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Construction Team Meetings: Where Baby Boomers and Gen Y Collide August 24, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging, records retention, Sharepoint, web conferencing.
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Team meetings in construction offices are transforming as we speak.  After reading this CNN article, ‘Generation Y’ set to transform office life and a tweet from Jennifer Hicks it made me think about what is happening in the AEC industry. We’re all so mobile that unless we can all work together on our own schedules and collaborate effectively we’re doomed to failure.

Conversations are Team Meetings

What the construction industry is counting on is technology to make our communications clearer.  Industry leaders use video conferencing to have conversations – important to capture body language cues and readily available, apps abound on many smartphones and social networks today.  Seems like the project managers I know send an email following a conversation to recap and document what they just said.

Project Documents are Changing

Our documents are  easily accessible from Sharepoint, Construction Imaging, project management team portals, or Box.net as all generations are wanting access from anywhere, anytime.  (If you haven’t made the transition to electronic documents you better be thinking about it before you get busy again.) Mark-ups and edits occur on documents frequently and the construction plans seem to pose the biggest challenges.  Versioning control is a decision everyday.  Your records management integrity depends on it.

Collaborative Construction Communications Technology

What do construction team meetings look like today? They’re collaborative, mobile and transparent.  At least the successful ones are.  If you expect to collaborate solely with email you will need more hours in your day.  It’s time to transform your methods and it needs to work for internal and external teams.  One such solution is gaining respect in the industry.  It’s called Bluebeam Studio and I’m luckily part of their partner program.  Watch this short video and see what you think.  Your socks are about to be blown off!

The value is in working simultaneously or on your own time.  If you can’t make it to the Studio session it can be left open for you to chime in later.  If you’re running a pre-construction meeting you can meet virtually and work together. The flexibility is all there.  Have you used Studio?  Would you like to experience it for yourself?  Leave a comment and I’ll invite you and your team to a Studio project and collaborate together today.

This crosses all workforce generations and makes a visual record that’s easy to learn, review, share and save to your project document repository.

The Construction Office Imperative: Digitize, Go Paperless and Mobile February 10, 2012

Posted by carolhagen in construction accounting software, Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging, Sharepoint.
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construction document storageConstruction companies are bombarded by documents daily and making those documents electronic will reduce paper right? Not so fast. According to this Digital Landfill article “77% of invoices that arrive as PDF attachments get printed. 31% of faxed invoices get printed and scanned back in.” Heck, I know people that print out their email! If this is happening in your construction office it’s time to address the problem.

First let’s address AP invoices and email as everyone has them. If your construction accounting system doesn’t have at minimum a drag n drop feature for documents and emails, it’s time to look for an integrated, comprehensive replacement solution. It’s costing you money staying with software that doesn’t acknowledge how documents are distributed today. Next, give your AP staff Dual Screens keep documents electronic in constructiondual screens so they can process the invoice without printing it out. If you have a process that says match the PO, receiver and invoice together before entering into AP, then you should find a solution that allows you to match the documents by PO number electronically. Making the process fully electronic saves time, eliminates filing and makes document retrieval almost instant.

This also holds true for your construction project management software. Correspondence, contracts and RFIs, change orders, and drawings are frequently emailed. What’s your process to have those emails hit the job jacket? Larger firms share their documents with owners, suppliers and government agencies on Microsoft Sharepoint servers. So now you have two copies of the same document… One in the project software and one on Sharepoint. Let’s also email this out to a few people in the field and you see what happens – copies of copies. At least they’re all electronic. As-builts, Operation and maintenance manuals represent volumes of paper but take little space when electronically rendered. Having an enterprise content management system in place can eliminate the multiple copies, and keep you in synch when it comes to a records retention and destruction policy.

the speed of response to customers, suppliers, citizens or staff by 6-times or more. 70% estimate an improvement of at least 3x, and 29% see an improvement of 10x or more

Many documents in construction also are forms-based. Subcontractor pre-qualifications, timecards, and Human Resource employment records to name a few. While many have turned to Acrobat Professional for forms filling, having the whole workflow process automated is usually not addressed. Some forms spawn more forms (based upon data on the first form). Forms are used to collect data and often that same data needs to be re-keyed into another system. Today’s electronic forms capture can not only capture signatures, each field’s data can be captured and automatically input on another form or shared across software systems. Imagine an equipment usage form updating the equipment usage entry or a timecard form updating the time card entry in your construction accounting system.

