. 

Closing Out Remains a Struggle

In an ideal world, the project closeout process is fast and straightforward because you already have all the data you need on hand, but many contractors know too well that some common problems can derail your progress. Failing to plan for this crucial project activity can cause issues and push your completion date further than intended. 

According to the Dodge report, 68% of general contractors reported that they experience problems “getting off the job” on at least 25% of their projects. As a result, nearly 60% say it has a high to a very high negative impact on their profitability. 

Digital Strategies to Improve Construction Project Closeout

 Project closeout can feel overwhelming since it involves detailed coordination across many stakeholders. However, with the right strategy, teams can use technology to capture data and intelligence in the field to more frequently and effectively streamline project closeout. 

Now, let’s dig into how you can create a digital foundation for closeout. 

Finetuning Punchlist Processes to Facilitate Better Project Closeout

Closeout processes don’t have to wait until the end of a project – and with complex projects, they shouldn’t. Considering the closeout process well before the last day of your project ensures that everything runs smoothly. Your closeout will impact your client, your team, your bottom line, and even your future work possibilities, so it is well worth taking the time to do it correctly and in advance. 

During the project, you should frequently  meet with the project owner or stakeholders to know what needs to be done before handoff and to ensure all their specifications and project requirements are met. Punchlist-as-you go is a solid strategy for completing closeout processes faster, and allows you to communicate the incremental updates to key project stakeholders on a consistent basis. Deploying this closeout strategy not only generates a punchlist earlier on in a project, but it also acts as a regular check-in on project progress and quality.

1. Deploy Issue Tracking and/or Punchlist Software

The days of paper punchlists and clipboards are over. Paper creates massive inefficiencies and leaves construction teams open to more risk and errors, especially towards the end of a project when final issues need to be sorted and tracked. Instead, if your company wants to be at the top of your game, it’s time to consider embrace cloud technology for punchlist and closeout management as part of your technology strategy.

Punchlist and issue tracking technology can enable real-time communication, even when team members are in different locations. Rather than wait to receive paper lists, the entire team can stay on top of task completions when they happen. All in all, this helps ensure a faster and more efficient closeout. Technology will be even more powerful if it is made for mobile devices so that team members can easily track and use it from their smartphones and tablets.

Having trouble finding the right software to manage punchlists and project closeout? Keep in mind these three key features:

  • Cloud-based: to facilitate real-time updates and collaborate, both offline and online, between the field and the office
  • Mobile-first: to ensure issues, notes, photos, and more can be captured directly and effortlessly from the field
  • Easy-to-use: to maximize adoption and use across teams 

2. Create Punchlist and Closeout Standards

Think about using a punchlist format right from the kickoff of the project. When standard formats for punchlists and other closeout forms are established at the start, it ensures everyone is on the same page and knows what needs to be done at every stage of the project. Certain software will allow construction teams to easily and flexibly utilize custom punchlist templates, whether that’s uploaded from current digital formats or created from scratch.  

3. Establish Your Project Closeout Workflows

Ownership and accountability are critical concepts for effective construction management. As mentioned, it’s essential to start the punchlist process early on in a project. But the punchlist alone won’t streamline or guide your project, especially if responsibilities are unclear. That’s why it’s essential to assign items to specific people or teams, with clear due dates, to make sure accountability is built into the punchlist and project closeout management process.

With the right cloud-based software, you should be able to assign and alert stakeholders as well as track issue progress, on the whole. Beyond that, managers and site supervisors should be able to see a high-level overview of issue progress, allowing them to quickly follow up when necessary. 

4. Conduct On-Going Risk Assessment

On-going risk assessment is essential to keep a project moving forward. It’s especially crucial to closing out a project on schedule. For instance, have you identified any threats or concerns you need to think about at the end of the project? Routinely review the project to identify any risks or potential liabilities and to create a strategy to mitigate any problems or issues you identify. This could be anything from legal risks, zoning issues, cash flow, worker training, transferring the deliverables, and other risks that should be carefully assessed to ensure the final handover is easy and efficient. 

As we also mentioned in our first series on construction documents, only 47% of contractors and trade professionals have a standard process in construction documents to compare findings from past projects and improve future work. Improving data collection and documentation standards on all projects will help your team to reduce risk on both current and future projects. 

Furthermore, advanced intelligence technology that incorporates machine learning can be a game-changer for proactive risk mitigation. As you grow your use of construction technology, consider adopting tools that can help predict, prevent, and manage risk to get your team off the jobsite faster. 

5. End Strong with Client Closeout

Client closeout is your chance not only to ensure that the owner is satisfied with the deliverables; it’s even a chance to solidify your relationship for future projects. If everything has been done correctly and you’ve completed the work, this part should be a positive experience for you both. 

Before final closeout, ensure your team fully understands and meets an owner’s requirements for successful project handoff. If they have feedback or concerns, listen, and create a plan to resolve immediately. There could be an opportunity to get them on board with your cloud-based software to ensure they feel heard and confident your team is working effectively to close all final issues.

Closing Out Our Digital Construction Strategy Series

We hope you enjoyed our 2020 Digital Construction Playbook series! While the series has ended, we’ll still be talking about our seven KPIs in great detail in more blog posts and articles. If you haven’t already, subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest blog updates. 

We’re always open to feedback and suggestions on this and other blog posts. Have something to share? Add a comment below!

Kristen Sylva

Sr. Manager, Construction Thought Leadership & Content Marketing, Autodesk

With a colorful 18-years of marketing experience ranging from sports and entertainment, to web design and healthcare, Kristen Sylva found the most excitement and passion for the construction industry. After putting on her first hard hat, safety vest, and boots in 2008 as a marketing manager at Topcon Positioning Group, she knew that an extensive career in construction technology was in her future. While at Topcon, Kristen oversaw sales-driven marketing programs and led customer symposiums that evangelized the adoption of construction hardware technology. In 2014 she made the transition from construction hardware to software and joined Autodesk as Construction Industry Marketing Manager. In her role, Kristen has the privilege of connecting with construction professionals and spearheading initiatives that showcase the innovative ways companies are using technology to digitize their construction projects and processes. She also leads initiatives that support lifting and building awareness for women in construction and serves on the board of Autodesk’s Women in Leadership organization. Kristen is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner!) and currently resides in the East Bay of California with her husband, two kids, and two dogs.

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