- Project Life Cycle
- The role of Document Control
- Typical Project Setup
- Project Communications - Internal & External
- Communication Restrictions - Need for EDI
- Document Storage on the Internet
- Extent of the Communication Process
- Using the Internet as a means of Communication
The Life cycle of a Project can extend for many years. Each phase can also last for many years, and can sometimes involve hundreds of people and or organisations. Many of the phases can them selves involve other phases: for example a feasibility study often requires site investigation, which may be coupled with demolition of an existing project.
Every phase requires knowledge of the previous phase. Knowledge is usually in the form of documents - typically record drawings. As a prpject proceeds the number of people and organisations grows, some being involved only for a very short time.
Much of the information may be private and confidential, and therefore not suitable to be help in an accessible system.
Document control within a project is the probably the project managaers most important tool. Every piece of information about every document (incluing the document itself) should be recorded, kept, and indexed.
The number of actual processes within document control is large ranging from the implementation and monitoring of the SDRS to distribution of documents under formal transmital (for drawings, specifications, etc) to circulating minutes of meetings and associated actions, let alone keeping tabs on Request for Information / Technical Queries.
The "engine" which drives any project, and on which successful management depends is document control. The other processes can stand alone and arediscrete.
Almost any project can be described in accordance with the following diagram, whether the "project manager" is working for a client, project manager, construction manager, managing contractor, main contractor, principal subcontractor, or specialist (nominated) subcontractor. Possibly the precise descriptions will vary, but in general terms the project manager will be responsible for communicating either or both "upwards" and "downwards".
The TDOC System is designed to accommodate all of the requirements of any scenario for all participants.
The above diagram can be presented rather differently when the communications are made the main emphasis. Within the green area, there is probably full (network) control, but outwith it, the mode of communications with other people are important. Included within the green area is access to the project information using Virtual Private Networking, and the Internet.
The TDOC System is designed to address the "problem areas". These are defined as the external / internal interface. The requirements of ISO 9001 apply to the management of this interface.
The project participants diagram can be modified to show who has the capability to use the internet. Many organisations have not only differering technical competence in communications, but also IT restrictions, thus requirring that project participants support the use of various methodologies ranging from paper to electronic documents.
The ESSENTIAL requirement is to enable communication WITHOUT increasing the clerical regisitration burden.
The ONLY way for every organisation to maintain their own records, reduce the clerical effort in rekeying to an absolute minimum is to use EDI between systems, ensuring that such EDI is accessible to people with limited resources whether technological or IT restricted.
The Internet Portal is a means of storing a "common copy" of a document remotely both to the person who created it and to those who will use it, (i.e. to whom an "available notice" cab be issued. This is commonly called being "on the internet". Whilst this methodology may suit the client, it is unable to fully "manage" documents for a project in the manner which is required satisfying the needs of every participant.
The following diagram indicates the three main sources of documents with which a project document control office must interface during the construction phase when an "internet based" system is used:
- Client and Design Team,
- The Project Team (at Main Contractor level),
- Sub Contractors and Suppliers,
The main problems of having a "common document" store are as follows:
- Not all documents from every source will be available,
- All documents (from whatever source) are treated evenly,
- Only one "Status" will be evident,
- Control is not exercisable in the terms laid down by ISO 9001,
- Each party must SEPARATELY retain their own registers for commercial integrity, which requires DUPLICATE data entry.
The communication process extends from the client through the various people and organisations down to the people who physically perofrm work on site. All of them need information, although this differing information and at differing times.
The review process itself is most easily conducted on hard copy. Anyone who has tried reviewing a set of engineering drawings from several sources against engineering specifications and standards (often from several sources) without the aid of yellow stickers and a felt pen or similar will comprehend the problem.
Once a review has been conducted on paper it is often best to keep it that way, minimising the summary comments that have to be written down (either on paper or electronically).
Even if there are no comments, viz the document is "Approved", or given "Status 'A'", this information must be formally passed to the organisation requesting the "Approval". This is best done electronically over the internet using web based technology.
When there are comments and an electronic version of the document is available for markup, then it can be marked up. What is important is NOT to return the marked up document, but to return the "MarkUp". Markup tools such as Bluebeam allow the export of a MarkUp which can then be returned. Where several MarkUps are received, these must be coordinated by importing all of them, and creating a single MarkUp for eventual return to the organisation originating the request for approval.
The internet provides two solutions to the "problem areas" rather than making it more complex. However the right infrastructure needs to be in place. The Internet can be used either to provide a two way direct secure connection to send and receive information to people who are NOT CONNECTED to your Local or Wide Area Network or single way communication by using emails either directly generated or from HTML forms.
Communication - using a Virtual Private Network over the Internet
The following diagram shows how the Advantage Client Server engine which is used to link several TDOC System users together on a network, can also be used with the Advantage Internet Server, to link other users who are on the internet directly into their data.
Transmission Security is provided by encryption of the information by the database engines, and connection security by passwords and firewalls etc. The TDOC passord will ensure that people connected may only carry out the tasks allowed when they log on.
Communication - using Email with EDI (and FTP if needed)
This includes Correspondence (normal emails), EDI forms such as Technical Queries (EDI format generated from Internet "Forms"), Reports (in HTML or PDF format), and Transmittals (transmittal documents in PDF form with the electronic documents all as attachments to the email or moved by FTP as appropriate).
The communications are one way and one at a time: documents and transmittals etc can be both sent and received. Unless EDI is used, the registration information must be rekeyed.