The article, How good are extranets?, by Sonia Soltani, doesn’t just focus on the report though; it gives the views of numerous users – from Bouygues UK, Gleeds, HTA, Fitzpatrick, the BBC, Bovis Lend Lease, Price & Myers, HBOS, Atkins and WSP (and me!). Some of the benefits claimed are substantial:
- "a large retailer using collaboration tools across its projects saves about 200 man-days in a year" (Gleeds)
- "collaboration tools … make visible the shortcomings of other people in the team" (architect HTA)
- "we save one-third on administration costs compared with how much the project would have cost if managed with traditional methods" (contractor Fitzpatrick)
- "it doesn’t have to be just a glorified filing cabinet – it can be used to develop more efficient relationship with the global supply chain" (BBC)
- "it’s transparent. It is a single source of truth to have all the information in one environment" (Bovis Lend Lease)
- HBOS "got what it really wanted: more efficiency through an increased speed of approval and the ability to turn documents out more quickly"
- "On a £50,000 project, some £3000 is spent on hard copies, deliveries and time delay. With project extranets, that cost can be cut out" (Atkins)
Perhaps predictably (see Moaning Architects (4)), it is designers that tend to complain about the downside (though I am not sure their estimates are an accurate reflection of the time actually taken):
- "It takes 30 minutes to upload a drawing, then you have to call or email the recipient to let them know the drawing is there. And if the browser doesn’t work…." (HTA)
- Price & Myers suggest "uploading 50 drawings may take a whole day".
I liked the final paragraph, which is worth quoting in full:
To become construction’s favourite tool, web-based collaboration should be even more high-tech and, at the same time, less impersonal. Andy Scott, the chief information officer at WSP, wishes the systems could replicate a conversation between three people who are firing questions at each other across the room. He says: "If technology could make the team more interactive with instant messaging, chat conversations, video conferencing, that would make a huge difference. It has to become more human."