How To Build The Ultimate Site Diary

December 12, 2021
The site diary construction template for infrastructure construction projects.

Construction site diary books, site diary Excel templates and paper site diary sheets have all been used throughout construction of infrastructure projects for as long as anyone can remember.

They are a contemporaneous record of the who, what, why, and when of a single shift and, when combined, an entire project.

So with all of these different methodologies and styles how do you create the ultimate site diary?

1 - Understand the data set

A site diary is most commonly a simple shift record detailing actual events on site. Recording works complete, key events, resource usage as well supplementary information such as weather or third party interfaces.

It can be as simple as a 5 line text message or as detailed as a Raildiary record containing over 300 data points.

The core data is always… what happened, why did it happen and who was present.

Additional insights comparing what was meant to happen or who was meant to be present provides vital context when trying to understand issues or measure success.

At Raildiary we put this very simply as…

What did you say you were going to do?

What did you actually do?

And most importantly, why was it different?

2 -  Drill down into the problem

Its important to fully understand a process before trying to improve it so our first question was 'why do people complete daily site diaries?'

Is it just because we always have or because its a contractual requirement? Or do site diaries provide essential data for successful project outcomes?

From Day 1 as a Quantity Surveyor the phrase 'records records records' was drummed into me.

Personal pain completing electrification projects told me that you could never have enough information.

However, site diaries are not just for commercial benefit but also provide an essential tool for progress tracking, health and safety and quality assurance.

Get the basics right and site diaries can provide the answers to problems right across project management organisation.

3 - Focus on the real person

Rubbish in = rubbish out?

A common adage when reviewing any process.

We often put the responsibility of collecting all of this essential information on the person at the coal face. Regularly under pressure to deliver in unsociable hours in all manner of weather conditions.

So how do you ensure quality inputs and also relieve the pressure on the inputter?

User Experience!

You don't need instructions for Netflix so why do you need them for a site diary tool? It should be intuitive and time efficient.

On the North West Electrification project we paid site supervisors an extra hour per day to complete a paper record.

In 2019 the average time to complete a record with Raildiary was 19 minutes. In 2020 the process was refined further to 9 minutes.

The 2021 year to date average… 3 minutes.

Focusing on the end user and investing in simple efficient user experiences facilitates widespread adoption and ensures consistent capture of high quality data.

4 - Remove the administration

Nobody likes admin work. Its painful and often appears to be of little or no value.

However, collecting the actualised information from site is only half the battle...

How do you communicate the planned times, planned works and planned resource with the team on site?

Usually lots of paperwork, emails, SMS and a plethora of Excel spreadsheets.

Want to remove that?

Prepopulating records is the answer.

This provides a clear consistent communication from office to field teams but also allows for up to 64% of information to be prefilled for the teams on site.

No more driving paperwork to site. No more ad hoc spreadsheet silos.

Clear, admin free communication.

5 - Unlock the data

Where do site diaries go to die?

This black hole of construction data is too often a dusty set of files on the wall of the site office. Only used when something does not quite go to plan.

Moving away from paper duplicate pads to the ultimate digital site diary unlocks this data.

Information can now be stored more securely in the cloud, its instantly accessible to all stakeholders and can be consumed in an easily digestible format.

No more individual paper records. No more hours and days spent transposing data into excel spreadsheets to support payment application or calculate the payroll.

Consistent capture of high quality site diary data in a digital format allows you to do in minutes and seconds what previously took hours and days!

6 - Connect the dots

'Plan, Do, Review' is a basic project management technique that is common throughout infrastructure construction projects.

The actualised site diary record brings in the plan and the do but how do you incorporate the review?

Archaic paper processes make the review element quite difficult with lots of time spent gathering and collating information. Often never fully tying back to the plan.

A digital site diary removes the administration effort and allows project management teams to connect the dots, providing automated data driven insights.

What does this mean in practise though?

  • End to end integration with your planning tools, allowing you to push back actualised outputs and resource utilisation to inform and update programmes.
  • Automated KPI production to allow teams to understand and visuslise key metrics such as Earned Value and Cost of Work Done
  • Proactively using data to manage worker fatigue in accordance with Network Rail standard NR/L2/OHS/003.

Building the ultimate site diary is never easy, its taken 5 years and over £2million to build the Raildiary Sitediary.

And it's still not finished.

Product development is an iterative process, we are constantly refining the process and adding features and functions to ensure teams have the ultimate tool for the capture and analysis of site data.

If you want to take a closer look at the Raildiary Sitediary or are curious about our development process then get in touch today.

How To Build The Ultimate Site Diary

Will Doyle


I am an experienced RICS chartered Quantity Surveyor​ with first-hand experience of how the consistent capture and analysis of data can transform global project delivery.

Raildiary LinkedIn
Table of Contents

Keep up with Gather

Make sure you never miss out! Sign up to our monthly newsletter to keep up with the biggest news stories in construction and the latest Gather updates. Full of our latest case studies, blogs and fun quizzes!

Thank you for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Gather needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at anytime. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy.