A/E/C SYSTEMS Teams with Project Extranets
by B.J. Novitski
For years we've been told that fragmentation is one of the greatest problems in the architecture/ engineering/ construction industry—and that computer technology could solve it by giving us a common language and interchangeable data models.
Indeed, the recent, phenomenal emergence of project extranet technology promises more hope for improving communications among professional firms, builders, and suppliers. But for now, the reality appears to be different: the biggest technological irony, as evidenced at the A/E/C SYSTEMS Show last week in Washington D.C., is that the bewildering array of extranet companies—170 according to one survey—symbolizes the very fragmentation they're designed to solve.
Although there were fewer than 170 extranets on display at the Show, there were enough to continuously prompt the question: how can we differentiate between them well enough to make a choice? An unwillingness of the companies to agree on standards that would support comparisons has increased the confusion. However, a few guidelines may help distinguish between them for first-time buyers.
Distinguishing Between Systems
For example, do you want to buy, rent, or build? Purchasing software gives you in-house control—and in-house management headaches. Renting a remotely hosted service is easier, but puts your data on the same servers as the data of your competitors; building your own system requires a good deal of technical expertise but, despite the many commercial offerings, is still being done at some A/E firms.
At his talk at a concurrent conference sponsored by Zweig White & Associates, Inc., architect Ken Sanders, of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership in Portland, Oregon, suggested looking at a company's origins to discover its strength of emphasis. Cephren and Buzzsaw.com, for instance, focus more on communications between architects and engineers during design, while Bidcom and Constructw@re are stronger during construction.
Ideal Scanners & Systems, provider of large-format digital imaging systems, has announced DigitalContainer™, which gives remote teams browser-based quick access to large digital drawings from any platform, regardless of connection speed.
Photo: Ideal Scanners & Systems
Formerly known as Blueline Online, Cephren is designed for collaboration, project management, and procurement throughout design and construction.