This paper sets forth the basic conceptual and methodological differences, and highlights the implications of each type of solution: it starts with a description of each type of system, and ends with a table of comparisons.

Contents 


About Cooperative Systems

The following diagram shows the principal movements of technical documents in a simplified manner from Project Manager's perspective. There will be several design team members (who may communicate directly between themselves), several specialist subcontractors (including suppliers) providing detail design, as well as subcontractors executing work to drawings and specifications.

Co-operative Document Movements

ItemComment
Concept

In a cooperative environment, each party is responsible for their own document control, that is to control the documents they possess, whether these be their own or other peoples which have been received.

Each of the other parties is responsible for maintaining their own records, and will generally use a cooperative system as well. Thus a project manager is responsible for managing the contractors under his direction. This diagram can be separately applied to each of the parties.

Each parties document control system is operated independently, and in accordance with each organisation's own quality management system.

OperationDocuments are transmitted together with relevant information and appropriate instructions all contained on the transmittal documents including any return forms where necessary.

In an electronic communication, the transmittal documents will include "originals" in a format such as pdf, as well as HTML forms for reply actions, and EDI for import by the recipient.
ISO9001:2000The requirements of ISO9001:2000 specify that the "owner" [viz the organisation who created or received and forwarded the document] of a document is responsible "for issuing documents and, when a document is revised, to those persons to whom such documents were previously issued". There is no requirement of global project distribution, just to the next in the chain.

Much discussion has taken place over the years to clarify the position with documents published in many countries ranging from standards such as Canadian Standard Z299 to in house manuals from forms such as Spie Batignoles (ISBN 0 333 37067 8).
Data IntegrityAs the integrity of information in any system relies on the "document controllers" to enter it correctly, and as they have full ownership of the system, including responsibility for maintaining it, the integrity of the information is high.

Application software is offers a very high level of data validation, which removes the possibility of simple mistakes being made.
Inter CommunicationCommunication with other parties may take place in a variety of modes:
  • Other cooperative systems - Formal Transmittal (pdf format) with EDI,
  • Other parties who have access to the internet and email - Formal Transmittal (pdf format) with html forms for reply,
  • Parties who do not use the internet or email - Formal Transmittal with forms for reply all on paper.
DistributionWith the use of printers for paper, and emailing of electronic documents, with html forms to enable EDI replies, distribution becomes extremely fast and easy in any combination of modes simultaneously.
Data Entry SpeedThe speed of data entry in an application is very fast, based on a combination of a high level of defaults, with high data validation, and high speed selection browses which keep the user fully informed with non disruptive messages.

Documents can be scanned or received electronically and attached to the database in a variety of ways from "direct scanner operation" to "drag and drop" to "location of document".
Document TypesDocuments are handled differently according to their type - viz the industry standard "ways of doing things".
  • Technical Documents
    • Generated Transmittal Documents
    • Generated Reports
    • Documents Registered and Managed
  • General Documents
    • General communications from letters to emails, and forms, etc
    • Specialist handling of forms such as Requests for Information or Technical Queries
    • Miscellaneous Information including Contacts, Minutes, Record Diary, Snagging (Inspection), Timesheets, and Events
Reports and EnquiriesThere are two types of question that are generally asked:
  • The quick question - e.g. was document 'xxx' issued to person 'abc' ?
  • The analytical question - e.g. how many (and which) electrical drawings for the fourth floor are awaiting approval, and how long are they overdue, by the architect ?

These are answered in two ways

  • Tree View drill down
  • Selective reporting specifying complex criteria
Scalability and SuitabilityCooperative systems can be configured in a number of ways, and as long as they use an appropriate scalable database are suitable for projects ranging in size between a few parties with a value for a few thousand pounds, to huge projects involving hundreds of firms with values in the hundreds of millions of pounds.

Smaller projects will not even require the Client Server Database Engine, relying on the inbuilt "Local Server".

Cooperative systems are thus suitable for almost any type of organisation from major property owners and managers to main contractors to specialist subcontractors and design teams of any size.
Portability: Archive and RestoreThe ability for a user to compress and store data, transfer it, and uncompress it allows portabilty. The back up media that can be used ranges from DVD's to Tapes.
SecurityApplications have two levels of security: first that provided by the user pc and network which requires a name and a password, and second that provided by the application.
IT SupportThere are two levels of support:
  • Installation and upgrades
    • All users must use the same version. The application itself ensures this.
    • The Client Server Database Engine is installed in a few minutes
  • System Management
    • Users requires no assistance
    • The Client Server Database Engine does not require maintenance.

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About Collaborative Systems

This is a much simplified diagram of the principal document movements. There will be several design team members, and several specialist subcontractors (including suppliers) providing detail design, as well as subcontractors executing work to drawings and specifications. The view is of "the project".

Collaborative Document Movements

ItemComment

Concept

In a collaborative environment, each party uploads their own documents, and notifies the other parties who they think will need them of their existence.

If any party wishes to maintain their own document control, and if they wish to control documents which are private then this means that they have to run their own document control system, and enter all the information twice. Many organisations with a design capability will use software for document production, which has some form of document registration.

The project document control operates without cognisance of the quality management system of any party.

OperationDocuments are NOT transmitted. The recipient is advised and must download the correct revisions of the notified documents.

Some systems enable reprographics, with the reprographer making a physical distribution. The necessary instructions and other information and forms must usually be separately communicated.
ISO9001:2000The requirements of ISO9001:2000 specify that the "owner" [viz the organisation who created or received and forwarded the document] of a document is responsible "for issuing documents and, when a document is revised, to those persons to whom such documents were previously issued". There is no requirement of global project distribution, just to the next in the chain.

