There is Evernote, and then there are those apps which have taken the premise of the popular productivity app and applied construction-specific functionality. In either case, it seems like a natural fit given “productivity” is at the heart of all construction projects. But which is better, Evernote or apps designed with Evernote in mind for construction? There are advocates on both sides.

You can count Gerald Seitzinger as a fan of the original. An experienced professional in the field of construction management, Seitzinger is an accomplished senior-level project manager with more than 25 years experience, including lead project management roles for large, highly visible, legacy-type projects. That being said, he knows a thing or two about the value of keeping all the details organized. And while standard IT systems and things like email do an admirable job of accomplishing such a task, in his opinion these tools can often leave much to be desired when it comes to keeping people on task.

This is where he finds an app like Evernote to be extremely useful. Designed originally as an app for note taking and archiving, Evernote has evolved to become an organizational app to the extreme. With Evernote, “notes” come in multiple forms, ranging from photos to voice memos to emails to just about any type of document. With the ability to sort this data into folders for tagging and annotation purposes, Evernote presents good options for professionals looking to get at information quickly.

In the case of construction, this can be particularly useful when needing to search for information that exists across different jobs. Such an aspect has made life easier for Seitzinger who often found its extremely cumbersome dealing with one server for a large project, and not be able to easily access info across the multiple jobs he was managing.

“When you are dealing with something like email you are often times stuck with trying to figure out which folder you put a piece of information into,” says Seitzinger. “What I like about Evernote is its powerful search capabilities, and I don’t just mean project-by-project; you can search across all your ‘notes’ to find the piece of information you are looking for.”

Seitzinger didn’t actively seek out becoming an Evernote advocate. Quite the opposite actually, as he and a former coworker began exploring the capabilities of the app for fun. What started out as a fun exercise to determine how it could help improve productivity turned into an ‘ah-ha’ moment for Seitzinger who realized this could become a true productivity tool for him, both personally and professionally.

“Communication via email tends to get lost,” he says. “It can sometimes be hard to determine whose court the ball is in, and Evernote allows you to track this better.”

It all comes down to making the case for improving productivity. Seitzinger has familiarized himself with the ins and outs of Evernote and truly believes it can be a game changer for helping organize information in construction, if used properly.
As a quick rundown, Seitzinger says the value of Evernote for construction includes things like sharing info across platforms (desktop and mobile), the large amount of storage space available, and its powerful search capabilities. Among its disadvantages, he says, includes the limited collaborative aspects and the fact it can seem to require the user to be a bit more tech savvy than with using something like Dropbox or Google Drive.

Perhaps the biggest complaint about Evernote is the fact it can seem a bit disconnected from some of the core systems used on a daily basis. This is a common frustration Dave Wagner, senior product manager at Newforma, www.newforma.com, Manchester, N.H., hears from customers. While many of his customers rave about the way in which an app like Evernote helps with capturing and documenting information, they tend to get frustrated with its lack of integration to core backend systems.

He is not afraid to admit Evernote was among the inspiration points for Newforma when it came to developing one of its latest apps, Field Notes, which was released earlier this month. The mobile app allows users to capture notes, all supplemented by the use of audio, video, and photos, with the ability to assign the note to a space.

Going a step further, the Field Notes app integrates with the Newforma Project Center and Newforma Project Cloud. This makes it so data being captured in the field can be automatically available and be used to populate daily and site visit reports, for instance. Once particularly attractive nuance is the fact notes can leverage spatial data, tapping into functionality from a different Newforma-based application.

Still, whether it is an app like Evernote or a construction-specific productivity alternative, the idea of staying organized seems to be enhanced thanks to the mobile app.