Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Newforma Dialog #1 – Part 4: Disaster Prevention and Recovery (PIM and KM Style)

This post is the fourth in an open dialog with Chris Parsons of Knowledge Architecture. Here are links to Part 1: Knowledge management is squishy, Part 2: PIM is like a bunch of boxes, and Part 3: Information Disasters vs. Knowledge Disasters … for reference.


In your latest KA Dialog post, you summarized the challenges we each face as:

Managing information artifacts is a challenge of abundance.
Managing knowledge assets is a challenge of scarcity.

I think we agree that having too much can be as serious a problem as having too little.  Think flood vs. drought, for example.  Or information glut vs. knowledge paucity.  But permit me to tackle the two questions from your latest post head-on….

Question #1 – “Can Newforma Project Center help firms to transform information artifacts into knowledge assets?”

Response - Yes, it can.  Enabling AEC information workers to capture information as it is being created, to organize and classify it as a by-product of creating it, and enabling them to find it when they need it, is a significant contribution to getting more value from that information.  In my mind, that is a significant step toward transforming information into knowledge.  But I emphasized the phrase, “help firms to”, to make a point.  Some in our industry seem to be looking for a solution that can “automagically” render order out of chaos and knowledge out of completely unstructured information.  The fact is that an investment of judgment, abstraction, and synthesis is required to complete such a transformation.

At the end of the day, knowledge is in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps, more accurately, the value of knowledge is in its application, and the application of knowledge is a distinctly human task.  So, at Newforma, our focus has been on leveraging the time, effort and brainpower of the beholder – the person, the AEC information worker - who has to deal with all of that information.  Freeing their time from the grunt work of managing information gives them greater opportunity to synthesize that information, infer the patterns the information reveals, and apply the resulting knowledge to the higher order creative problem-solving challenges they face.

Question #2 – “Could Newforma help firms to prevent knowledge disasters?”

The process wonk in me is screaming that effective prevention of knowledge disasters requires some serious root cause analysis.  But even without that, it is clear from feedback from our customers that they believe Newforma Project Center is helping them prevent knowledge disasters through better management of project information.  Our recent postings of real life customer stories on the Newformant user community website includes several examples where having the right information delivered to the right person at the right time provided valuable knowledge that averted disaster.

Newforma is also helping firms mitigate the consequences of knowledge disasters.  A few months ago, one of our sales team members visited a new prospect, meeting with them in a conference room which was stacked with dozens of laptops and desktops.  It turns out the impetus for the meeting was the prospect’s realization that all manner of critical information was stored on those computers which had been previously assigned to a number of staff members who were no longer with the company.  Assembling all of that scattered information and enabling others to find the information they needed after those knowledge assets had walked out the door was more than ample justification to purchase Newforma Project Center. 

The challenge, as this last example illustrates, is that effective management of project information and institutional knowledge requires some forethought and upfront investment.  Industry leaders invest in people, processes and tools for the long term that are going to build and preserve their core competencies – the elements that truly distinguish their firm and make it unique.  That is why firms like HOK, Perkins+Will and SOM invest in initiatives like buildingSMART, in people like chief knowledge officers and company-wide BIM gurus, in processes that explicitly train their up-and-coming project managers, and lead the way with enterprise-wide implementations of tools like Newforma Project Center.

So, Chris, the question to you is, as you build your business, how are you investing in building KA’s knowledge assets?  Or are the cobbler’s children running around without shoes?



Chris Parsons is founder of Knowledge Architecture, an information systems and knowledge management consultancy that leverages technology to transform business processes and create strategic insights for architects and engineers. Also, Knowledge Architecture is a Newforma Partner proficient in technology audits, business process consulting, implementing the Open Asset digital image library management application from Axomic (another Newforma Partner) and is certified on work-flow integration between Deltek Vision and Newforma Project Center.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

IPD Essentials: Multi-Partner Agreements #2

Further to our discussion below about the role of multi-party agreements in supporting integrated project delivery (IPD), the AIA has just released its new Standard Form Multi-Party Agreement for Integrated Project Delivery (C191–2009)

A description taken directly from the AIA web page listing the IPD Family of Contract Documents reads …..

