Specifiers are often pressed for time and working on tight deadlines. As a profession that is notoriously time-poor, it’s vital to make sure that all of your regular processes are completely optimised and efficient. Not only does this ensure that you are maximizing your billable hours, but it help your job – which is vital to the design and construction decisions that need to be made for a project – to be accurate and on time.

Here are a few different tactics and strategies that specifiers can use to improve their efficiency while actually improving the quality of service they are able to offer clients:

1. Choose your sources of information
The market is flooded with people who are all punting their own products. You need to make sure you are getting your information from trusted sources. Keep an eye on trusted media such as FLOORS in Africa magazine for product updates, legislation changes and helpful advice about your projects. Download free digital copies at www.freemagazines.co.za.

2. Reduce the time you spend manually going through datasheets
Comparing specification sheets from different manufacturers requires a lot of research and you will quickly realise that you’re not always comparing apples with apples. Many larger companies have invested in creating their own databases of information so that the key properties of each product are readily available and categorised according to product types.

Some forward-thinking product manufacturers have also updated their websites and mobile applications so that specifiers can make direct comparisons between products and even do calculations on the go. Instead of spending a lot of time flicking through datasheets and visiting websites, create a system that works the way you want it to – whether that means starting your own database system or using tools that are already available online.

3. Remove inefficiencies in document management
How many times have you sat in a project meeting and had a bunch of people on your team refer to “that product by that supplier that we used on XYZ project?” Everyone has the picture in their minds and the name on the tip of their tongues, but nobody can pinpoint it. Or maybe you found an excellent product at a tradeshow or online and you were sure that you either bookmarked the page or saved the brochure in your desk somewhere.

A shocking amount of time still is wasted on duplicate work, so having a proper document management system in place can greatly improve how you go about gathering information that already exists within your business.

4. Social proof
Every manufacturer has their own way of punting products and while some may invest heavily in marketing, others don’t. If you’re on the fence about a particular product, one foolproof way to come to a decision is to look for recommendations, second opinions and social proof.

If your own professional network is limited, join online forums in the built environment. LinkedIn, for example, has many groups dedicated to design and engineering. Another option is to subscribe to relevant trade publications, attend networking events and engage with other specifiers on social media sites. Follow us on LinkedIn, search for Building and Decor.

5. Cut out the fluff
As a specifier, you’re already able to read between the lines and cut out all the marketing jargon that manufacturers use to sell their products. However, gaining access to impartial technical content can still be a problem. So how do you go about it? One option is to attend Continuing Professional Development (CPD) seminars where you can boost your skills and gain access people who you might want to do business with in future. Connect with more engineers, architects and people in your field who are also out to solve problems and find solutions.
Enquire with us (Media in Africa) on our CPD events. Email: zuerita@mediainafrica.co.za.

6. Understand how people are being influenced
There are many stakeholders involved in a project. Very rarely does a client, architect, engineer, quantity surveyor or sustainability consultant have the power to force through a product choice. However, there are often different influencing factors at play that can make certain products a priority. Understand the decision-making dynamics clearly from the get-go so that you have a good relationship with all the key players on your project. This will help you understand their motivating factors and help you to specify products that meet their needs.

7. Make sure product representatives understand what you want
As a specifier, you need early indicative pricing, comprehensive product information, immediate advice and samples, as well as knowledge of product installation methods. Other key factors that influence your decision-making process include manufacturing quality control, safety information for risk assessments, maintenance advice that you can relay to your client and product certifications. If you are often contacted by manufacturers or design professionals who are trying to get your attention, make sure they understand what type of information you need to do business with them. This way, you won’t waste time in meetings or product demonstrations that won’t lead to a sale for them or a good business decision for you.

Specialised tip: If you’re on the fence about a particular product, one foolproof way to come to a decision is to look for recommendations, second opinions and social proof.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.cadadvantage.co.uk, www.specifyby.com and www.riba-insight.com for the information contained in this article.