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Data Center Cooling is a Hot Topic April 11, 2014

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry, Construction Industry Hardware.
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Having recently toured the Phoenix NAP data center, the invitation to Arizona IT Women’s Network Luncheon on April 8, 2014 caught my eye with the Data Center Cooling topic, something that contractors building these facilities would be interested in.
Data Center Cooling Technologies

With guest speakers, Adam Green and Travis Becker of SEGI (segisalespros.com), we learned that cooling costs typically account for 38% of the energy consumption in a data center. Heat Loads and Hot Spots are the culprits so control of the air flow is critical for energy efficiency. They explained the advantages and disadvantages of hot air vs cool air containment and that both methods can reduce cooling power consumption by about 50%. More can be saved using a Vertical Exhaust Duct System (VEDS), a CPI passive cooling method used to remove 30kw heat loads. Imagine turning off half of your air handlers and you can extrapolate what your project owner’s savings can be. The VEDS system can be designed into a building or retrofitted afterwards. If you design ahead, you won’t have the extra expense of unnecessary air handlers as your Mechanical Contracting Design professional can attest.

Women in IT at ASU SkySongIt was good to meet other women in IT from the City of Chandler, APS, Amkor Technology, MDI Group, Vistx, Wesco, Berk-Tek Leviton and Enterprise Network Solutions. The Arizona IT Women’s Network meets monthly for lunch at ASU Skysong in Scottsdale. Gigabit Passive Optical Networks, Distributed Antenna Systems and Data Center Infrastructure Management Solutions are planned as topics through July. If you would be interested in attending let me know and I’ll send you an invite.

Winning Projects with Interactive Construction Presentations October 17, 2013

Posted by carolhagen in Bluebeam Revu, Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware.
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Winning Projects wit Interactive Presentations

Turn Your Whiteboard into a Touch Pen Display

Construction presentation effectiveness is the difference between winning and losing a project. Since Powerpoint came on the scene, the innovative contracting firm has mastered storytelling and realizes than communication is a two way street. Proving your understanding of the project scope, site challenges and constructability is paramount to success. The static slide is being usurped by interactive presentations. Here are a few ideas to convert your next presentation from drab to interactive:

Make Your Information Visually Appealing
One of the most common presentation mistakes is made when displaying numbers in a row and column format. Most people think, I’ll make a chart or graph which is old school. Instead, create a Heat Map using Excel. This is especially effective when presenting energy data on a LEED construction project to an owner. This video from Annielytics is an excellent tutorial of how to create a heat map:

Add Interactive Elements
Links to supporting project data, photos, videos etc are the basics. Hyperlinking Slide content to construction documents or real-time data collection that translates these field updates into easily understood moving visuals are recommended. How you render project progress completion by building, floor or room can transport an owner inside his own building. Here’s an example of a design coordination meeting recently shared by Ryan Companies using Bluebeam Revu in a Studio Session:

Construction Design Coordination Meeting using Bluebeam Studio

All annotations and task statuses are captured in the Markups list of Bluebeam

Update Your Construction Visual Aides
U-Pointer works with all projectorsUsing whiteboards, projectors and flat screen monitors is so 2008. Convert your Whiteboard or wall-mounted flat screen monitor into a touch pen screen with the U-Pointer. It’s small and portable to take with you to a client’s office. Wherever your need to present, you can make a lasting impression, even at the jobsite:

Large Display

Interactive Display at Jobsite with U-Pointer

Add a Liquid Multi-Touch Display and immerse your audience with an iPad-like project kiosk experience. Show your construction team link portal, interactive

32" Liquid Display with Stand

32″ Liquid Display with Stand

plan sets, your visual punch process, the job site check-in process for your workforce and how you communicate when resolving time-sensitive issues.  The electronic documents of today necessitate mark-up and annotation capabilities.  Your client is expecting a mobile, connected and collaborative team that communicates efficiently.

Whatever cost effective technology you use on your construction site that adds value, improves communication and streamlines processes is a winning proposition to the construction team and the project owner.

For additional information on any of these technologies, please contact me directly via Email and please specify what product you are interested in.

A Unique Christmas Construction Invitation to Bid December 6, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry Hardware.
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The Arizona construction industry really delivered on the 2012 Toy Drive

Volunteers arrive with a special delivery

Update 12/21/12:  Amazing! Fantastic! Unbelievable!  Someone will need to figure out the value of ABA’s Toy Drive.  In addition to an abundance of toys delivered yesterday, over $2,000 in gift cards were presented.  Sunshine Home reps said in their 18 years, this is the best Christmas they’ve ever had.  Additionally, the GC’s who put the bid on the street enjoyed the involvement and were successful in getting donations from companies the ABA executive director has never heard of! The above depicts the huge success of this endeavor.  Thank you to all who participated and volunteered!

