I received the latest Construction Industry Computing Association newsletter today. Apart from its publicity for my book, I was struck by a comment from its Major Architects IT Group, which apparently discussed:
"The false impression that extranets reduce the amount of architects’ printing and the growing awareness of the true costs associated with using different extranets on different projects."
I immediately emailed Erik Winterkorn at the CICA and subsequently had a long telephone conversation with him. It seems that the ‘printing’ comment related to some CAD managers’ experience of contractors who still insisted on receiving copies of drawings in paper form (ie: they hadn’t adapted their processes to accommodate an online system – for example, their QA system might still require a signature on an physical A3 copy of the drawing – and/or didn’t want to burdened with the cost/hassle of printing drawings out themselves). In short, this wasn’t so much a complaint about the technology as about the people and processes employed around that technology.
The ‘true costs’ comment seems to reflect some practices’ experience of staff having to familiarise themselves with two or more systems, given that architects’ clients often dictate which system they should use. It seems this issue is made worse by the high staff turnover experienced within many architects’ practices: when extranet-proficient staff leave, suitable replacements have to be recruited and trained up.
The picture painted by Erik’s explanations is much less depressing than that summarised in the IT group meeting notes. But the damage may already have been done. Some readers of the CICA newsletter will be left with the (wrong) impression that there may be no substance to the technology vendors’ claims about drawing cost savings, etc.