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Information Chaos in the Construction Industry April 9, 2014

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging.
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Whether you still hold onto paper or not, more construction activity content is reaching you in a digital format. Email, electronic collaboration portals, file sharing, applications for payment, plan set revisions, etc all accumulate into a mountain of digital documents. How you manage your digital documents will determine your success in project management, effective communication, risk management and productivity. Without a strategic plan and integrated solutions to document workflow you are highly susceptible to Information Chaos.

This slide presentation by John Mancini presented at the AIIM conference explains the challenges, how to plan and prepare for Information Chaos in a Digital World

Your construction company has already felt the information chaos pain as you have worked with digital documents. A single source of truth that is easy to navigate, quick to access, and offers flexible search options is what you long for. What construction needs is a digital document workflow that incorporates project management correspondence, BIM collaboration, emails, reporting, human resources and accounting. With workflows the digital documents are stored, tracked, revised, managed and resaved all into a central depository with rules applied for document retention throughout the document lifecycle while maintaining secure access to sensitive data.

The silos of information spread across applications and mobile devices, within departments and held closely by employees is costly and often adds to the chaos. How do you measure the Lost time and missed opportunities these silos have created? They directly affect your bottom line. As a Viewpoint Business Development Partner I’m here to help address your mobile, digital, collaboration, cloud, project management, estimating and construction accounting initiatives. Let’s start a conversation about where you want to be and an IT plan to get there. Simply Email Me Your Contact Info and I’ll get back to you right away!

E-Discovery in Construction Litigation January 8, 2014

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging, email, records retention.
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Construction E-Discovery Tips

As a panelist for the Arizona Bar Association luncheon yesterday along with Kathy Kozen, Esq, Director of Discovery Services for D4 E-Discovery and Russell Yurk, Esq, Jennings Haug and Cunningham, a crowd of 80+ lawyers filled the room at the Phoenix Country Club. They asked me to give them an overview of what Enterprise Content Management (ECM) was and what technology construction firms were using to manage their documents. There were cases sited involving email, metadata, and search terms that they asked us to comment on as well.

Here are a few highlights of what I shared that could prove helpful to contractors (and lawyers) to improve their construction document management and avoid unnecessary e-discovery litigation expenses in their future.

In an e-discovery process many documents are extracted for review and the delivered results are something like an ECM system – searchable, sortable, accessible and deliverable.

If you have an ECM system in place prior to litigation you’ll save money in the gathering phase and can produce native documents and metadata if necessary.

Document Management in accounting and project management systems is often a paperclip function and not all are alike. Some merely point to a file address and the link can be lost if the document is moved on a hard drive or archived.

Email is a terrible way to document a construction project and can be costly to recreate the timelines when older email is involved.

Avoiding the use of email, leading firms are collaborating on documents (marking up, editing and producing auditable records) in project management, cloud based systems and PDF editing solutions then importing the documentation into their ECM systems as part of the workflow. Email in these firms may only be a notification system to alert subcontractors and other project stakeholders of request for input or approval on RFIs, submittals, change orders,etc within the Project management or ECM system.

Photo management is exploding and innovative firms are capturing photos throughout the project from mobilization thru the punch process. On large complex projects like hospitals, many are outsourcing the capture of in progress jobsite photo collection at set milestones.

I sited an ENR article from February of 2012 that stated some firms were writing into their contracts that email would not be used for e-discovery on the project – This received many chuckles from the audience, however, as the trend toward less email use continues, there won’t be much value in email – just a bunch of expense. Some judges will uphold this argument as well if both parties had agreed before the project began.

Having a documented records retention and destruction policy can help avert opposing council’s request for you to pull email from backup tapes. Backups are for catastrophic loss (fire, flood, computer hard drive failue, etc). By having an email records retention policy that is followed (you destroy the emails in a timely fashion per the policy) may save you tens of thousands of dollars in e-discovery costs.

Printing out emails and storing them in a physical job folder while deleting the original email (and it’s metadata) could be a records retention policy breach and null your protection. Smart lawyers will ask you to produce the email with metadata since a printed out email could be produced on a typewriter.

ECM can include Word, Excel, Powerpoint, recorded VOIP messages, audio, photos, video, web content, scanned documents, e-forms, Text messages, email and the attachments in any format including .PDF, .DWG, .DWF, .IFC, etc.

It will be difficult to convert Building Information Modeling (BIM) to .TIF as it is a visual 3D rendering. BIM files are exceedingly large. Laser scanning is also becoming commonplace along with augmented reality which will also be “discoverable” in complex cases.

Much of the e-discovery expense is in exporting documents and converting them to a standard readable and searchable formats like .PDF or .TIF.

Bates numbering can be done with .PDF – Bluebeam Revu offers this feature and also has document conversion capabilities for many standard formats.

There will continue to be an explosion of data volume with smartphones, tablets and mobile device use in construction, therefore e-discovery data collection may also grow exponentially.

Without a plan to eliminate silos and share documents across platforms (Sharepoint servers, ECM systems, accounting, project management, mobile devices and other collaborative systems) a construction company increases its exposure as they collect and retain more data.

If you are looking for ECM solutions to make your plan room and/or your entire company electronic, mobile, collaborative, accessible, and auditable, we consult and market ECM and electronic document management systems to the construction industry. Just Email Me what you’re looking to solve and let’s get you started.

