In my last-but-one posting, The Social Construction Project, I promised to provide a worked example of how to socialise a construction project extranet to the benefit of those involved. So, here goes:
I am going to use IBM Connections as my example for customisation, but I am sure you could adapt these ideas for any social business solution.
In the Model 1 diagram above I show that the main areas concerning a construction project can quite easily be implemented in Connections:
- Change Management is probably one of the most complex but can easily be standardised into the main workflows the project needs based on common definitions agreed by the industry itself.
- Drawings fits easily into the Files area. Uploads, downloads and all that good stuff are handled easily by Files.
- Standard work procedures in place in the project, such as health-and-safety details, contractor inductions, etc would be placed in the Wiki.
- The Site Diary, a record of what has happened on the site can easily be implemented using a Blog.
- The two distinct groups I discussed in my earlier post, the design team and the contractors would be managed through communities. As the main contractor you’d be a member of both communities. Anyone else, often including the client, would only be a member of one of the communities as well as all the “public” information.
For a much larger project, such as one with multiple sites or very complex requirements like multiple buildings, a bigger model is needed. Importantly, however, many organisations who would really benefit from a social business project management tool do lots of small jobs. Implementing Model 1 would quickly become unmanageable for their requirements, so I propose for these situations, Model 2:
Key to deployment of this kind of structure is the ability to template a community so that it appears each time with the same structure, of course!
Finally for an extremely large construction project, like the stadium in London for an upcoming sports event, we might consider using an entire instance of IBM Connections to host the system:
Without turning this into a shameless sales drive for IBM Connections, its worth considering Model 3 for a moment and the implications for the IT infrastructure you would deploy.
Running a project like the Olympic Stadium generates enormous amounts of data. Leaving out the drawings, can you imagine the amount of documentation which would be associated with such a project? Getting some proper advice from who is going to run a social solution like this is vital to ensure that it operates trouble-free throughout the life of the project. IBM Connections runs on IBM WebSphere and as such can be scaled horizontally and vertically – in some situations where individual applications (such as Activities) are hosted and clustered on individual servers. In this way the IBM big-iron approach allows you to be confident your system won’t let you down. My point here, to quote Steven Covey, is “Start with the end in mind”. Connections lets you scale up so, think about it!
So what might this look like in IBM Connections? Well, first off the Community can be set up as follows:
Change Management, the management of changes on the job, is one of the most tricky parts for any computer system to handle. It’s easy enough to prepare a system which provides workflow, but to put the ability to tweak that workflow into the hands of the end users whilst maintaining oversight and control is more difficult, especially for systems which set out to be glorified web based file systems. Thankfully, as you’re probably expecting by now, we have an excellent platform in the shape of Connections’ Activities. I have waxed on about Activities before, but here’s my flowchart with swimlanes to show how it would be set up:
In the screenshot below, I show a particular change request, SI-0019-20, Removal of Retaining Wall, which started life as a Request for Information. This is automatically linked (using the Social Business Toolkit) to the new Site Instruction which is where the main contractor tells someone on site to do something.
Through the use of Activity Templates Site Instructions, Requests for Information and all the other types of change processes can easily be handled.
One other quick point to make – criticism of online systems for construction often centre around the need to be able to record who received drawings. In the old paper world a Transmittal Sheet would be used as a kind of manifest for the drawings being sent to the recipient.
This can easily be achieved using Activities again, providing a template for the transmittal and attaching to the activity bookmarks to the drawing files which the recipient is to get. IBM Connections keeps track of who downloaded the files so you also have a record to prove someone has the information they are supposed to have.
I hope from this brief tour of building a Social Construction Project you can see that even the most complex requirements can be addressed in a system such as IBM Connections. The benefits of sharing, networking and discovering I discussed in the Social Construction Project blog entry are real and I hope that this article has given you some inspiration to give it a try.