Monday, October 18, 2010

SharePoint and Newforma Project Center: managing information, curating knowledge

Part 2: Why not use SharePoint to manage project information?

A conversation with LMN Architects Director of Information Technology Tim Rice, AIA

Read Part 1, "What's the Difference?" here.

Note from Allen Preger, a Newforma founder and the company’s chief product officer
“After talking about the different applications for Newforma Project Center and SharePoint in our last blog post, I asked LMN IT Director Tim Rice why he isn’t using SharePoint for more functions.”

ALLEN PREGER: With its flexibility, why hasn’t SharePoint been adopted for project-specific information management or collaboration?

TIM RICE: There would be way too much overhead involved in making SharePoint dynamically flexible enough to manage project-specific information. To give you an idea, we have over two terabytes of active, project-specific data currently being manag
ed by Newforma Project Center. This data all resides in project-specific file shares, which, by the way, supports the way our teams work with CAD, BIM and other graphics-intensive tools to create all that information. I couldn’t fathom changing the process by which we manage the project information we create and consume.

Conversely, we currently manage less than one gigabyte of data on our SharePoint site. As a 100-person professional services firm, I don’t see how we could support scaling our SharePoint site to manage all of our project-specific information and processes. While Microsoft is to be commended for designing SharePoint to be highly-customizable, thereby providing a high degree of flexibility, someone has to provide that customization. It’s a great collaboration platform for ad hoc sharing of project knowledge, but I could never imagine building out SharePoint to support the file types and work flows of our industry.

ALLEN: On the topic of collaboration, have you considered using SharePoint as a project portal for external clients, consultants and agencies?

TIM: As I mentioned, we like the way SharePoint fosters internal collaboration,
but I would not be comfortable opening it up to external companies and trying to manage permissions and accounts.

Out of the box, Newforma Info Exchange does everything we need it to do in terms of file transfers and collaboration with external teams.

We have over 1,900 external Newforma Info Exchange accounts, each one created and managed through Newforma by our users. External team permissions and notifications are all handled by Newforma on a per-project basis. Password generation and reminders are all automated. I can count on one hand the number of times I have had to walk someone through the process of adding a team member or downloading information from the site.

Managing 1,900 external SharePoint accounts would be a logistical challenge, to say the least. And even if we could administer this, I am not sure how we would provide the 1,900 SharePoint client access licenses (CALs) for these people.

Click to read Part
1 of this conversation, “What’s the difference?

LMN Architects Director of Information Technology Tim Rice, AIA, has been an architect since 1979, managing CAD and IT systems since 1988. He has provided firm-wide leadership for the firm’s BIM initiative and is responsible for implementation and integration of new technologies into all aspects of LMN project delivery. LMN has been a Newforma customer since 2006.

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