“AIA Document C191–2009 is a standard form multi-party agreement through which the owner, architect, contractor, and perhaps other key project participants execute a single agreement for the design, construction and commissioning of a Project. C191–2009 provides the framework for a collaborative environment in which the parties operate in furtherance of cost and performance goals that the parties jointly establish. The non-owner parties are compensated on a cost-of-the-work basis. The compensation model is also goal-oriented, and provides incentives for collaboration in design and construction of the project. Primary management of the project is the responsibility of the Project Management Team, comprised of one representative from each of the parties. The Project Executive Team, also comprised of one representative from each of the parties, provides a second level of project oversight and issue resolution. The conflict resolution process is intended to foster quick and effective resolution of problems as they arise. This collaborative process has the potential to result in a high quality project for the owner, and substantial monetary and intangible rewards for the other parties.”

This is an important new choice of contract for project teams that are considering IPD as an alternate project delivery process.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Newforma Dialog #1: PIM is like a bunch of boxes…

This post is a response to an open dialog with Chris Parsons of Knowledge Architecture, started last week.


Thanks for starting this dialogue. Yes, Knowledge Management IS squishy! But the challenge of Project Information Management is like a bunch of boxes…..

I have my own story to illustrate this lesson. It starts out a little bit “out there”, but bear with me; it does lead to an important lesson ….

My wife and I have accumulated a fair amount of “stuff” over the years, much of it stored in boxes, and we have moved around quite a bit, too. Somewhere around our second or third move, we realized that there were boxes that we had moved UNOPENED for the last few moves. We came to an important realization – if we had not opened a box in two or three moves, obviously whatever was in the box was of no great immediate value. Also, the number of boxes that we had, the failure to label them properly, and the lack of organization in how we stored them meant that, when we needed something that was probably in one of those boxes, we couldn’t find it without a lot of effort.

Now, every analogy has it limits, but it seems to me that our situation has great parallels to project information and knowledge management in many AEC organizations. Many firms retain so much information that the only practical alternative for them is to save project information offline in storage (CDs/DVDs in filing cabinets and paper drawings in boxes stored offsite by services like Iron Mountain). Many of those boxes NEVER get opened. And when the information is needed, the number of boxes and the failure to label and organize them effectively means that a tremendous amount of time and effort is required to find the information you need. In essence, all of that information is of very limited, immediate value.

This leads to an interesting potential thought exercise in promoting the value of project information and knowledge management in an AEC organization. I suggest you go back to the CIO in your story to ask, “What would be the impact of your firm losing all of the information associated with any one of your major projects over the past three years?” I suspect he would characterize that as a disaster, right? Then ask a follow-up question – “What would be the impact of being unable to find a key piece of information required to avoid a claim?” or “What would be the impact of hundreds of hours of skilled labor, from a project manager and IT support, required to find the information required to respond to a claim?” If he is honest with you, he will admit that the scenarios depicted in each of the follow-up questions is nearly as dangerous as the obvious disaster of outright data loss.

This leads to “Batch’s Box Theory of Project Information and Knowledge Management” and its corollary:

  • Theory: As the time and effort required to manage and find information goes up, the effective value of the information goes down.
  • Corollary: If you can’t find it when you need it, its value is zero.

We strongly believe in the synergy between what we do at Newforma (Project Information Management) and what you do at Knowledge Architecture (Knowledge Management), because of our shared belief that AEC organizations must manage their project information effectively in order to have any hope of transforming that information into knowledge.

Over to you, Chris!


Chris Parsons is founder of Knowledge Architecture, an information systems and knowledge management consultancy that leverages technology to transform business processes and create strategic insights for architects and engineers. Also, Knowledge Architecture is a Newforma Partner proficient in technology audits, business process consulting, implementing the Open Asset digital image library management application from Axomic (another Newforma Partner) and is certified on work-flow integration between Deltek Vision and Newforma Project Center.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

e-Discovery Resources

In our recent webinar on PIM and e-Discovery, entitled Capturing decisions as they're being made: facilitating e-discovery, I promised to provide links to several information resources that I have found useful on the topic of e-Discovery. Please note that some of these resources require you to register to access the materials, but registration is free at the time of this posting. Here they are:

The Sedona Conference is a nonprofit, “research and educational institute dedicated to the advancement of law and policy in the areas of antitrust law, complex litigation and intellectual property rights.” Their Working Group Series are some of the most readable, authoritative resources on the rapidly evolving area of e-Discovery and many other areas at the intersection of law and technology.

