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Untangling construction management through the Web
Today’s information technology has decreased the distance between individuals collaborating to reach a common goal. Consider a typical construction project: From the concept phase to occupancy, owners, designers, construction managers, contractors and vendors all work to obtain a final product. Web-based facility/project management is one tool to help organize this collaborative effort. The tool can save time and increase productivity.
Web-based project management software can be used in a variety of ways: as a secure visual-file-transfer site, as a straight Web-based project management tool, and as a facilities-management system that allows facility executives in a global organization to share and review data in real-time.
A Web-based facility/project management system records the participation of the users, providing accountability, and notifies the team via e-mail that uses no attachments, which allows for version control. It also establishes one secure repository of data, accessed via the Web for the entire team.
Clearly, there are many benefits of using Web-based facilities/project management. However, some basic points are often forgotten, which can hinder the effectiveness of this powerful tool. The cultural difficulties associated with change also play a significant role in the success of a system. Consider the following:
THE SYSTEM'S USERS Key personnel who are in full support of this new system must be identified. These individuals will spearhead the effort, becoming the technical support and motivators to help the resistant majority make the transition. For example: file-naming practices that users are accustomed to may not work with the new system. It is important to uncover the limits of the software and steer users away from pitfalls. Helping users to adopt new everyday practices in their work is an important task.
SHARING DATA The team must decide what information and files will be shared via the new Web tool. However, sharing files directly from a network might not be the best idea. Some small yet important formatting practices could go a long way toward making information-sharing work smoothly for all. For example: Formatting images so they are more browser friendly — including dimension and file size considerations — will allow intended audiences to view them with no delays.
ESTABLISHING A SCHEDULE Supporters will be quick to adopt the new ways. However, even they must be helped to see that when the new platform is used is just as important as the platform itself. There is a time to share and collaborate via the Web, but that doesn’t mean inundating other users with information is wise. Establishing a schedule of expected participation keeps information exchange orderly and creates less of a burden for those who resist change. However, information sharing on a one-to-one basis is still highly effective through this Web tool and can be done on a daily basis.
INFRASTRUCTURE ISSUES Another important issue is infrastructure. Users should establish good file-handling practices on their networks and publish the information from the same location each time. A well-organized LAN lends itself to sharing information through the Web. As with this and most of these issues, the information technology department can help. Get an IT buy-in early — not just for the set up of the system, but to run and support the projects and facilities managed through this medium.
MEETING PROJECT GOALS Advocates of the system will want to move as much information as possible to the Web. Avoid creating a Web dumping ground. These tools are not the entire solution to project management, although they are very effective when used appropriately. Facility managers, project managers, users and IT staff should continue to communicate verbally to establish rules of use.
Giving consideration to culture issues will make the road to implementation and change smoother.
By Peter Harvey, manager of applications development for CUH2A Inc., and Craig Shaw, an electrical engineer at the firm.