Original Post: The Arizona Builders Alliance (ABA) is having their Toy Drive to make a difference in the lives of Phoenix Area displaced children.  Instead of a regular press release, McCarthy used SmartBidNet to get the word out about Sunshine Homes to their subcontractors.  Many other commercial construction companies that belong to the ABA are planning to do the same with their own invitation to bid software.

Here are the details:

Project:                The Sunshine Project

Location:            Phoenix, AZ

Type:                     New & Renovation

Bid Date:             12/17/12 @ 4p MST 

Status:                  Invited Bidder – GC Bids to Owner (By invitation Only) December 17th, 2012 at 4 PM MST)

First Report Date:            12/5/12

Target Start Date:            12/21/12


Description of Project:  This project consists of providing goods and services to brighten the holidays of 330+ kids and young adults (ages 6 to 18) forcefully removed from their parents and homes due to neglect, physical abuse, alcohol, and drugs.  The Sunshine Project helps to provide these 210 boys and 110 girls a safe and stable environment so that they can heal, grow, and eventually re-enter society as whole citizens.

Approved Building Materials:

  • Footballs
  • Basketballs
  • Soccer balls
  • Frisbees
  • Board games
  • Electronic game systems & games
  • Hand-held electronic games
  • Disposable cameras
  • Movie passes
  • Gift cards
  • Ear Phones
  • Art Kits
  • MP3 players
  • Popcorn tins
  • Cookie tins


Restricted Building Materials:

  • Toy guns
  • Toy knives,
  • NC-17 games and movies
  • Stuffed animals – lice carrier


Submit Bids To:                Bids (donations) can be made to any of the soliciting general contractors.  The important thing is that we give regardless of which general contractor receives your donation.  All of the donated items will be consolidated in one location for final delivery.

Notes:                                  Because of the security concerns for the kids, no bids/donations are to be delivered directly to Sunshine Homes.

If you are interested in donating or participating in this Christmas Construction project  for Sunshine Acres and bring smiles to hundreds of children, please contact Matt Adcock at McCarthy, 480-449-4700 or any other member of the Arizona Builders Alliance to donate toys

We’d also be much obliged if you’d share this with other Arizona Contractors and spread the news. Merry Christmas!

Arizona Construction Career Days A Huge Hit October 10, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry Hardware.
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While the construction industry is predicting a shortage of skilled workers, Construction firms are doing something about it with Arizona Construction Career Days, an annual event for all high school students in the state. 

This year over 1000 teachers and students toured the exhibits and had opportunities to operate power tools, heavy equipment and experience the diversity of work that the construction industry offers.  Whether you have a high school diploma or a college degree, the jobs in construction offer good pay and a career path that can take you from laborer to CEO. 

Here’s a pictoral story of the 2012 event held at the Army National Guard facilities in Phoenix:

To participate in next year’s event as an exhibitor, sponsor or school visit the official Arizona Construction Career Days Website.

Construction Email: Friend or Foe? March 15, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry Hardware, email, records retention.
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Inc Construction, email is primary communications methodConstruction companies communicate primarily through email, even when using a project management software solution. Often it is reminders and clarifications to help document the project. Progressive construction operations and accounting departments leverage email in their systems to increase collaboration, nurture relationships, improve productivity, reduce paper volumes, spread news and update the project team. Often email holds over 70% of all the intellectual property in a contracting business when you include all the attachments. So what are you doing to protect this valuable data?

Construction Email attachments contain intellectual propertyWith email storage growing 37% year over year, limiting your employee’s mailbox size may improve your email server performance but you are simultaneously losing valuable documentation. Construction operations managers often create policies to drag n drop emails into a document management system. Some project management systems log the email on the project as they are sent. The problem with these approaches it that it requires a human to stop and take time to drag the email or always log into a project management system. With the smartphone prevalent throughout the construction mobile workforce is this a reasonable expectation of your project managers and field teams? Add texting, instant messages and social media to the mix and it seems that more often than not, there are exceptions that may sidestep your project system’s design. Even marketing and business development communications may be locked in a silo that knowledge in operations could benefit from. Then there’s the dreaded discovery when a project has turned sour. Accessing what’s been said in email can be a godsend or at least identify your exposure to risk.