The real allure of digital documents in construction is having access to them from anywhere, as many documents get distributed as part of an approval process. Review and approval on a iPad, signature capture on a form and granting access from a mobile device can return big dividends. Access from anywhere, anytime eliminates the interruptions of office staff resulting in better productivity in the office and field. On average, businesses using scanning and capture say that they see “the speed of response to customers, suppliers, citizens or staff by 6-times or more. 70% estimate an improvement of at least 3x, and 29% see an improvement of 10x or more.”

These are compelling statistics. So where can you learn more? The Phoenix Construction Peer Exchange on February 24th. We’re having a guest keynote speaker, Randy Stutzman from FMI Capital Advisors present “Building Value for Your Construction Company Through Your Accounting and IT Groups” and offering two separate educational tracks addressing IT Strategy and Content management. While I am co-hosting the Phoenix Construction Peer Exchange, this event is traveling to other cities throughout the United States. All the event details can be accessed here. You may also want to join The Construction Peer Exchange online in LinkedIn Groups.

Construction Collaboration: PDF Secrets Part 2 – On-line Meeting for PDF Changes Now or Later July 6, 2011

Posted by carolhagen in communication, Construction Industry - Software, Document Imaging, project management software, records retention, Sharepoint, web conferencing.
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Construction Collaboration often involves sharing documents during an on-line web meeting. While many solutions allow for these sessions to be recorded, there are few that let you leave it open for up to 2 weeks, append to the meeting later, or provide a way to capture the log of the discussion, particularly when changes are made to a “working” PDF. The problem is the method to make these annotations because the web based sessions are typically screen captures of the presenter’s desktop. There is a better way to work on PDFs with individuals or teams which can track, log and hyperlink to the PDF area details. Automatically documenting and capturing the recorded modifications on the PDF for construction project teams with Bluebeam® Studio Server™. You have to see it to believe it.

Let’s take a look at a Bluebeam Studio Session. In this example there are questions concerning the placement of lighting. Note that the chat session captures all annotations and jumps to the view of that persons workspace when they added that annotation.

Bluebeam® Studio Server™ allows you to connect, create and collaborate with anyone, anywhere, at any time. Simply upload your PDFs to Studio and invite attendees from across the globe to view and comment on your PDFs. Chat and add markups to the same PDF together in real-time or separately on your own. Markups and chats are tracked in a Record that links back to the PDF to easily review session activity. You can even create a report of your Studio session to archive or share with your team. With Bluebeam construction collaboration delivers complete version control and report access that you can upload to Sharepoint or ingest into your Enterprise Content Management System automatically using a monitored folder.

Whether you need clarifications from the architect, engineer, General contractor, owner or principal, subcontractor or supplier you can capture the suggestions from each participant, whether you’re all on-line simultaneously, or invitees join later with new ideas or alternatives. If revisions occur later, you can receive email notification that more revisions have been added to the session. Bluebeam has more PDF collaboration power for the AEC industry. In Part 3 we’ll discuss AutoCad and Revit.

If you missed part 1, you may want to read the previous post PDF Secrets: Estimating takeoff from PDF. If you can’t wait for the rest of this series, You probably want to watch this video:
Bluebeam PDF Revu 9 – The Acrobat Alternative Or just Take Revu 9, Bluebeam Studio or Q for a spin with a 30 Free A Trial

Disclosure: Bluebeam software impressed me so much that I recently became an authorized reseller.

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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