Making collaboration work

Catching up on my web-browsing over the weekend, I came across an August 2005 Cadalyst article by Michael Dakan describing lessons learned on implementing collaboration systems on US projects. Some key points:

  • Many of the problems are not technology issues at all, but rather basic people issues and human relations management problems.
  • For … collaboration systems to be effective, they must achieve universal participation. If people can bypass the system and fall back on old paper document management techniques … the system will lose much of its usability and effectiveness.
  • An effort must be made to eliminate paper documents ….
  • … with collaboration systems, every effort needs to be made to achieve 100% utilization as quickly as possible.
  • the elimination of “wet signature” approvals and documentation of legal requirements
  • … include adequate training prior to implementation and the inclusion of requirements for use within contract documents.
  • The one overriding ingredient … is achieving good “buy-in” by the users of the system.

To reiterate the opening point, "as is often the case with technology, successful implementation comes down to basic management issues rather than actual technology difficulties."

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Busy at Bricsnet

No fewer than three major announcements from Bricsnet last Thursday:

I wonder why they made three apparently significant announcements on the same day? Were they perhaps trying to get a big a PR splash as possible, so that the new CEO and team could be seen to be hitting the ground running? Maybe they wanted to avoid awkward questions about the old management team and the need for additional money (perhaps significant: the Bricsnet site has no archive of old releases about the company’s past exploits)?

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Datum International

By coincidence, this morning I opened my print copy of Information Age then read the digital version of Microscope. Upon reading the letters page in the latter, I experienced a strong sense of deja vu. Sure enough, Les Paul, CEO of enterprise content management specialist Datum International, had sent essentially the same letter to both publications and get himself, his company name and some good points about home working into print (good PR, Les!).

"Documents are automatically saved in the central repository, providing accurate version control and visibility of contributors. This eases the collaborative process and ensures every team member is up to date on the status of a project and has easy access to indexed, categorised information. Critically, the entire home working contribution is audited, providing management with a clear view of the equality and timeliness of work undertaken by the remote workforce…."

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Autodesk DWG TrueView

AECnews gives news of a new free, downloadable DWG/DXF viewer from Autodesk. Users may well baulk at a 100MB download and then find it difficult to use – according to Randall Newton, in Autodesk’s features comparison table, “Easy to use interface” is not checked for DWG TrueView! Honesty or an oversight?

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Internet ‘fundamentally changing’ UK businesses

According to, the web is transforming traditional business practices as UK firms increasingly use technology to communicate and transact online with customers and suppliers.

The e-Value Matters report, from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and sponsored by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), says it is the "end of the beginning" of e-business in the UK as automation of processes evolves into more fundamental transformation of business practices. The CBI press release gives a bit more detail of the report’s highlights, noting "e-business has continued to move out of the IT department, up the corporate hierarchy and into the business mainstream".

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Having got my head round Wi-fi and VOIP, I now find that the two can be combined in VOWLAN: Voice Over Wireless Local Area Network.

We can expect the number of businesses using this technology to triple by 2007, says Good headline, but the research was focused on the US, where penetration could reach 31% in another two years time.

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Not THE Paul Wilkinson? (2)

As if to underline that I am not the only Paul Wilkinson, my publisher Taylor & Francis forwarded a letter from the British Library asking me to confirm my full name and date of birth. My daughter Frankie was impressed that a copy of the book is going to be held for posterity (though slightly puzzled by the idea of a library which doesn’t lend books).

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NCCTP Conference, 15 November

Since 2000, Emap’s construction publications group, with marketing director Ross Sturley at the forefront, was an active promotor of extranet technologies in the UK construction market, particularly through its various conferences. Now that the NCCTP has begun to mature, it has started to promote its own events. The first NCCTP Conference will be held in London on 15 November, but Emap clearly remains a friend – its ConstructionPlus website events listing gives the event some welcome additional publicity.

I am looking forward to the event. It has moved away from being a platform for vendors to promote their software to being an educational event aimed at improving understanding of the technologies and – in particular – the people and process issues (I will chairing one of the sessions on legal issues). The afternoon sessions on collaboration in other industries (in this instance, aerospace) and in other countries (the USA) should be particularly fascinating.

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IT departments doomed?

In the ‘Future’ chapter of my book, I mused on the future of the in-house IT department – echoing comments made months ago by columnist Peter Cochrane. Today, a item reports that Gartner is also making similar predictions. We are about to enter a period of radical change for IT departments, Gartner says, which will see "at least three-quarters of IT departments change their role with 10 per cent completely disbanded and 10 per cent relegated to commodity status."

This news may be welcomed by some AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) people, who often have a very dim view of the capabilities of their in-house IT people. Too often, they are regarded as obstacles which have to be won round to new innovations (such as extranets, for example), rather than being facilitators looking for solutions to improve the process of delivering modern projects.

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Wi-fi cities

A BBC article Wi-fi cities spark hotspot debate talks about US cities which are planning to offer low-cost or even free wi-fi services to their citizens just like other utilities such as water or electricity – but big business is ganging up to prevent this threat to existing telecoms businesses. I like the notion of providing free access to low-income households (currently often excluded), to support new businesses, etc, but surely the major telecoms corporations will try to offer competing broadband solutions that offer higher bandwidth but at a cost – effectively maintaining a technology gap between rich and poor.

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