Construction professionals are not only mobile but often project team members are recruited from firm to firm and their knowledge goes with them. When an e-discovery issue arises and a key employee no longer works at your firm, if you haven’t retained the emails you may not have any idea what’s been said. Worse yet is the opposing council may have an email sent from your firm, that you are unaware of. Being in the dark by forcing email deletion may have just worked against you. What’s worse is that email discovery costs are rising

How can a construction firm capture everything? Email archiving or integration to an Enterprise Content Management System(ECM).

Not every email archiving system can capture everything but some are worthy of discussion as they incorporate new features as technology advances. For instance, Arcmail Defender which can instantly archive your chats and attachments. It has also addressed communications shared in SalesForce Chatter, an enterprise social network mentioned by a few contractors who have deployed the Salesforce CRM system. Armail has been working with construction companies since 2006 as they offer a case study of Pinkard Construction online [PDF].

By having a email archiving system in place you can search across the enterprise for all incoming and outgoing communications, project related or otherwise. If you’ve ever searched in Outlook through 6 months of saved emails, you may be waiting awhile for results. Searching from an email archiving system offers additional search functions and shortens the time to locate critical communications. If you can increas productivity and reduce risk it’s a win-win. Once overheard in a construction management meeting, “The firm with the most documentation wins” is a mantra that is only true if you can also find what you’re looking for. As a reseller of ArcMail I’d like to invite you to an on-demand email archiving demonstration. Simply Click here to watch a 30 minute overview or Email Me to ask questions and schedule a one-on-one demonstration.

If you found this post interesting you may also like these:

Construction Communications and the Email Tidal Wave

Email Records Retention Can Be Tricky

Construction “Trades Hub” For Quality Content Across the Web April 20, 2011

Posted by carolhagen in communication, Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, Social Media Tools.
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Mike Rowe is passionate about the construction industry

Mike Rowe Works for You

The mikeroweWORKS Trades Hub just launched and pulls together blogs, articles and news stories relating to the construction trades,
It’s an easy to navigate site, to quickly find the popular blogs and websites that might normally go unnoticed if you’re not a regular subscriber. You may recognize the name, Mike Rowe as he’s been at apprentice in over 300 “Dirty Jobs” Episodes on TV. He’s passionate about the trades and the construction industry.

Building Up the Trades Community: “The skills gap is a real concern that’s getting more worrisome every day. Fewer skilled tradesmen in the workforce will affect us all. Younger folks need to have a better understanding of how they can benefit from learning a trade, and parents need to encourage their kids to consider this worthwhile and important path. mrW strives to reinvigorate the trades. The mrW Trades Hub will help us in that effort.”

Carol’s Construction Technology Blog is honored to be included in the Trade Hub. Here’s a screenshot of the Trades Hub and I hope you read it often!

Construction Technology in the Trades Hub

Carol's Construction Technology Blog in Trades Hub

Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Please share this with your friends in the construction industry.

FutureTech begins Wednesday April 4, 2011

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware.
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Social Media Policy or Police? September 30, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry Hardware, linkedin, twitter, web 2.0.
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Social Networking PoliceSocial Media Policy is a hot topic for most businesses. The larger the enterprise the greater the impact on the IT infrastructure. Bandwidth bottlenecks can occur quickly with employees all viewing YouTube, Vimeo and Viddler videos simultaneously. Reports on the reduction in employee productivity at work will lead you to believe that social media is a waste of time and that there’s no reason to be in Facebook on business time. Security issues are also a concern with the proliferation of social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter that offer apps, chat and email functions. So what should a company do?

Begin a Dialogue with Your Employees
Don’t just lock everyone out of everything! This reactionary approach will make your firm look like a dinosaur to your team as well as your customers. I’ve seen this implemented at large publicly held construction companies and I think they’ve shot themselves in the foot by locking out everyone with URL filtering. Determine which employees and social media applications can contribute to your company brand, market reach and customer relationships. Ask your marketing, communications and sales people including anyone involved with customer relationship management or customer support for their input. Check out your competitor’s website to see what social media applications and tools they are using. Often you’ll see a few icons listed somewhere on their site, an invitation to connect in the sidebar of a blog or perhaps an RSS feed of their social activity.

Establish a Social Media Policy
Start with defining what is acceptable and unacceptable when using social media sites as you do for email and cell phone usage. Yes, your Legal and Information technology teams will probably influence (scare) you enough that risk tolerance decisions will need to be made. My favorite book for addressing social media policy is The e-Policy Handbook by Nancy Flynn. You may have already decided that “we only allow LinkedIn”, period. Think again. The most popular Business to Business (B2B) network by far in the United States is LinkedIn and they’ve just added the ability to display Twitter feeds and blog posts on the Company Profile. Since blog posts often have videos embedded in articles, you may have just policed yourself into not being able to view your own marketing materials.