PDF Editing, Sharepoint and ECM for the AEC Industry February 24, 2011

Posted by carolhagen in CAD, Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging, estimating, project management software, records retention, Sharepoint.
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Editing PDFs is a daily occurance in the construction industry. Architects, Engineers and Contractors have standardized on the PDF as the file type to share, email and collaborate on. PDF editing streamlines and helps clearly conveys changes, clarifications and improvements. Everyday PDFs are instrumental in the construction conversation to show mark ups on Microsoft Office documents, interactively draw on tablet PCs and then share these PDFs on Servers. But PDF editing software licensing is expensive and often cumbersome. What the AEC Industry has yearned for is One-Button creation of PDFs from within industry standard product like AutoCad, Revit and SolidWorks, and integration to their Sharepoint or ProjectWise servers. This is deliverable today with Bluebeam.

The PDF solutions Bluebeam provides to Construction Industry Professionals “are designed to improve communication, tracking, and speed. Create PDFs from any CAD or Windows file.” You can “add comments and notes directly to PDFs received from architects or consultants to eliminate extra steps or confusion and improve turnaround time.” With Bluebeam Revu, you can skip the paper process and “simply markup the PDF drawing electronically and send it off in one click from anywhere you have an Internet connection.”

Estimators will also love Bluebeam Revu. With the “built-in measurement tool, onscreen quantity takeoffs are calculated, totaled and stored in a list that can be summarized in Excel for estimates.” Bluebeam is a PDF Editor’s dream and works well for Architects and Engineers from design development through bid and construction. There are toolsets for a variety of designers including:
Landscaping Tools, Kitchen Furniture, Office Furniture, Home Furniture, Windows and Punch Symbols from Bluebeam clients along with extensive toolsets from Bluebeam

What’s missing to Bluebeam is document management which can be done in part on Sharepoint or using tools like Construction Imaging’s Content Archiver in their Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System. Content Archiver is a utility that looks at the directory structure where a document is stored, and sets the indexes or metatags of the document in the customer’s ECM system. It then sets a pointer to the document in the ECM where the original document resided. Many construction firms today are just storing documents on a hard drive where they’ve created a folder for each project. Underneath the project are more folders for RFIs, change orders, pictures, etc. What’s the benefit to doing this? You avoid accidently putting multiple copies of the same document into your ECM system and no one has to manually index the docuemnt again.

Now I hear some novices out there saying if I have PDFs then I can search through my documents and there’s no need to index them. Essentially with that scenario you index by every word in every document. While filing becomes fast, searching for specific documents can become a length chore. Do a Google search on any word and just how many results do you get? You could spend hours with the thousands of results that are returned. Substitute Content Archiver and you can find a document in 3-5 seconds.

Making it easy to capture, distribute, manage and store documents in the construction industry seems challenging, but with the right tools the job becomes a whole lot simpler. We’d encourage feedback and would love to hear from our readers. Please add your thoughts in the comment section and see if we can get a good discussion going.

SharePoint Savvy? September 8, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, Sharepoint.
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Apparently many managers think SharePoint is the defacto industry standard when it comes to collaboration. While Microsoft has indeed designed a flexible solution with more features and functions, it seems to have become Microsoft’s solution to all things social too. After reading a few posts at Digital Landfill on the topic, we all need to consider how SharePoint addresses content management, collaboration, Enterprise 2.0, etc. It may create more silos and IT governance headaches than you bargained for.

What SharePoint does best is collaboration when dealing with “working” documents like construction contract negotiations. The iterations and revisions are easily captured and perhaps the sense of why a phrase was removed or a paragraph was added can be captured in the process.  I have also seen it widely embraced to relieve the need for shared drives and to offer project portals for job documentation.  The key to continued success in these deployments is implementation consistency.

SharePoint 2007 has been marketed as a content management system, but as explained in “8 Things SharePoint 2010 Needs to Be a True ECM System“, there are definite shortcomings that need to be addressed.  These include:

  1. Persistent Links
  2. Store Once, Use Many
  3. Honest to Goodness Records Management
  4. Better Metadata Management
  5. Reusable search templates…etc

Your Enterprise Content Management System surely can ingest Sharepoint posted documents.

While I’ve seen some consistent deployments, there are far more that are less than perfect.Even in a simple intranet scenario, allowing new folder creation and having no user naming conventions creates chaos.  One salesman told me that he knew a document was on their “site” but called into the office and requested it be emailed to him as it was faster than randomly guessing  which folders to look in. 

Establish SharePoint site auto-provisioning is just one of the “8 More Things You Need to Know About SharePoint“.   You’ll also want to review “8 Things You Need to Know about SharePoint Governance“.   Two gems from there are: There is no Easy Button and Some [SharePoint] options don’t have an undo button.  Plan accordingly recognizing that  IT Governance and discovery issues will be your Achilles Heal.   Do your research on products like Kazeon eDiscovery SharePoint Manager to minimize your e-discovery review costs before you need to.

Finally, if you are considering using SharePoint for Enterprise 2.0, there’s one more blog you need to read, “SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools“.  You’ll thank me for knowing what’s viable and what’s not. 

I’d like to hear from you if you’ve deployed Sharepoint…both successes and challenges you’ve face.  Comments on this blog are always welcome.

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