Our wish for everyone is a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012!
In a recent Lifehacker post, “Email Folders Might Actually Decrease Productivity; Just Search for Old Messages Instead,” Whitson Gordon summarizes the findings elegantly:
The problem, IBM says, is that people are relying too much on their inbox to show them their to-do list. In the end, though, finding those emails by digging through folders took 58 seconds, on average, while merely searching for them took 17 seconds.
The advantage of searching for information instead of browsing for it goes way beyond saving 41 seconds. As the report says, searching can make the difference between success and failure:
Did a reliance on folder-access predict success, or was search a stronger predictor? We found that people who relied on search were more likely to have successful finding sequences (r(356)=0.15, p<0.005). None of the other behaviors [folder access, sorting, and scrolling] correlated with success.
We would go a step further and say that not only is search a superior finding strategy for your own email, but it’s your only hope when looking for email or other project information filed (or misfiled) by team members.
As Newforma’s Bob Batcheler put it:
It doesn’t even begin to address the cost of trying to find stuff by relying on a filing system when someone has MISFILED the item you are looking for!
Read the research, “Am I wasting my time organizing email? A study of email refinding,” at the website of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Here is a sampling of some of those comments:
“I have used Newforma in my previous office. I would like to introduce it to my new company.”
“The previous company I worked for uses Newforma and I thought it was an amazing tool.”
“I used Newforma with my previous employer and think that it would be helpful here.”
“My previous firm implemented NewForma. [At my new firm] I was asked to suggest a document management system [such as] Primavera Contract Manager. After hearing more of their wants and needs - I knew Newforma was the answer.”
And my favorite: “I used Newforma at a previous firm and miss it terribly...”
One of the key metrics that we track in our subscription-based business model is the number of customers who renew their subscriptions year over year. I am proud to share that number; it is 99%. However, it is even more gratifying to hear someone say, “I wish I had Newforma software again!”
Naturally, we’re happy to do all that we can to make sure that everyone gets to use our software.
Why start with Android? Newforma Vice President of Customer Satisfaction and Construction Solutions Dan Conery answers that question and others in a quick conversation.
Q: So, why release on the Android platform first?
Dan: We knew an application for disconnected information capture at the jobsite would require apps for both the Android and iPad platforms. Since this is our first solution on the 10.1 inch form factor, we wanted to make sure we nailed it before we scaled it. So we had to select one to start. Two reasons drove the decision:
Q: So, you plan on support both iPad and Android?
Dan: Of course, one cannot be serious about supporting our industry and not support both of these platforms.
Q: Why would the camera resolution matter?
Dan: After talking with several of our existing customers, pictures came up over and over again as a critical component of a Punch List solution. You know the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”? One senior executive with extensive field experience told us that he wanted to be able to read the label on an electrical outlet on a picture of an entire wall. This expectation means camera resolution is important.
Q: Will Punch List work on a phone?
Dan: Our first release will not scale down to the phone. It quickly became clear that access to the floor plans and detail drawings was an important part of the punch process. Trying to review a floor plan on a phone is not a good experience. The 10 inch tablets are a perfect combination of mobility and screen resolution.
Q: Will you be releasing phone applications in the future?
Dan: We will evaluate all form factors: phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop, as we continue to develop field solutions.
Q: So, when will the iPad version of the Newforma Punch List app come out?
Dan: Although it is too early to provide a specific release date, I can tell you we are already in the development process with our iPad solution.
Q: What has the reaction been so far in our early testing of Newforma Punch List?
Dan: Better than I could have imagined. In field tests with one of our early customers, their informal comment was that they were moving through a building with our Android tablet app twice as fast as they were using their current electronic punch list process.
Q: How do you compare yourself to other Punch List solutions on the market?
Dan: We went for simplicity. As with all of our solutions, folks like to use them because they are quick to learn. It takes less than 30 minutes to get up and running, and that includes the time to learn how to use the tablet.