Get the IT Department on Board
With budget cuts across the board, IT is trying to do everything without spending money and often takes the “lock down” approach as the only thing they can do with the tools they currently have. Perhaps you should consider budgeting for new equipment, particularly firewalls that address social media. It’s not good enough anymore to rely on old technology. Traditional firewalls rely on port and protocol to classify traffic, allowing tech-savvy applications and users to bypass them with ease; hopping ports, using
SSL, sneaking across port 80, or using non-standard ports. It may be time to have your network traffic analyzed for applications, users and content, you need to know what bandwidth is used by social media and have a way to monitor and enforce your policies effectively. The Interface2010 Technology Symposium has this topic covered and while I attended the Scottsdale, AZ event last week, you can still catch them in a few other US cities this year.

We’re in the process of scheduling a webinar to help educate business owners and their IT departments on social media policy, monitoring and network security. If you’d like to receive a webinar invitation, be interested in a network audit or have questions, please ask us by posting a comment. Please share this with your business partners, IT friends, and customers.

Lean Construction, Payroll and Equipment Tracking July 8, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, Equipment Tracking, Lean Construction, Payroll Time Collection.
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Lean Construction has been a hot topic for the past few years and is still gaining momentum. Recently representatives of Mortenson spoke at a NAWIC Greater Phoenix Chapter meeting and discussed renewable energy (showcasing a wind farm project in Hawaii) and how lean construction practices have improved productivity and their bottom line. Since I just happened to attend the 2010 CFMA National Convention in Kona last week, I was able to see the wind mills in person. But I also had the opportunity to peruse the vendor exhibits at convention and found a tool that may solve multiple construction problems in one fell swoop…TeraHop.

TeraHop screen view tracking people

TeraHop in action - tracking people

TeraHop Networks Inc provides On-Site asset monitoring without using satellite or cellular subscriptions. They call their solution the Construction Asset Monitoring System or CAMS for short. With Portable Data Collectors (PDCs) acting as local sensors and network routers, they track the movement of assets and create hopping paths to other PDCs and directly with TeraHop’s Wireless Data Uplink (WDU). The WDU holds the collected data until it is able to upload to a server via wireless or ethernet interface. WDUs also have a GPS receiver to permit localization of PDCs in the network. The WDU generated information from the site-wide data can be viewed from a computer or smartphone at the site or any other location with a wireless connection. So what can they track? Equipment, vehicles, inventory, tools and personnel…basically anything that moves on your jobsite!

After talking with representatives it dawned on me that contractors using this technology are collecting information often gathered when beginning a lean evaluation. Tracking the steps of employees then asking why and what were you doing is one of the best ways to minimize waste and eliminate mistakes, the two mantras of LEAN. Since you can also redeploy you can revisit a jobsite after making lean improvements in task assignments that were to “save steps”, analyze the improvements and adjust again if necessary…a continuous improvement method in Lean. Now add this to the DataMaxx solution and you have streamlined, accurate time collection for payroll processing, inventory tracking and equipment run-time.

Since CAMS can monitor equipment and vehicles, the ability to reduce excessive engine idle time (which impacts fuel costs and equipment wear) is a common by-product from the collected data analysis. Knowing actual equipment run-time will help manage preventative maintenance schedules, eliminate too frequent or late maintenance, and decrease the cost of ownership. You can use this on the jobsite or in your yard to make your fleet managers job easier.

All these process improvements add up, make lean construction worthwhile and more profitable. If you’ve used the TeraHop system or something like it, I’d like you to share your experiences in the comments with my readers. If you think this is a good idea but have reservations, ask me questions. I’ll get TeraHop to respond quickly if I get stumped.

Contractors in Arizona, the New Sales Tax and Your Bottom Line May 21, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in budgeting, construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, Document Imaging.
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Arizona Contractors In a Pickle?

Arizona’s economic recover has probably been deferred 6-8 months with the sales tax increase passed earlier this week by voters and sadly will put more strain on the construction industry. Mark Minter of the Arizona Builders Alliance (ABA) shared this with me to clarify when and how the tax will impact existing and future construction contracts, so I’m passing it onto my readers verbatim:

In yesterday’s election the voters of the State of Arizona overwhelmingly approved a temporary 1% increase in the sales tax rate. The higher rate goes into effect June 1st, 2010.

The ABA successfully lobbied a protection from increases such as this into state law several years ago. That statute reads:

ARS 42-5010 H. Any increase in the rate of tax that is imposed by this chapter and that is enacted by the legislature or by a vote of the people does not apply with respect to contracts entered into by prime contractors or pursuant to written bids made by prime contractors on or before the effective date of the legislation or the date of the election enacting the increase. To qualify for the exemption under this subsection, the prime contractor must maintain sufficient documentation, in a manner and form prescribed by the department, to verify the date of the contract or written bid.

