When a contract claim is prepared, a major part of the effort required is to generate the history or "story" behind each of the heads of claim. This white paper sets forth how to collect and analyse the various types of information that are required for the preparation of the "stories" behind each head of claim.

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About the Task

Preparing the story behind a head of claim is not difficult. However it is very time consuming. Every scrap of information must be read and its relevance to each head of claim assessed. Indeed as each document is read and reviewed, further heads of claim often emerge.

This means that for each head of claim, a list of the relevant documents must be made. A cross reference indexing heads of claim to documents is therefore required. Normally two passes through every document are required. The first to determine the list of heads of claim,. and the second to verify that every document has been correctly allocated - often to more than one head of claim.

On a construction project there are generally three sources of documents:

  • Technical Documents such as drawings, bills of quantities, etc etc describing the works to be executed. These may be relevant at either
    • Document Level, [which means that all revisions and associated information are relevant] or
    • Revision Level - which will include associated information such as any comments made on or about the revision.
  • General Documents which include ALL formal communications such as Letters [whether emailed, faxed, posted, or hand delivered], Requests for Information or Technical Queries, Confirmations of Verbal Instructions etc etc and any responses which may be received.
  • Work Package Documents, which include:
    • Miscellaneous Contacts such as Emails, Records of Telephone calls, etc,
    • Minutes of Meetings,
    • Record Diary entries which may include accidents, weather, plant on site etc etc,
    • Inspection or Snagging Reports which may range from photographs to concrete test cube results.

To make life easy, all of these documents should all be within a single Document Control or Management system.

The task can simply be put as:

  • Review each document in detail, deciding to which heads of claim it is relevant, and list it.
  • Often the review suggests additional heads of claim and so these must be raised as appropriate.
  • Review each document again in the light of the revised list of heads of claim, and make any further allocations.
  • Finally, for each head of claim, list all the relevant documents, and write the story based on the content etc.

The following diagram outlines how simple (but very tedious with large amounts of information) the task actually is:
Realationship between documents and heads of claim

There are other tasks such as quantifying the amount claimed, and reviewing the impact on the schedule of work or plan. These tasks are outwith the scope of this paper.

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Heads of Claim

The objective is to manage, including creating, the list of documents which support each head of claim. This requires the following additional information to a document control database:

  • A list of the heads of claim, viz a dictionary of words or phrases.
  • The association (or links) between items in the dictionary and documents which includes:
    • Correspondence viz formal communications, whether sent by email or in hard copy.
    • Contemporaneous Notes which includes informal communications, such as casual emails and telephone calls as well as notes.
    • Ones own Technical Documents, and whether the link is to a
      • Specific Revision
      • The document in general
    • Other People's Technical Documents, and whether the link is to a
      • Specific Revision
      • The document in general
    • Minutes of Meetings
    • Inspections (or snagging)
    • Entries in the Daily Record Diary

Heads of Claim are just items in the Keyword Dictionary. For a computerised document control system, adding an item to the dictionary is done in an instant, and consists of simply adding a suitable "Key Phrase". Within TDOC, the phrase may be descriptive and up to 30 characters in length.

Additional heads of claim phrases may be added at any time, particularly as and when the review of documents indicates the need.

There is no realistic limit to the number of key phrases allowed [in fact it is 999,999]. The number of documents which may be linked to each one is unlimited [in excess of 4 billion], and conversely there is no realistic limit to the no of key phrases which can be allocated to a document.

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Research and Allocation

Without a doubt, the best way of generating the heads of claim, and creating the list of documents supporting each one is to read each and every document. This usually has to be done at least twice. The first pass is used to generate the heads of claim, and to start creating the lists of associated documents. However, during this pass, additional heads of claims usually have to be defined. That means that the documents which had been read thus far must be re-examined to determine which ones relate to the additional heads of claim. It is best to wait until the initial review is complete, and then make a second pass through all of the documents.

When there is a huge amount of information to be examined, as long as a computerised document control system has been used some of the review work can be carried out semi automatically. The methodology is a two step process to first link documents which contain certain words allocating them to these words, and then to select documents on the basis of which linked words they do or do not contain for allocation to a head of claim. The steps are therefore:

  • Create a list of words which are of interest. This must include misspelled words.
    • These words are added to the keyword dictionary,
    • Each type of document [see Heads of Claim] is handled separately.
  • Locate and list the documents containing these words. Links may be generated in two ways:
    • By selecting a document, and making the links manually,
    • By selecting a keyword in the dictionary, and creating a list of possible links either by:
      • Searching the documents for the specified word, or
      • Searching the documents by specifying the words to be searched for (which may or may not be in the dictionary,
      • Reviewing the list of documents, and selecting those which are to be linked to the keyword.
  • From the list of keywords and associated documents, select a Head of Claim (as opposed to a word from within one or more documents) generate a list of documents based on whether they have or do not have links to any words in the dictionary. Once this secondary list is generated, each document can be examined, and a determination as to whether it relates to the head of claim made.

The following diagram illustrates the methodology using words contained within documents [and associated information such as comments made on revisions of drawings]
Uisng Keywords to generate heads of claim

It should be noted that the Heads of Claim are also included within the Keyword Dictionary.

Nevertheless, a manual review should always be carried out to check the following:

  • That the documents specified as relating to a head of claim in fact do so, and
  • That every document has been examined to make sure that it is listed against all the relevant heads of claim.

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Writing the Stories

The need to write a story sto support a Head of Claim is paramount. It is often based to some extent on the content of the documents which support it. With a computerised document control system, it is very easy to generate a text file containing not only the details of the document, but also the content.

The TDOC Database was designed with the need to prepare contract claims as a basic necessity as opposed to being an optional "nice to have" feature.

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Advantages of using Keywords

The principal advantage of using a computerised document control system is that the Research and Allocation process can be started at an early stage in a project, and can be continuously updated as the need arises.

On any project start and end dates are always of vital importance. In TDOC there are two places that these important dates are handled. These are:

  • The date that a group of technical documents is required to be available for use [The SDRS Methodology], and
  • The start date and the end date of any particular section of the works.

Against any of these dates, the history of the change of the date is kept. Included within this information is a reference to the principal related item of correspondence - for an example an instruction to accelerate.

Thus very often there is a starting point for collecting much of the information relating to a head of claim. Technical Documents, for example those requiring approval, which "ran late" can simply be listed out. The allocation of these documents to a head of claim must be made manually to ensure that the lateness was both real and relevant.

Any party using a single computerised document control system for the control of their own information on a project is at a natural advantage compared to the organistion that relies upon say a portal for some information even if this be at the behest of the client and only during the project as opposed to before during and after, an email system for more of it [possibly relating to information at the tender or pre-tender stage], and then the ususal motley collection of inspection, record diary, and other contemporaneous records which are mostly paper based.

Thus the cost of preparing a contract claim is not only massively reduced, but more importantly the research can be carried out in a much shorter timescale.

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