Note that experts in digital asset management – DAM – treat it as a broad-based term applicable to all digital files, not just to pictures and videos. This perspective is not surprising, given that all people understand the importance of their work more than the world usually does.
Term No. 5: “document management” is really “digital asset management”
Paper-based definition: “Document management” was really about keeping track of all project documentation (e.g. drawings and specifications) through basic workflow management. Documents were worked on sequentially. People took turns revising drafts of letters and issuing updated copies of plans.
Digital 1.0 definition: Workflow engines captured the rules set to govern the linear sequencing for handling paper-based documents. However, because businesses must constantly adapt to changes in staff, priorities and external forces such as economic conditions, rules often become obsolete as quickly as they’re formulated.
Digital 2.0 definition: Databases allow information to flow between people and departments as needed, without the restrictions of a strict sequence. The term digital asset management, which until now has been relegated to the management of images and video files only, actually deserves a much larger definition. This macro definition of digital asset management encompasses all of the knowledge captured in the firm’s global repository. Use of this knowledge evolves as the business evolves.
Collaboration is essential for society to move forward. So says Matt Ridley in a Wall Street Journal article From Phoenicia to Hayek to the ‘Cloud’ this past weekend (http://t.co/QC3sSxEs).
Here’s a little piece of what he had to say:
“Human technological advancement depends not on individual intelligence but on collective idea sharing, and it has done so for tens of thousands of years. Human progress waxes and wanes according to how much people connect and exchange.”
Whenever merchant ships plied the Mediterranean Sea in past eras, the entire region prospered. But when trade was disrupted due to marauding pirates or the Dark Ages, social progress faltered and often even moved in reverse. The self-isolation of China and North Korea contributed in no small part to their people missing out on revolutionary developments that swept the rest of the world.
Sure, this is an oversimplification. Bubonic plague and brutal political regimes certainly play key roles in these historic shifts. But haven’t you experienced this idea firsthand when a workgroup comes up with an idea that none of you could have dreamed of alone? The organic interaction of teamwork and the contribution of each person’s knowledge create something larger, something inherently more valuable than any solitary effort.
I am reminded of efforts to trap “corporate knowledge” inside Lessons Learned databases, or to lock up project information in tightly-controlled ERP systems. In this article, Ridley refers to economist Friedrich Hayek’s theories when he says that central control of knowledge is futile because true value is found in “a distributed and fragmented system of localized but connected knowledge.”
This is an apt description of Newforma Project Center. NPC is an unobtrusive tool that helps teams find the knowledge that already lives within the interactions between team members: email conversations, design evolution contained in updated drawings, decisions recorded in meeting minutes. The information may be dispersed around the network in various formats, but NPC can find it and show the context that gives it value. Newforma Project Network takes this discovery a step further by facilitating the connections between the companies that form the full project team.
Cumbersome, structured document management systems are destined to drain the life out of project teams. We need to let our project information breathe and give our teams space to interact and connect.
Then we can trust Newforma to be the tool that explores "the space between." Between our companies, between our people, between our brains--this is where the magic takes place!
The key to recycling knowledge in a firm, then, is good search capabilities – and the habit of using them to seek not just what you’ve forgotten, but what you never knew! Doing so could help you win more than bets.
Term No. 4: “central filing system” is really a “global repository”
Paper-based definition: The central file was the place office librarians created to store anything and everything that came their way. Once filed, information was unlikely to ever again see the light of day, because so few people knew where the information existed, and it was hard to retrieve if you were anyone other than the librarian!
Digital 1.0 definition: To replace the central filing room, document management systems create digital vaults – highly structured electronic filing repositories – to store corporate information and control access. Users were required to follow strict filing hierarchies to allow information to be retrieved when needed. The firm’s knowledge was safely locked away!
Digital 2.0 definition: Good search trumps good filing. When you have flexible tagging and index-based search capabilities, anyone in the office can – and will – benefit from the collective knowledge of your organization by searching a global repository for whatever information they happen to need at the moment, just as they might ask a colleague, “What do you know about this challenge I’m facing?” Importantly, information is no longer restricted to those who already had knowledge of it. Instead, it benefits everyone in the organization and can be re-used to help advance the business.