Projects that are bid or contracted to prior May 18th are exempt from the sales tax increase.

What Impacts Your Bottom Line?
The sales tax increase ups the owner’s cost of building at a time where many contractors are still struggling to survive. As a construction company you will continue to keep your construction office overhead low. Recently I shared some ideas with ConstrucTech Magazine’s readers on what I’ve seen contractors do…some good ideas and a few things to avoid as it relates to computer systems and technology spending. Here’s a link to the May 2010 article “Technology Budgets in a Pickle”.

I’d love to hear what you’ve successfully implemented (click the comment option at the top of the blog) and feel free to share this with the construction industry as we all can use a little help.

Video Conferencing Isn’t Just for the Big Boys Anymore March 24, 2010

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry Hardware, VOIP, web conferencing.
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Video conferencing has been around for sometime and has either been expensive or of questionable quality.  The buzz on the internet is for the masses with technology like Skype entering 1000’s of homes each day.  It’s okay to talk with my friends and family but a CEO will not tolerate the delayed image feeds or freeze ups.  It’s just not professional. 

Video conferencing with Skype displays on your computer at approximately 8 frames a second.  A true digital video phone runs at approximately 28 frames a second (broadcast TV is just over 30 frames per second).   No delays or freeze frames.  It is live streaming “business quality” video conferencing.   If your firm considered this years ago but found the costs astronomical, it’s time to rethink your position.   I’ve seen some firms pony up $10,000+ but you no longer have to with the ACN videophone.

The ACN videophone is a digital videophone, meaning it has to be routed through high speed internet. It doesn’t run through your computer, it looks and acts like a phone. ACN has their own Video, not voice, over internet protocol so it is a secure system. The Video OIP was built out for ACN by Cisco Systems and covers 4 continents and 22 countries around the world. They have phones that start at just $99.99 plus a $29.99 monthly service fee for unlimited local and long distance calls throughout the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. In addition the phone can be connected to your flat screen TV so you can have a large video image. High Definition is expected later this year.

It is suggested that your internet speeds be at least 256 kbps and probably closer to 1.5mbps for optimal picture quality.  Anyone with multiple offices can now enjoy a great video conferencing system with more security and greater reliability.

Business people do use it to travel and stay in touch with their office and family from all around the world.  The calls are free from ACN-ACN phone anywhere in the world.   Here’s the real “big bang punch”…It is inexpensive and easy enough for any business to really impress and keep a client by supplying them with a videophone to stay in touch face-face. Yes it is a “business relationship” tool that takes advantage of video to reinforce your connection.  The next generation phone coming out this summer will allow the screen to split in 4 quadrants so you can hold a 4 way phone/video conference with all parties able to see one another. In a business world where everyone is talking about social media, I think this may be the best “live” tool you could ask for to cement your client relationships.

I want to thank a friend of mine, that some of you may know, Doug Singer, and ACN rep here in Arizona for this great information.  I’ve known Doug for years and he’s always looking for ways to make businesses stand out.

I’d like to hear about what video conferencing solutions you find most cost effective.  Please share your experiences by leaving a comment.  Thanks for all your input in advance.

Connecting Buildings to the Internet October 22, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, iPhone, virtualization.
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It’s great that LEED certified buildings can record the energy savings they return to their owners.  Now it is possible from every home, building or project in design to bring the activities and consumption data on-line with realtime sensors.  Energy and environmental data from objects, devices and buildings can be captured, reported and shared. Both Physical & virtual environments can be tapped.  I’d like to introduce you to a company focusing on the value of this technology called Pachube.

I read a recent interview with Pachube’s founder in Frontiers Economy Blog post called “Wiring Up the Internet of Things”  that caught my attention.  Today you need to look at “where technology, telecommunications and architecture are beginning to collide”.   The Construction Industry, Governments and Manufacturers can take advantage of these tools to make an impact on energy conservation and provide transparency.  Here are a few insightful ways Pachube can be used per their website:

an architect, you might use site-specific realtime sensor data to modulate (or generate) a Sketchup model, or use EEML data in conjunction with IFC-compliant models (as can be exported from AutoCad, etc.) to undertake post-occupancy evaluation
a facilities manager, you might connect up specific outputs from your Building Management System, so that specific data items (like current energy consumption or temperature level) can be shared with the public without compromising security
a property developer, you might connect together several buildings to allocate resources or monitor energy consumption and occupancy
a consumer, you might connect up your electrity meter to track it over time, embed usage graphs in your own website, calculate your realtime carbon footprint or use iPhone or gPhone applications to monitor it remotely

Pachube has been used to measure Air quality in Beijing, Hurricane Gustav’s strengh and location and has numerous apps for connecting environments and patching the planet.  The video below shows augmented reality of the sensor readout:

I am always interested in hearing about how anyone in the AEC industry has leveraged this technology.  Hope to hear from you soon.

