Over the past few years, online document collaboration has become an increasingly normal part of the functionality supporting delivery of most significant construction projects. And almost as soon as people could share drawings and documents, they began creating simple processes to manage communications about these items: transmittals, change orders, requests for information, etc. Over time, these workflow processes became more complex and related to more than just documents – nowadays, in the UK, we have online platforms solely dedicated to managing whole suites of complex contractual processes (eg: NEC3 construction contracts can be managed via Sypro, MPS and CEMAR), while the document collaboration vendors (eg: 4Projects, Asite, BIW) also offer bid/tender and contract management capabilities as well as other business process workflow tools – and Unit4 Collaboration recently launched its own quality and compliance toolset, BC Assure (post).
Against this background, it was interesting to hear of another business process management platform offered on a Software-as-a-Service basis. Founded by CEO Gary Karasek, an energy industry professional safety engineer with 15 years’ worldwide project experience, and launched in the US in February 2011, ActionHero helps teams create, manage, complete and report upon project actions, and avoid poor or non-completion of actions. The application’s features enables the collation of project actions via project forms (risk assessments, audits, technical queries, minutes of meetings, interface agreements, document reviews, etc) and full collaboration and reporting of those actions until they are closed.
ActionHero users can create custom forms, custom workflows and develop their own reports. Individual dashboards (with calendars, task lists, graphs and charts) help each user keep track of their own work and those of others they are collaborating with. They can also view summaries associated with particular projects or types of action. Reports can be output to PDFs or exported via XLS or CSV. For more advanced scheduling, there is also an interface with Oracle’s Primavera. Email notifications can be created, but ActionHero’s developers have recognised that not everybody likes email, so it also has its own internal messaging service and discussion walls about each action.
ActionHero offers a no obligation free trial, after which customers can opt for one of four different packages, starting with the Small Business plan which allows up to 20 users and up to 2GB of storage for $500 per calendar month. As a SaaS offering, it is accessible from any computer or smart phone with web access via most standard browsers, and is securely hosted in the cloud with 256-bit SSL encryption as standard.
The platform is not construction-specific – the website says ActionHero has also been adopted by professionals in oil and gas, energy, aerospace, manufacturing, healthcare and finance – but it will appeal to many professionals who want something more efficient and collaborative than shared Excel workbooks to manage their project and business processes. As we know from creating a single repository of documentation, teams can quickly reduce wasted time (and time equals money, remember) by having a single reference point for all their activities accessible via the web from internet-enabled devices at any time. Just as the NEC specialists have established a niche where customers don’t want full-blown document collaboration, ActionHero could establish a market for more generic workflow management where professionals’ emphasis is on enabling the processes not exchanging, updating and storing the deliverables.