Their Jumpstart Outline is a great warm-up on the topic of e-Discovery; it will either reassure you that you have a handle on your record retention and discovery process, or, more likely, scare the hell out of you and motivate you to invest some time and effort. The outline is a sample of the type of questions your organization is likely to receive in the early stages of the discovery process. I suspect it would be intimidating, if you are not properly prepared in advance.

Other useful resources from The Sedona Conference include:

The Federal Judicial Center is where judges go to learn about this stuff, so it is also a very definitive source. The have many papers and other resources re: e-discovery. In particular, the pocket guide to e-Discovery is very readable and useful.

The Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) graphic shown in the webinar was developed by EDRM which “develops guidelines and standards for e-discovery consumers and providers.”

The websites of dedicated e-Discovery solution providers are also filled with case studies and whitepapers that you may find useful.

And, of course, there is always…

Coming in late October, 2009.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

IPD Essentials: Model-based design

State-of-the-art use of building information modeling (BIM) today encompasses creating a design intent model (e.g. Revit Architecture), a structural analysis model (e.g. Tekla), an energy performance model (e.g. IES), a constructability and quantity take off model (e.g. Vico), a space program model (e.g. Trelligence), a facilities management model (e.g. Archibus), a coordination model (e.g. Navsiworks), and more.

IPD project teams need to embrace the reality and the associated challenges of managing multiple purpose-built building information models (BIMs).

(As a quick aside, the “the great debate” of April 2003, hosted and moderated by LaiserinLetter editor Jerry Laiserin, speculated on the future role of BIM. Wind the clock forward and the vision of a federated project model has prevailed over the alternate concept of a single building model. It is fascinating to observe that while Bentley was promoting the correct vision in 2003, it has been Autodesk that has promoted the most commercially successful product.)

So much has already been written about the now-proven advantages of using BIM that I do not want to regurgitate them here. Suffice to say that BIM and its close relative, virtual design and construction (VDC), are both essential ingredients to achieving integrated project delivery (IPD). In fact, certain IPD contracts actually dictate that the project team must use BIM.

Instead, I want to offer you a different perspective. Adopting BIM is not just about training your staff on how to use a particular BIM system. Rather it is about transforming your firm’s best practices from being drafting- and document-centric to implementing new and still-to-be-refined model-based design processes. What exactly does this entail ? I think as an industry we are all still working out the full meaning of that question, but there are some key lessons that have already been learned that offer great guidance:

  • BIM is not synonymous with IPD – it is only one of 5 Essential Ingredients.
  • Two different approaches – either ‘sharing the model’ or ‘exchanging model views’ – are currently being used each with a different set of pros and cons.
  • The letter “I” is the most powerful part of BIM - should this information be locked into a proprietary file format ?
  • In the world of a federated project model it is important to focus on the purpose-driven exchange of project information between different purpose-built BIMs.
  • Virtual building models allow early prototyping and simulation as additional inputs to the design process.
  • Integrated project delivery remains a function of people, process and tools.
  • Model-based design is not just about geometry, but about arriving at a common understanding of the intersection of disciplines, the interaction of building fabric and systems and the involvement of everyone on the project team.

You are invited to join our conversation as we continue to explore these ideas in future posts on this Newforma Blog and on PIM in the UK, our sister blog authored by Tim Bates.

Monday, September 14, 2009

IPD Essentials: Multi-Partner Agreements

At the 2007 AIA Convention, Jim Bedrick of Webcor Builders, and Tony Rinella, then of Anshen+Allen, delivered what I still consider to be a breakthrough conference session on “Innovative Project Delivery Models.” Together they presented an overview and comparison of the different delivery models being used successfully in other countries such as P3 (public-private partnerships), PFI (private finance initiative), performance contracting and project alliances.