“In our projects today, so often teams start out as complete strangers...and finish as perfect enemies.”Is it possible that we could structure our projects differently to deliberately create a less adversarial environment?
Paper-based definition: A project folder originated as a manila folder that served as a single location in which to aggregate any and all information that pertained to a specific project. Hard-copy duplicates were made when information needed to be used for different purposes or by different people.
Digital 1.0 definition: Digital files are saved in an electronic folder with, not surprisingly, graphic icons that look like manila folders! As with paper-based information, digital files require correct filing for future retrieval. Typically, far too many duplicate copies of those files exist in multiple locations on the company’s computer network.
Digital 2.0 definition: The project repository embraces all project information wherever it resides, whether in drawings, documents, emails or their attachments. Using project information management (PIM) technology, people who need subsets of information from the project repository can assemble collections of project-related files in “virtual” folders. SOM has adopted a PIM solution that supports this concept of virtual folders in the form of document sets.
This expanded thinking is highly utilitarian in an age when project teams and the files they’re manipulating are scattered across time zones. A project repository does not depend on physical colocation.
Note the last sentence above: “In order to capitalize on the new possibilities at hand, we need to start thinking of a file as being an ‘intelligent container’ – an intelligent file – rather than a specific document type.” Doris is saying that the language we use to describe something influences the way we use it. Do you agree?
Term No. 2: “document type” is really an “intelligent file”
Paper-based definition: Documents were all on paper and their “type” was defined by the role they played. Quick notes to share with offices or teams were memoranda. Correspondence with clients and external team members took place via letters. Drawings on large sheets of paper were plans.
Digital 1.0 definition: First-generation digital files mimicked their paper origins, replacing letters with DOC files, memos with e-mails, drawings with DWG files, and so on. These file types were still defined by their purpose and output, because most often they would be printed or plotted.
Digital 2.0 definition: Intelligent files are complex file types which accept embedded file types such as pictures, tables, nested drawings or hyperlinks – even movies! Architects can embed specifications, material types and properties inside a drawing file, engineers can assign values and embed calculations. In order to capitalize on the new possibilities at hand, we need to start thinking of a file as being an “intelligent container” – an intelligent file – rather than a specific document type.
Term No. 1: “archive” is really “business records”Makes sense, right?
Paper-based definition: “To archive” information is to sequester it, out of the way, in storage. Paper files were typically shipped in boxes to an off-site location. Retrieval was manual and very time-consuming, hence seldom done.
Digital 1.0 definition: Stored files are recorded on back-up tapes or burned onto digital media, and filed in a cabinet or off-site location. Same process as before, but different (magnetic) media.
Digital 2.0 definition: Business records are kept spinning on storage disks, indexed, searchable and instantly accessible.
Nearly 14 months ago, Laura and I welcomed our baby daughter, Elena, into the world. Elena was born with a few minor complications and spent a brief period of time in the neonatal intensive care unit at Elliot Hospital in New Hampshire. During that time, I felt the world had stopped and the only thing I wanted was for our baby to be healthy. We were fortunate because Elena fully recovered and left the NICU after only a few days. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about the parents and children who spend their days, weeks, months, and even longer in this environment.
“Every one of my project managers has their own spreadsheet for planning and managing their projects.”Newforma Project Analyzer solves these problems and more! Here are some of the key features and benefits of the Newforma Project Analyzer:
“I know the information my project managers need is in our financial system; I just wish they could get to it in real-time to use it more effectively as they are making decisions.”
“We make money on 80% of our projects, but that 20% is killing us!”
“There is no standardized way to review and assess the health of each and every one of our projects on a regular basis.”
“Our billing process always bogs down in the project managers’ review of invoices.”
“Why can’t every job be as profitable as the projects done by Jim’s team? How can we replicate his process?”