Fewer limits but more challenges

By Denise Harrison

The Brooklyn Museum of Art is in the middle of remodeling with an international project team in New York and Japan. To avoid downtime in communication and collaboration, the museum designers and architects are using Cubus Corporation's ReviewIt Internet collaboration software. The project work continues nonstop throughout the day, throughout the week: designers in Japan pick up where designers in New York leave off, and so on until the project is completed. ReviewIt is helping more than 10 firms collaborate on the Brooklyn Museum project.

When Charles Schwab was building offices across the United States, they wanted their own facilities group to manage construction. But they wanted to avoid exorbitant travel fees while maintaining a very active roll in every stage of the process. They used BidCom for online plan mark-up and


  • Does it have checkin/checkout?
  • Can you set permissions?
  • Can you view the revision history?
  • Can you automatically notify participants of revisions?
  • Can you conference, i.e., work on the same document at the same time?
  • Does it support all the file formats you use?
  • Does it provide and autofill standard industry forms?


centralized workflow based documents and completed their project on schedule and under budget.

"I'm quite impressed with this early generation of project website software," says Kristine Fallon, FAIA, of Chicago-based Kristine Fallon Associates Inc. Fallon, whose company provides computer consulting to design and construction companies, says she tried to set up an electronic communications system for a large design team in the early 1990s but the ramp up time was huge. "Today you can pick a service be up and running in a few days."

Even though she's a fan, Fallon says she sees two areas where use of the technology falters.

"I haven't conducted any detailed studies about this but anecdotally, you hear people start a website then discontinue its use," she says. "Part of the reason is that people can't be bothered understanding that they're going to do something differently--not doing something different--doing something differently. So that's one issue."

Another she says is making sure the team uses the system as the single source of information.

"If people aren't posting to the site promptly, or if they bypass it, it becomes redundant and a chore rather than a tool, that's a major organizational issue. Another is that people who aren't in control of the site might not trust the site, and they'll sometimes keep a second set of controls. With these redundant sets of controls, the site again becomes a chore. These problems have nothing to do with how good the technology is."

She says these problems have nothing to do with how good the technology is,

Kari Johnson, vice president of marketing for collaboration technology company Motiva, believes the Internet is driving the trend toward working in a distributed manner.

"Instead of everyone in one building, you may have design teams quite distributed internally, employees spread around the world, or a supply chain of 15 suppliers you always work with but a pool of 100 that you might," she explains. "Collaboration becomes a huge challenge. But it can be turned into an advantage if you do a good job of it. Motiva provides solutions that help them work together in a combination of collaboration and workflow so that they can produce the best products and take advantage of the best of a virtual community.

Johnson was recently on a panel discussion regarding collaboration and one trend that was clear was the pressure from the market to be sure the technology companies not only manage the initial design but the lifecycle of the information as well.

"If you build a building and continue to maintain it, change is going to occur," she says. "There might be changes to the structure, the electrical might be updated or moved and so on.

Hugh Ritchie, industry manager for process manufacturing for Filnet, a Web content management technology company, agrees.

"I've heard from some incredible ROIs thrown out that were astounding as far as the kinds of saving available through this kind of collaboration," he says. "They are also improving the way projects are handled and delivered, and the way information can be handed to the owner/operator as turnkey. That information is then viewed as an asset to the company--a tangible asset with attributable money to it."

He says that if the information is then kept up to date and shared with the A/E/C, they can avoid the cost of going back to see if they are starting out with validated data.

"That's a shift that's representing a huge cost savings to the industry," he says. "Collaboration has a lot of layers to it but the general theme is recognizing that all information has a lifecycle and during its life, it was shift from the A/E/C to the owner/operator and back to the A/E/C."

Collaboration Websites are hot, and more are popping up every day. Here are some you can see at AEC Systems 2000.

Denise Harrison is Producer of and a feature writer for Digital Media net communities..