This session was an acknowledgement of the problems and waste in the US construction industry being reported by NIST and a response to the combined voice of building owners who were no longer willing to accept and pay for the litigation, cost over-runs and time delays that result from traditional project delivery practices. Read more on this in our blog entry about how traditional project delivery models have failed, below.

Our extremely fragmented industry has, to my amazement, rallied with a surprisingly unified response with 22 leading industry organizations, (including heavyweights such as AGC, CURT, ASC, ABC, LCI, etc) all endorsing ConsensusDOCS 300 as a new form of IPD contract. Separately, the AIA has published two new forms of IPD agreement – the “IPD Transitional Agreements” and the “Single Purpose Entity (SPE) Agreement.”

From our meetings with Newforma customers, we are also observing a new trend to establish Master Agreements between companies who desire to work together on multiple future projects. The Master Agreement captures all of the terms and conditions, agreed to in advance by both parties, that define a ‘trusted partner’ relationship. The idea being that a short, supplemental agreement can quickly and easily be prepared as necessary to document any other project-specific requirements on a case-by-case basis. Also, based on these Master Agreements, improved IPD work processes can be defined and implemented well in advance of the initiation of a particular project.

What do all these new forms of contractual relationship have in common? Principles include shared risk, shared profit, no disputes, collective obligations, greatly increased collaboration, fast (sometimes unanimous) decision making and everyone being incentivized to attain the design goals of the project. Experience to date (as was shared at the recent IPD Conference) strongly suggests that these principles motivate high performance by project teams, result in a higher quality end-product and generate increased profit for every stakeholder.

Please note, however, that there may also be some potential perils in accepting certain of the contractual liabilities that are contained in these new forms of contract. You should consult your own insurer and legal advisor about how these new agreements intersect with professional liability insurance (regarding negligence) and legal precedent (such as the limited liability of contractors established by the 1918 Spearin Doctrine). An analysis of this intersection by Schinnerer & Company is available here.

Having shared that necessary professional caveat with you, let me now also share my personal view – that Pablo Picasso probably got it right when he said “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” Shocking as it may at first seem, I strongly suspect that it will only be after we let go of legacy concepts like professional indemnity from negligence (in the case of architects and engineers) and limited liability (in the case of contractors) that IPD contracts will fully evolve. Look for future innovation both from Schinnerer (who reportedly is working on a new IPD multi-party policy) and from other insurers (who may offer project insurance to compete).

The bottom line on this topic: accepting greater exposure to risk, and stepping up to be fully accountable for project success as part of a trusted IPD team, can lead to increased reward.

Stand by for our next blog entry in this ongoing discussion, “The 5 essentials of IPD.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Cost of the Status Quo: Traditional project delivery models have failed

The status quo of adversarial contractual relationships, E&OE (errors and omissions exempt) plans and specifications, claims for extras and issue resolution via construction lawyers is captured perfectly by the now infamous ‘change order boat’ image.

But these outmoded practices are slowly being replaced and will (in time) disappear. Little wonder that the use of design-build contracts as grown to more than 40% of non-residential design and construction in the US (up from just as reported by the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA). This reflects the willingness of a design-build firm to take full responsibility as prime contractor for a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) and a guaranteed delivery date along with the risk of significant penalties for late delivery.

Why ? Because owners are no longer willing to accept the finger pointing, risk avoidance, project delays, cost over-runs and litigation involved in traditional forms of project delivery. Witness the industry whitepapers published by CURT (The Construction Users Roundtable) as well as the results of the FMI/CMAA Annual Survey of Owners.

As a result our industry is finally seeking new and better ways to deliver high quality building and infrastructure projects, on time and within budget, more predictably and more profitably.

Leading firms are experimenting with integrated project delivery (IPD) methods defined by the AIA in their publication called “Integrated Project Delivery: A Guide” as: “A project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices into a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste, and maximize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication, and construction”.

