The latest version of Collabor8online, the UK-based, online project management and document sharing system, is helping architects to manage the huge volumes of information on today’s construction projects.
Projects start, drawings are issued, things change, drawings are amended and reissued. The cycle continues until the project is completed. Given that change is inevitable, how best to handle it? A formal drawings issue procedure and process is obviously a good start, always knowing where the latest document is, what the revision contains and perhaps most importantly who it has (or has not) been issued to. Online document project management systems obviously help, and Collabor8online includes a useful automatic revision control system that not only increments document versions but keeps a copy of all previous versions in case there's ever a need to revert.
Perhaps even more useful is the activity audit report, which records which users have or have not downloaded documents, removing the ability of contractors to claim: “I didn't receive that amendment”, when in fact they did. It certainly helps that you can tell them which user login they used, and at what time and what exactly they downloaded.
Recent enhancements have gone further, not only can users now comment on drawings and documents but those comments can be e-mailed to form a correspondence thread contained within the project folder online. E-mail integration ensures that replies from Outlook, Mac Mail, Gmail or others will automatically be threaded back directly into the project correspondence folder. So, all of the project correspondence is recorded online and in the open. Vital issues are no longer left buried at the bottom of somebody's inbox.
In addition, files may be attached to those e-mails and form part of the “conversation" surrounding the documents. Firstly, a new document/drawing is published and attracts comments from team members. Those comments can be supported by attached documentation, or even amended drawings which will be visible as part of the “conversation" thread. Whilst these comments and contributions may (or may not) be welcomed, system permission levels ensure that only authorised team members are able to reissue drawings and consequently increment version numbers. So, the system allows administrators to view comments, take them on board and then incorporate them into document revisions in a structured and orderly way.
Further enhancements include the ability to allocate tasks or “To-do items" either as personal memos or to other team members. “To-do items" can also be commented upon, or supported with file attachments; target completion dates can be included in the system and can even issue warnings or alerts as deadline dates approach or are missed altogether. In this scenario, the system can be configured to “remind" users that deadlines are approaching, and escalate those warnings (to include supervisors or project managers) if those deadlines are missed.