Clear to See

by Balfour Beatty

In the construction industry, change order management is vital to keeping complex projects on track. When managing dozens of trade partners, navigating design changes and maintaining cost transparency with clients, it’s important to use strong systems to organize all the ins and outs of a project.

Our teammates in California have implemented a new system: Clearstory, a change order management platform used by general contractors, subcontractors and clients alike. So far, the platform has streamlined the process of submitting and tracking subcontractor change orders while increasing transparency between all stakeholders.

A Great Idea

Senior Project Manager Aaron Croteau initially identified that Clearstory could streamline the change order process. Specifically, he recognized the platform’s capability to make tracking change order requests (COR) and time and material (T&M) tags more efficient. 

“These are often sent by email or written on paper forms and not always digitized quickly or correctly,” Aaron explains. “One of our subcontractors told us about Clearstory for change order management and we saw the potential it had to slim down our inboxes and make sure the correct people get the CORs, COR logs and T&M tickets.”

After working with our Information Technology (IT) department and our Construction Technology professionals to fully vet the program, the team constructing Sierra College’s new instructional building tested out Clearstory by working with trade partners who had experience with it.

“Our first impression was that it was going to close the loop on our change order process,” says Dan Shirkey, director of technology & operations improvement. “It was evident from the beginning that it was going to make it easier to stay up to date on our COR logs and keep everything organized and in one place.”

Another advantage is that Clearstory integrates with Procore, our project management software. Rather than transferring COR logs and T&M tickets created on another platform, information uploaded to Clearstory automatically populates into Procore.

Tools of the Trade

After a successful pilot, the California team has expanded the use of Clearstory on select other projects in the area. Our use of the platform has expanded to several projects in California, with plans to introduce it to more projects and partners in the near future.

While some of our subcontractors had experience working in Clearstory, for many this was a new platform. Implementation required some forward-thinking during the contracting phase – projects that use Clearstory include a clause in contracts that subcontractors must provide their foreperson with a device to access the platform while in the field.

To ensure all partners will be comfortable using the platform, project teams have partnered with Clearstory to conduct trainings and provide technical support throughout the project’s duration.

These trainings not only teach trade partners how to create and maintain COR logs and T&M tickets, but also show them the full breadth of opportunities within the platform. For example, subcontractors can upload their cost data and cost matrix and determine the cost impacts of additional time logged.

Client Clarity

Perhaps one of the biggest wins with Clearstory is the ability to provide more cost transparency to our clients. The platform ensures all CORs are tracked in real time, eliminating the possibility of unexpected costs cropping up at the end of the project.

“Using this platform gives us the ability to be much more confident in projecting out our potential costs,” says Dan. “Our clients can be confident that we are actively tracking costs as they accrue – there won’t be any surprises.”

Through Clearstory, our teams can distribute design changes and set deadlines for cost impacts, keeping unexpected costs top of mind. Our teams also receive change notifications any time a COR is updated, eliminating the possibility of any costs being pushed through without notice.

Actionable Data

As our use of the platform expands across projects and locations, Aaron looks forward to using the tracking capabilities. Clearstory can compare costs across projects and recognize trends over time, which will come in especially handy when choosing trade partners for future projects.

“We can look at a specific partner and compare their change orders across several different projects,” Aaron says. “We can look at past performance and recognize if our partners have a history of submitting more or less change orders over the course of a project and how their final costs may differ from their projected costs.”

Aaron hopes that as they gather more data, they will be able to use that information to make informed decisions about trade partnerships. Rather than relying solely on projections, he and his teammates will be able to set more accurate expectations with those trade partners and clients alike.

It’s clear to see that the platform has advantages for a smoother change order process. As our use of the platform expands across more projects in California and beyond, we look forward to Clearstory helping us further our pursuit of building leaner and more efficiently while continuing our trusted relationships with clients.