Asite has introduced Asite Workspace, a personalised collaboration tool that is low cost, easy to use and ideal for feasibility stages of a project - as 3DReid have found out
If you have ever visited Gibraltar you will have either spent a couple of hours lined up at the border control, or dropped into its airport. Either way, you will be familiar with the tarmac strip that cuts across the isthmus that separates the Rock from its Spanish neighbour - the road to the town runs right across it, and you have to wait whilst the various military and civilian aircraft have finished using it! As the Rock of Gibraltar is an increasingly popular tourist attraction the air terminal needs updating, and 3DReid has been given the project.
3DReid was formed after the merger of Reid Architecture and 3D, in the process becoming one of the UK's major architectural forces. To assist them in answering the need for collaboration during the early stages of the construction project, the company chose Asite Workspace, an entry level project management tool from Asite, launched in January 2007. Asite is better known for its advanced collaboration tool, Asite Project Workflow. It was felt that at such an early stage in the project, the cost and features of more advanced tools were not justified. Speaking to Tony Ryan, Chief Executive Officer at Asite, I asked why companies would want to use a low level solution at an early stage in the process, and why they should not dive straight into the more advanced solution? Tony explained that many of the rich set of features that you get with Project Workflow, used for some of the largest construction projects currently underway, are not necessary at the early stages of most projects, and that Workspace, a personal tool costing no more than £25 per month for each licence, and based on web collaboration, can handle all of the requirements of planning, design and sourcing.
What's more, when the actual construction part of the project gets underway, it can be used to export all of the data accumulated to the larger application. Architects typically produce significant quantities of drawings and documents which need to be shared and reviewed with colleagues and planning authorities, even at the feasibility stage, and before a project has been won (and afterwards, as well, for facilities management). Designing on a speculative basis, with no certainty that the funds will be available to run a fullscale collaboration solution, forces them to keep overheads to a minimum for each project. The problem with that, is that all of the drawings that have been produced at the feasibility stage have to be incorporated into the collaboration solution being used at the Build stage, on a retroactive basis - a complicated process with many documents having to be sorted, discarded, linked to the main application - and so on.
Asite Workspace alleviates the problem. It is a low cost and easy to use solution, providing users with personalised workspaces - hence the name - where they can keep all of their data in a secure area, which they can use for a number of different projects. As the planning of a project develops, they can invite other people into each Workspace, creating Group Spaces for each project. Using Workspace, architects will be able to keep records of all documents and drawings and their audit trails created from the beginning of the project, and access the data on the move. If they need to go to planning meetings they will have access to all current work, without having to trawl around with a selection of drawings and documents (which, according to Sod's Law, will be the wrong ones, anyway!).
If the project subsequently requires the use of more advanced collaboration tools, the documents can be simply transferred to Asite Project Workflow. Significant savings can also be made against normal printing and postal costs, usually incurred at this stage of a project, by using Workspace to give collaborators access to the same drawings and documents, which they can draw down from the website, and view and mark up, using standard mark-up and annotation tools. They can also use the software to print documents and project information drawings as required, in batches. As part of the Group Space attached to a Workspace, the supply chain can also keep a record and audit trail of all documents created from the beginning of the project including legal documents, contracts, estimations, planning information and feasibility options. Key information about the project can also be accessed for facilities management.
Keeping it as simple as possible, Asite have laid out 6 quick and easy steps to project collaboration. First of all, you have to assemble the team - this involves nothing more than sending an email and inviting someone to join your secure Workspace. The second stage is to upload and share the documents you have with the team you have assembled - thereafter notifying each one of them when new documents that they will need to see have been added to the Workspace. The fourth step is the location and viewing of documents, held in a secure, central, document store, using WorkSpace's efficient search technology, using an Explorer-style folder structure, and upload and view the documents in up to 250 different file formats, using Asite's Brava viewer, preparatory to discussing and marking them up online. No additional specialist software is needed, only a unique log-in, PC and Internet connection, and no need to change existing work practices.
WorkSpace comes with additional benefits, including the ability to eliminate the duplication of documents, and to ensure viewers see the latest version of documents by means of version control. Collaboration is not specific to the construction industry, and Asite Workspace could be used effectively in other spheres of industry - perhaps even publishing (now there's a thought!). WorkSpace is a powerful tool for small scale projects. Once you embark on the Build side of a project, sending round RFIs and other heavy duty stuff, then you will need to upgrade to Project Workflow.
WorkSpace allows users to obtain overviews of all projects from a central projects summary, and to track the progress of projects using its reporting capabilities. Data can be linked or searched for between projects, with transparency across all applications. Security is provided by unique log-in user names and passwords, with secure communication transmission, using https, and data hosting that uses a highly secure infrastructure.
THE VALUE OF COLLABORATION
Asite delivers complete and flexible solutions at every point in the supply chain, enabling the whole enterprise to work more closely together, using the company's product portfolio, which includes a range of tools for collaboration, trading and sourcing. Their solutions provide key decision makers with clear visibility of their project portfolio, increasing levels of communication and, most importantly, full auditability. By allowing architects and planners to increase control over projects, they can deliver improved productivity, reduce project risk, develop stronger trading relationships with their suppliers, and enhance the management information they can get out of the project. Asite provides all the necessary training and support to ensure users make the most of their investment, and, with many years of experience in the business, with customers at both ends of the scale, can make sure their solutions fit your needs and that they fully understand how to exploit their capability.
David Chadwick, Editor, Construction Computing magazine.