IPhone Apps I Wish were All Available on Blackberry September 25, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, Document Imaging, iPhone, scanner, twitter.
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My Friend Tom Davanaugh is more enthusiastic about his iPhone than any other tech gadget he’s ever had.  That’s significant since Tom has lived and breathed IT for decades and is dedicated to educating the construction industry on ECM solutions.  Whenever we chat he mentions new apps he’s using.  The latest excitement has come from JotNot and Evernote since document imaging and mobility are required in the construction business today.

Want to capture expenses easily … so easy an executive will do it himself?  Jotnot turns your iPhone into a scanner and with the Evernote integration you start cooking!  Categorizing your text notes, voice recordings, and snapshots, you can organize notes into notebooks, add tags, search and more.  You can capture text, webpages, voice recordings and your tweets too.   There’s more coming per their blog with the beta 3.5 new release.  Things like auto spell checking, faster searches, map views are on their way.  The combination of these two apps usurps an earlier blog entry I made on iPhone scanner apps.

Here are Tom’s favorite iPhone apps, not in any specific order… if you are getting hooked yourself and some of these apps are available on blackberry (BB): 

Tom Tom             GPS !!!

Google                 Which has every google app all on one screen (BB)

Vlingo                   Amazing voice commands to search the web, get map directions and or voice dial. (BB)

Appbox                A utility set 

Camera                Depending on the application required I have several, most of them zoom and or improve native camera functions…  camerabag, genius, izoom, photogene, colorsplash, picture safe…  all of these either do some amazing things to make the camera more usefull or allow you to manipulate and or modify the photos…

 Tidegraph            I am a fisherman

 Navionics             Is specialized GPS and more (waypoints etc) for the water…    I am a fisherman

 Glaurung             Chess  I am a chess player also

Koi pond              The longest living creature on the planet… and a way to have a virtual koi pond    Which I also have in the entry of my home only it’s a real one

DocScanner        Take a pic and voila you have just virtually scanned!

Zen Garden        Nice to burn up some free time

Urbanspoon       A way to find a restaurant like you were a local

Stars                      I am a student of the universe

Planets                 because I am both a fisherman and see above

Dollar Origami    No way…   yep!

Stanza                   a Kindle like app with access to the Gutenberg project…

Ultimate quote machine               because there were many other well spoken people before me

PM sayings         cause I used to be one and they are so appropriate still today

Ocarina                 A musical instrument that also broadcasts what is being played on it all over the world in real time

Backgrounds      Amazing photos

NoteVault           The same one for the construction industry…

Just having the internet in my hand and being connected even at 36000 ft is pretty powerful.  The search ability of the stuff in the phone itself is awesome like a google appliance

JotNot and evernote.com – It is cheaper than Docscanner (3 instead of 9 dollars)… saves in more formats… and is integrated with evernote.com …   this one wins so far… it also does more than paper.

Some great games for those that love em and have the time…

Shazam … it samples recorded music and comes back with the title and artist and YouTube video and suggestions of songs like it. (BB)

Might as well add my stock app also… there is one for each of the common and popular systems out there.

If you are still reading, Tom has his Blackberry strapped to his waist while he waits for corporate to allow call forwarding to his iPhone.  And I was lazy looking up all the links for all these apps…just go get your iPhone now and you can thank Tom.  He’s out there!

Where Does Your IT Budget Go? September 16, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in budgeting, Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware.
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According to an MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research Study, the average firm spends 71% of their IT budget on running current systems and some blow as much as 80% of their budget keeping the status quo.  What if you could reduce this to 50-60% of the IT budget? 

That’s what can be achieved over time according to “IT Savvy” by Peter Weill & Jeanne W. Ross.  Being obsessed with Fixing What’s Broken, Building a Digitized Platform and Exploiting the Platform for Profitable Growth is how they describe the IT Savvy firm.  Within the book, they outline the journey of becoming IT savvy as having four stages:  Localizing, Standardizing, Optimizing  and Reusing.  