For more about IPD as an emerging mainstream project delivery model, also read our blog entry below called IPD: 5 Essentials for Success.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

IPD: 5 Essentials for Success

Newforma helped sponsor last week’s inaugural IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) Conference hosted by Stagnito Media in Boston, attended by about 80 AEC professionals from 24 states.

The aim of IPD is, of course, to change the status quo! An IPD project team strives to meet seven important goals:

  • Deliver high quality projects on time and within budget.
  • Reduce errors and omissions
  • Invest in better team collaboration.
  • Manage more complex projects requirements (e.g. LEED certification).
  • Remove the “litigation phase” of a project.
  • Redefine traditional (i.e. adversarial) behavior.
  • Greatly improve the predictability and profitability of the project delivery process.

Leading up to this event I was privileged to be asked by Brad Horst, CIO of EYP, to join his panel of industry experts to share any observations distilled from the one-day agenda of presentations and informal discussion. Highlights for me were the project case studies by building owners such as Digby Christian of Sutter Health, John Moebes of Crate&Barrel, and Erin Rae Hoffer of Autodesk, who, together with members of their project execution teams, shared challenges and successes from their early implementation of IPD projects.

What I concluded from listening to the keynotes, attending various breakout sessions and engaging in conversation with numerous other participants is that there are (at least) five essential ingredients that must co-exist to ensure the success of an IPD project:

1. Enter into new forms of contractual relationships such as AIA Docs, AGC Consensus 300, IFOA (Integrated Form of Agreement as used by Sutter Health), etc.

2. Use model-based design that employs multiple special-purpose BIMs.

3. Manage documentation, capture decisions, agree on workflows and streamline processes based upon best practices.

4. Focus on more effective communication, team collaboration and information-sharing with full team visibility. (In short, provide transparency).

5. Build a different project team culture based upon a “trust but verify” relationship model motivated by shared risk with shared reward.

It is our intention of elaborate on each of these 5 essential ingredients for IPD success. Watch for future postings!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Cost of the Status Quo: Architects and Engineers waste 20% or more of their time searching for information about their projects!

Shockingly, in meetings with hundreds of firms, the response to this assertion has typically been undisputed or “at least 20%”. That’s one day per week of unproductive time looking for information that is “somewhere on the network”, not finding it and more often than not having to recreate it. The cause is well understood given the sheer volume of information being generated on every project plus the demands of the day job denying even the most diligent project team member the time needed to save everything correctly. Some firms have tried to address this problem by implementing either a document management system (vault) or Sharepoint (library) but very often with failed results. Principles regularly tell me that getting project staff to fill out their time sheets is difficult enough so therefore it is not surprising that they refuse to apply the time and discipline needed to follow the rules of a highly structured filing system or make the extra effort required to add meta-data tags to facilitate easy retrieval at a later date. So what is the alternative?

Firstly, the design process is iterative and the project information it creates is dynamic rather than static. Secondly, every member of the project team (including all of the external consultants) is an originator of different parts of the project data set. Therefore the problem is one of how best to manage unstructured project information which is always being shared and often being communicated on an ad-hoc basis. By defining the problem more accurately, Newforma has intentionally taken a different approach in developing its project information management (PIM) solution. To quote Ken Herold, Chief Knowledge Officer of HOK Architects, “a more pragmatic and much more affordable solution involves simply using Newforma Project Center to index all your project information to enable users to search any project in their office or even across the company wide network just like searching the web. The time savings creates more billable hours on a project or can be spent on other initiatives like being trained on BIM.” HOK deployed Newforma Project Center enterprise wide in July 2007 and continue to use the solution in all 26 of their offices worldwide today.

To learn more about why Newforma is committed to an 'indexed based search' approach to managing project information as the right paradigm for architects, engineers and construction firms, view our recorded webinar “For knowledge mining, reuse or recall – the value of full-text search”.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Cost of the Status Quo: Introduction Procrastination? Hesitation? Fear of Change?

We are all players in a design and construction industry in which more projects are completed late than on time, budget over-runs are the norm and excessive litigation prevails. Add to this the fact that a lot of firms are currently finding it difficult to retain the number of skilled professionals that they need on staff to perform their project responsibilities. Unless you enjoy paying ever higher liability insurance premiums, running jobs that end up costing you money or having even more sleepless nights, then the time has come to change the status quo!

