Following a conversation that started via Twitter, I asked an experienced document controller to write a guest blog post about her top five wish-list for construction collaboration technologies. It seems none of the existing vendors get it right on every point….
I am a document controller with around nine years’ experience and have used most of the systems out there, but have yet to find one system or vendor that does everything well. While the number of things I could complain about with ‘collaboration’ systems starts with the name itself, I have limited myself to five points just to keep it simple.
Let’s take the super-quick drag and drop of Asite. Add the pre-assigned distribution lists of 4Projects and completely ban child folders. When I have 125 documents with DWGs to issue I want it to be quick and easy. Don’t make it difficult.
Oh, and uploading using an Excel/CSV sheet should be based on Teambinder’s XL-Upload – one thing this odd little system has got very, very right.
2. Folder Structures
The never-ending folder structures are fine if you never use anything but Windows Explorer but for the person uploading they can slowly drive you out of your mind.
Don’t have them. If your search isn’t able to find it, then the search feature is useless. Follow BIW’s example and have Drawings, Reports, Schedules etc. If the numbering system is any good it will tell us where it is; in fact, let’s just make the Avanti numbering convention (see also BS1192) mandatory so there is no room for confusion when designers move from project to project.
3. Search Facilities
Search facilities on all the current systems are atrocious with only the most basic of search filters (I should start a campaign “Bring Back the Exclude Button”!). Bring back Hummingbird while we’re at it – the early 2000s Bovis Lend Lease system was amazing with excellent search features but instead of rebuilding with this as the base it was cast aside for a system [BIW] with an inferior search facility.
4. Quality Assurance
I am sure I’m not the only document controller who has to sit twiddling my thumbs while I wait for the 500th commented document to print/download/save. It’s boring but necessary work that some people think can be avoided by purchasing an archive at the end of the project. Sorry to burst your bubble, Asite, but every hard drive I’ve checked has failed to save much of the information needed. How about a nice button that downloads drawings with redlining and – this really is dreamland – a sheet that has all the written comments on? These could be named something like this:
Such neat lists of files in a folder would really make me smile. My complaint about QA might seem strange but that is the whole point of these systems. Sure it’s nice to send documents half way across the world in seconds, or to be actively commenting on a drawing through a super-trendy interactive whiteboard but, at the end of the day, all these systems exist to stop someone being sued.
Discreetly, I asked colleagues what complaints they had about the systems and – ignoring pleas to just go back to paper and pencil – most had issues that could easily be resolved by adequate training. This isn’t necessarily a vendor issue, though; it has much to do with how user companies manage system training.
We all know how it goes. Peter reluctantly goes off to a training session and comes back all enthused. He has a quick one-to-one with Paul who then teaches Sarah who passes her knowledge onto Mark. Meanwhile, Peter has been offered a shiny new job with the Dark Side and suddenly no-one in the office has actually had any formal training. Nobody wants to suggest they should go because, after all, they’re really busy, they have enough knowledge for what they need to do and, in any event, someone would have to pay. The software vendor offers but nobody wants to pay their rates.
I honestly believe nobody in my office has been taught how to use any of these systems by the actual vendors concerned. One or two may have been taught second-hand by someone who was taught by the vendor. Most have been taught by me. … And I make it up as I go along!