While only 2% surveyed have attained the Reusing stage, these firms enjoy a 20 % higher profit than their competitors and have an average IT budget that is 145% higher than the localized stage IT department.  What makes the Reusing stage distinct is that they continuously improve, are business agile and introduce product innovations.  They use IT strategically.   To tell where you are in the process, you’ll want to benchmark unit costs and compare yourself to competitors. The appendix of IT Savvy has a questionnaire to also help determine your current stage.  For construction firms metrics you may want to purchase CFMA’s Information Technology Survey, or peek at Intel’s performance measurements in their Information Technology 2008 Performance Report. 

You may also want to read a recent global CIO study which states that “half of CIOs are expecting to implement completely standardized, low-cost business processes [over the next five years]”.  Their visionary plans include business intelligence & analytics, virtualization, risk management & compliance,  and business process management.  The CIO pragmatist enables corporate vision, makes working together easy and concentrates on core competencies.  This all happens while 14% of the CIOs time is looking for ways to cut costs.  Where do you spend your money & your time?

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.

Fraud Fears August 27, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, data loss prevention, fraud.
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Tuesday was a busy day as it began with a learning opportunity.  Hunter Hagan & Company, Ltd, CPAs sponsored an Avoiding Fraud seminar at First Western Trust Bank in Scottsdale that was packed with great advise, statistics and lessons learned.  Lamar Harner and Julie Cauich from Harner Evans PLC who specialize in forensic and construction investigations were the speakers.  Based upon the presentation I must say that we all should assume we have the potential for fraud, and we may actually be contributing to our fraud problems.

The statistics were grim where 6 to 8 percent of all revenues are lost to fraud, 35% of all frauds involve collusion and the average scheme continues 18 months prior to detection.  Putting a Fraud Risk Management Program in place is paramount to avoiding fraud.  Just as important is hearing and seeing business  leadership’s words and actions, which can encourage or discourage ethical behavior.  Downsizing has also put stress into the mix with many firms combining two positions into one.  Have we unintentionally shot a hole in our checks and balances by doing so?  What should construction companies do?  Recognize where fraud happens, use tools and technology to minimize the risk and get started yesterday.  Here are a few tools gleened from this seminar and a few other sources…

  • Most banks offer a service called Positive Pay, which verifys your check register against checks being processed. It’s a small fee to provide peace of mind. 
  • Outsourcing payroll services or using Electronic ACH for payroll is highly recommended.   According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners check tampering goes undetected for a median avarage of 30 months (page 17). 
  • Your insurance agent may suggest you have all your accounting staff bonded  to reduce the risk of hiring someone with past problems.
  • Since the construction industry carries a high risk for inventory theft,  It’s time for IT to tackle surveillance systems, barcode scanning tools, and inventory management (perhaps future blog topics).
  • And IT has to worrry about data theft, data files contain employee social security numbers etc., so we need Data Loss Protection  in place.  Don’t forget that when disposing of used equipment to seek out companies that specialize in green technology recycling like Green Tech Assets.  Firms like GTA can provide services including drive degaussing, drive shredding, and DOD 3 Pass erasure.  There are a plethora of places that address electronic waste from cell phones to old modems.  Check them out under the exchange heading of electronic waste on Wikipedia

If you have implemented IT solutions at your construction firm that address data loss or fraud prevention, let me know about your successes.

Paper Problems Proliferate August 4, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in archiving, Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, Document Imaging, scanner.
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I recently heard  a true story about a project manager in a construction field office.  He was running the copier and it ran out of paper.  Upon looking in the storage area, it was apparent that no copier paper was left in the building.  Being resourceful, he called into the office and asked, “Can you fax me some paper?” 

Getting paper moved from one place to another, usually isn’t about the physical paper, it’s about the content.  Many firms use a scanner these days to convert the paper to PDF and email it to the proper recipient.  While this seems efficient, it only addresses a small step in the document lifecycle.   The scanners available today, have many more functions that can streamline the process and integrate to a document imaging or enterprise content management (ECM) system. 

One such scanner is the Fujitsu fi-6010.  This network scanner offers each user their own display using LDAP for authorized applications, has a full keyboard, and a large LCD touchscreen display.   It incorporates the capture of meta data for your imaging or ECM system

and offers sophisticated options for software developers. Construction Imaging Systems has adapted it to many of their applications including Construction Document Manager and Chameleon Job Files.  For the typing impaired, the optional ABBYY OCR plug-in allows the operator to highlight the words in the scanned document that are the meta data tags.

The scanner is configured to collect the appropriate meta data for the selected document type  …i.e., Job #, Name, Address, date for correspondence or vendor, invoice date, amount for an invoice.  Documents scanned to the network are automatically  imported to the ECM system.  Project managers don’t have to open the imaging application to archive a document, but once imported the users will be able to search for it. 

