Disputes are continuing to disrupt Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) businesses, but less than half of respondents file important information to central locations, leaving information accessibility and visibility a major challenge. In 2021, almost two thirds of our respondents (63%) reported experiencing some kind of dispute in the business. This year, that number rose to 78% of respondents experiencing a dispute. These are findings of the latest Mail Manager research with business leaders from AEC firms in the US and the UK.   

The research finds that email remains easily the most used project correspondence tool. However, the research finds that many AEC organisations still struggle to access the information they need, when they need it. The retrieval of project information is a major challenge for the industry, and our new hybrid working world is exacerbating this. As a result, AEC employees are increasingly concerned about their ability to find project information, which further increases the risk of legal disputes.   

One third of AEC businesses lose critical project information with staff turnover  

Less than half of respondents (44%) require employees to file all project-related emails into a central location, with 15% of respondents indicating that no emails are filed across the business. This opens firms up to huge risks relating to information management. As well as this, one in three businesses do not require their staff to file their emails when people leave the business, so this information is lost.   

Stuart Rowe, Vice President of Collaboration Strategy at Mail Manager, part of Ideagen said: “This insight from senior figures in the AEC industry shows that the industry has a long way to go in adapting its information processes. With employees working in hybrid environments, email remains a vital collaboration tool that businesses still struggle to get the best out of. This means important project information gets locked in email inboxes, employees spend hours looking for data and documents, or information goes missing completely.  

“The increasing importance of hybrid working and the need to quickly discover historical email data means organisations need to invest in tools that simplify the process and help employees be as productive as possible. Especially if they are to remain competitive and thrive in the current market conditions.”   

One in two AEC businesses can’t easily access their project correspondence  

Most respondents (87%) are at least ‘slightly concerned’ about their project information not being readily available and visible. Plus, over half of the survey respondents (57%) are either ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about not being able to discover project information. These concerns are highlighted by people increasingly needing to locate information from past projects. In fact, just over half of respondents (51%) said that they regularly need to find information from historic projects.   

Email remains king in AEC project management  

Email remains the most-used collaboration tool for project correspondence in the AEC. Four-fifths of respondents report that the majority of their project correspondence is via email. Furthermore, only one-fifth of respondents use email for project correspondence less than 50% of the time. When asked about their business’s reliance on email, only 28% of people surveyed say they are not more reliant on email than they were 12-months ago. Email is particularly important to project scope changes, with 47% of this information sitting in email and 43% residing within formal documents.   

Rowe said: “The working world has continued to change in the last 12 months, which is reflected in the AEC industry’s evolving priorities. This time last year, we saw a huge shift to remote working which saw an increased need for effective collaboration tools, however, this year is appears that hybrid working is the new normal in the industry.   

“Our research has found that the majority of project correspondence remains in email inboxes, which means it is difficult for people to locate and retrieve project information when they need it. This is a huge concern as most project scope changes reside in email inboxes. Failing to properly manage all information and records also prevents a Golden Thread, or a Single Source of Truth, across projects and businesses.”  

Download the full report on the research here