As Newforma pursues its ambition to find new ways to help architects, engineers and construction firms streamline their work processes to increase efficiency and be more profitable, we enjoy the unique privilege of visiting with and talking to many leading firms, observing best practices and learning how these firms are innovating.

As a result, we have been able to identify seven areas where low impact project information management (PIM) technology can be applied to proactively change the status quo in your office; to significantly reduce your exposure to risk; to remove wasted effort; to protect your fee margin; and, to sleep better at night !

Look for seven more blog entries to follow on this topic as we explore the question: Can you really afford to delay being more diligent about managing your project delivery processes?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Alphabet Soup (or acronym hell ?)

Do you get confused or just plain frustrated when you are reading the industry press reporting that AIA, CURT and AGC have formed the 3XPT Strategy Group, GSA has published an IFC based MVD requirement for BIM concept models, NBIMS is adopting IDM, CSI is supporting the IFD Library and promoting PPD, AGC has published agcXML, ICC is developing Smartcodes, AIA TAP recommends using MPS, NIBS is sponsoring COBIE, or by all of the references to IPD, LEED and VDC. If you are an international reader, just substitute your local variations such as Avanti, be2camp,CIB, CRC, etc.

Regretfully, here at Newforma we too have been guilty of speaking in acronyms on occasion. For example, in December 2008 we sent you an email blast entitled “PIM and the DNA for IPD” inviting you to join us for a free webinar …. when what we really wanted to talk to you about was
email management as an integral part of the project delivery process and to show you how firms like yours are tackling out-of-control inboxes to mitigate risk by capturing email decision trails and to improving team communication.

Through this blog we will be making every effort to demystify much of the industry jargon rather than just pile on and add to your confusion. We aim to be diligent about explaining exactly what the most important acronyms stand for, convey a fundamental understanding and provide an informed opinion regarding the importance of the specific project or initiative. As a start down that path, the links provided above (for anyone who wants to take the time to explore them) have been carefully selected to point you to an authoritative source that explains who or what is behind each of the acronyms used as examples above.

If we do err again, please call ‘foul play’ to get us back on track :-)

Friday, August 7, 2009

An invitation to join us in a critical conversation…….

Our industry is facing tectonic shifts in the way it executes building and infrastructure projects. Will integrated project delivery improve on time completion within budget ? Should building information modeling center around one massive model or be managed as a series of special purpose BIM’s ? Can new forms of contract like multi-partner agreements really change the adversarial behaviors of the past ? Which open data standards will prevail to facilitate the necessary exchange of project information? What best practices are being implemented by other firms that will give them competitive advantage? How do you take advantage of new software delivery models ? Are you managing your project information effectively and transparently ? Have you calculated the cost of the status quo ? Lots of issues remain that need to be addressed and resolved over time through healthy debate (no, not the healthcare debate!), bold experimentation, dedicated effort, ongoing perseverance and yes, also some failures.

Our intent in creating this Newforma Blog is to “host a conversation” by industry stakeholders to discuss each of these and other closely related questions that are facing us all. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and posting observations as our contribution to promote discussion and encourage an active dialogue via your comments.

Unlike the discussion forum on our user community site (which by popular demand is both product centric and technical in nature), and unlike our traditional whitepapers (that are both static and only provide a one-way communication), we are adding this interactive blog to explore the business issues, industry trends and technology that will shape new and improved best practices for architects, engineers and construction firms. Recurring themes will include project information management (PIM), integrated project delivery (IPD), work processes that support model based design (BIM), virtual construction, managing a federated project model, the purpose driven exchange of information, open data standards, change management for technology implementation and the cost of the status quo.

Our desire is to both inform and to learn from our mutual exchange of ideas. Ideally our contributions and the comments that they generate will stimulate and expand your thinking and offer you different perspectives and insights. We may even throw in a little controversy for good measure along the way!

So whether you just choose to read our blog postings or join our conversation, thank you for your interest and we welcome your participation.