Much discussion has taken place over the years to clarify the position with documents published in many countries ranging from standards such as Canadian Standard Z299 to in house manuals from forms such as Spie Batignoles (ISBN 0 333 37067 8).

Collaborative systems are wholly unable to comly with these directives.
Data IntegrityAs much of the data has to be double entered, viz read from the users own system and copied into the collaborative system, two problems arise: first is improper copying, which second leads to inconsistencies between the two systems which the user has to maintain.

Web based software is unable to offer acceptable data validation, and thus allows mistakes to be made.
Inter CommunicationCommunication with other parties may only take place through use of the system, and thus makes communication with parties who do not have adequate infrastructure difficult, resulting in incomplete records being available.
DistributionDistribution is not handled adequately, except for primitive distribution of paper prints via a third party reprographer. Instead of a formal distribution, and electronic notification is made pitting the onus on the intended recipient to download the relevant revisions of the notified documents.
Data Entry SpeedThe speed of data entry is relatively slow as the database server must rewrite and retransmit the users interface page every time that data is entered.

The attachment of documents is laborious and slow as each document must be uploaded rather than linked. There is no facility to view the proposed attachment for verification purposes before upload.
Document TypesAll documents are handled similarly. Generally a "work space" for each document category must be established, as opposed to categorising documents. The special processes pertaining to some types of document is not easily catered for, with work flow type arrangements being set up for others.
Reports and EnquiriesReports and Enquiries are treated similarly by reviewing the appropriate register. Thus getting the answers to quick questions becomes a laborious and sloe exercise. It is generally not possible to raise complex selection queries.
Scalability and SuitabilityDue to the cost of collaborative systems, they are only affordable on major projects. Thye are thus unsuitable for all of the users projects.
Portability: Archive and RestoreIn general terms archiving and restoring are not activities which can be carried out by the user.

Thus some one preparing claims cannot take a copy of the data for analytical purposes.
SecurityPortals and other web based systems have only one level of security. There is thus a continual need to keep on changing user's names and passwords
IT SupportThere are two levels of support:
  • Installation and upgrades - The only need is to ensure browser compatibility.
  • System Management - This is remote and handled by the company operating the portal.

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Comparison of Systems

Item Cooperative Systems Collaborative Systems
Concept Proven, and in use by the majority of the industry. Heavily marketed, but NOT in common use despite promotion by the government.
Suppliers Tend to be small vertical market software companies with a strong survival rate. Some five firms in UK. Tend to be relatively short lived, large companies with a "dot com" image. Continuous mergers with new entrants to the market, following the pattern of EDM suppliers.
Operation Simple, understandable, usable operation which meets the requirements of most common forms of contract. Complex operation which fails to perform all the tasks necessary to run a project, and requires special terms added to every contract in an attempt to make the users respnsible for errors as there is no overall system ownership.
ISO9001:2000 Meets and exceeds the specified requirements. Ignores the basic requirements (and user's quality system requirements), obtaining exemption through the use of a "project quality system".
Data Integrity Very High Low, leading to subsequent construction problems.
Inter Communication Very High: every party has the ability to communicate to the best of their ability. No one is excluded. Low, can only communicate two ways with other system users, ignoring the smaller subcontractors and suppliers who are necessary to, and form the bulk of, any project.
Distribution Excellent, with means of minimising reprographics, which in itself removes a major cause of disruption. In general terms, each user has to obtain their own documents.
Data Entry Speed Very fast and easy. Relatively slow
Document Types Every type and in every form - paper or electronic. Electronic only, and limited to those for which the browser has in built support.
Reports and Enquiries Very fast for simple enquiries, with the ability to generate hugely complex exception reports. Poor reporting facilities, with no facility for generating complex exception reports.
Scalability and Suitability Any size of project, for any type of user. Major projects only, suitable only for main contractors or project managers.
Portability: Archive and Restore High Not possible by users
Security High Low
IT Support Modest when upgrading software. Very Low

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Other People's Business Process's

GeneralAs can be seen from the document and information flow diagrams for both Collaborative and Cooperative systems, there is an interaction with the business process's of those who generate technical documents (often known as deliverables).
DeliverablesDeliverables are generated by tools such as CAD Systems, which often include integrated design applications.
RepositoryThe management of the deliverables in their raw state (i.e. CAD Files and any associated data files (often known as XREF's) is a complex matter, and is unsuited to management using either an EDM system, or a (Collaborative) Portal. The reason for this is simple: neither EDM systems nor Portals were ever designed with this end in mind.

The process of creating deliverables ends when the deliverables are turned into a form suitable for prpject management purposes viz: printed on paper or held in an unchangable electronic format such as a pdf (recommended).
Project ManagementThis is the process which then manages the deliverables (transmits them and possible receives back comments etc). It also includes all the associated project information such as Technical Queries regarding the deliverables, and planning (the date for their delivery, etc).

To make the most of such a tool, electronic documents and electronic communication (i.e. email) is required.
CostsThe use of paper is expensive both in cost of reproduction and clerical handling, and should therefore be minimised.

The concept of the "paperless office" is not possible, but the use of paper can be minimised. There are a number of things that can be done:
  • Keep deliverables (technical documents) in an electronic format for as long as possible. Only print prior for review or use.
  • Generate transmittal documents as pdf, and retain in an electronic format as long as possible.
  • Transmit both technical documents and associated transmittal documents electronically.
  • Include with these EDI to enable the recipient to import the data without the need to rekey it.
  • Generate associated correspondence in an electronic format, and use "HTML forms" to generate and transmit documents wherever possible.

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