By using this approach the documents are automatically entered into any ECM approval process, you avoid clogging the email server with interoffice document distribution, you eliminate the possibility of the document getting lost, the document remains in one single instance (no copies cluttering the network), and you archive it immediately making it accessible to everyone with access and authority.  Now that’s how you eliminate paper problems.

Email Management and E-Forms in the Contracting Office? July 16, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in backup, Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, email.
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I just presented a seminar to the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) Valley of the Sun Chapter in Phoenix today.  Turns out that most construction firms, while using Microsoft Exchange Server, have not begun implementing a records retention plan concerning email.   Furthermore even some of the larger firms have yet to turn on journaling in Exchange and implement an automated archiving of email with an application server like EMC SourceOne or appliance like Arcmail.    If you missed the meeting and would like to view the presentation it is available from my LinkedIn Profile and/or it can be viewed here:

 Click on Menu to download the powerpoint presentation.

I am concerned that so many firms have left their only copy of email either scattered in PSTs on various PC and laptops or that they are dependent upon their in-house backups.   If any CFMA member wants to get this addressed ASAP, have your IT people contact me and we can arrange for a consultative meeting. 

Also in the presentation I mentioned Removable Disk RDX as it has a 30 year lifespan, it’s total cost of ownership (TCO) is much less than regular hard disk and it’s good for backups & archiving data, email, etc.  Most IT staff and outsourced technology firms have not promoted this media as they haven’t been exposed to it yet – even though RDX has been available for years.  I found it when the manufacturers of optical disk systems closed shop in this current recession.  One large General Contractor here in Phoenix is using the Prostor Systems Infinivault as backup & archives for large swaths of data including their document imaging and email systems.  If you’d like the opportunity to meet with this firm, let me know and I’ll arrange for you to talk or visit their IT department. 

Lastly, I must say that it seems that intelligent E-forms from firms like Formatta & PerfectForms will have to wait another year for most contracting firms here in Arizona.  With the construction industry treading water, new fangled approaches that integrate with other applications are more likely to be implemented by CFMA associate members that deal with mountains of forms.   I think the CFMA general members are still embracing the tried but true fillable Adobe Designer forms.  They’ll work on putting workflow, behavioral rules, reporting and integration to accounting systems to eliminate re-keying data sometime after they contend with their email issues. 

For those reading this blog and are not currently members of CFMA, if you supply a service to the construction industry or work in a construction office as a controller, CFO, VP or have another accounting title you should attend our next meeting and consider membership.  You can’t find a better group for networking, education and CPE credits! 

This is a blatant plug…if you do decide to join the CFMA, please put Carol Hagen in as the member who referred you on the application form.

Document Scanning via your cell phone? July 6, 2009

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Construction Industry Hardware, Document Imaging.

Some of us have tried to take a picture of a document with our cell phone but the results vary widely.   Why?  Because you are using a cell phone camera that is missing instructions on how to make the photo into a document! 

Here’s a hot solution called Norfello’s Docscanner™.   It’s a snap with DocScanner™ in 4 easy steps: 

  1. Take a photo of the document with the application.
  2. Check the edges or have it automatically determine the edges of the document and prompts for the result(provided that your background is darker than the paper).  You’ll need to decide on the quality and size of the document.
  3. DocScanner™ will then automatically correct the keystones. No need for manual rotating, cropping or scaling.
  4. The document is now ready for sending via e-mail as a PDF-file or you can save it to the photo album.

There are other options for selecting colormode (color/grayscale),  brightness, contrast, and even a multi-page setting. 

Docscanner™ works on the Apple iPhone and will make collecting expense receipts and other documents a breeze.  Here are a few images available on the DocScanner™ website that show you what it looks like when using the iPhone.  Best of all this iPhone app  costs just $9.99.

Now you have the PDF but need to make it a searchable PDF.  I need to review or reword this contract, check for spelling, or publish this docuument to the web.  Then you’ll want ABBYY’s FineReader that uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to make the document searchable  for you.  The corporate & site license editions of FineReader have Hot Folder & Scheduling with mailbox watching so by just emailing it, the OCR can be done  on every document in an email inbox or a particular folder.  These documents can be converted to editable formats like Word & Excel.  It can retain the table structure  of  spreadsheets (including multi-page tables) and keep bullets and numbered lists in their original styles.  The flexibility in FineReader has many other applications including 

  • Digitizing and Archiving Documents
  • Extracting and Editing Numeric and Financial Data
  • Compiling Information for Presentations, Research Reports, and Proposals
  • Preparing Documents for Translation
  • Updating Marketing and Sales Materials
  • Publishing Web Site Content

Is it time to upgrade your company cell phones or just enhance your current document imaging system? 

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