July 07, 2008
Newforma Release Enriched by New Partnerships
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Newforma Release Enriched by New Partnerships
By Susan Smith
Project information management (PIM) joins the ranks of acronymed solutions available for managing the large volume of disparate information critical to architectural and engineering projects.
Noteworthy in that category is Newforma Project Center Fifth Edition project information management solution from Newforma. In a conversation with Ian Howell, CEO and vice president of product management Bob Batcheler, features of the new release were discussed. Newforma’s support for the contract administration (CA) phase, which expands the ways in which external team members can collaborate via Newforma Info Exchange, introduces new and unique capabilities for project monitoring. The Fourth Edition was known for its email management, search and transmittals management which Fifth Edition builds upon.
The core mission of Newforma has been to look at customers’ work processes, which require the usual prerequisites of saving time and improving productivity. After using the product, now customers are giving feedback and report significant savings.
In the past year, Newforma has not only attracted an impressive customer base but also a number of resellers and systems integrator partners. They have over 17,000 seats under license, with customers indexing 49,000 projects. 47 of the top 200 A/E firms are using Newforma products. These relationships enrich the functionality of the Fifth Edition release.
Newforma is working with integrator partners Deltek Vision, Sepialine and Oce. From those associations, Newforma is being referred to their customers for workflow integration. Reseller partners include Smart Software in Australia and New Zealand, the AMR Group in Canada, and some others to be announced.
“We are an ISV partner with Deltek, and we integrate at several levels because typically a lot of AE firms already have their projects set up with Deltek,” Howell pointed out. “They assign project numbers and project team numbers so we have a basic level of integration that’s all visible to Newforma. When they use the project planning module in Newforma to set up project milestones and breakdown structure, that’s now also importable to Newforma and visible, combining business and project process. We’re building the bridge between what was a back office view, how much of my fee is left, to the front office view, for the remaining fee and where am I in terms of project status,
Since SharePoint is a common tool used on a number of customer sites, it made sense for Newforma to offer high value educating customers to what they can develop in a SharePoint environment along with all the dynamic project information and iterative design process information they can manage in Newforma. Newforma Fifth Edition recognizes SharePoint libraries from search capabilities and has visibility to project logs, project wikis and project sites built on SharePoint.
With Sepialine, Newforma has worked to establish smarter defaults so that when somebody does something that’s potentially reimbursable on a project, Sepialine’s Argos cost recovery software works with the current cost recovery software from Newforma to establish the defaults for billing and cost recovery.
Oce’s client tools product embodies drawings from various authoring systems and creates plot ready format for reproduction. “We’ve created an integration between Newforma Project Center and Oce Publisher where you select the drawings you like to create in plot ready format in Newforma Project Center where you have access to all your information. Those drawings are automatically dropped into the Oce Publisher environment for processing by the plotters, and the resulting plot ready formats are recorded in Newforma Project Center as a record copy of what was sent to the repro shop or the in-house device for plotting,” said Howell. This system offers a nice traceability of what was
sent to whom for what purposes from Oce Publisher. It also allows you to preview the plot ready format.
The three primary feature enhancements of Project Center Fifth Edition include the following:
Streamlined contract administration
The new contract administration (CA) module in Fifth Edition features improved support for managing submittals, email management search and support for logging and tracking of requests for information (RFIs). Bob Batcheler said that email management search and transmittals are the origins of savings reported by customers. In the new release, a submittal or RFI can be generated from an incoming email in Microsoft Outlook, received via Newforma Info Exchange or entered into the RFI activity center. RFIs can be logged, assigned, tracked and captured in reports.
“We have greatly enhanced the Info Exchange server capability in the Fifth Edition, offering the ability to be able to publish project folders, publish a project calendar and give visibility to external team members to logs of such things as action items, submittals and RFIs,” said Batcheler. “We’re putting a lot of project information that we’re managing behind the firewall in a mode where it is published and visible to an extended team on a selected basis.”
Sharing information with external project team members
Combining business and project process is key when sharing with external project team members. Newforma Info Exchange now supports external team involvement featuring action items and the sharing of updated project documents via the Project Folders activity center. Project team members can post a file folder to Newforma Info Exchange, then designated external team members will be notified about the file folder, and can respond or upload their own related files. The idea is that both internal and external team members can work with a common operational model, seamlessly republishing and receiving revisions.
What happens on a project often differs from what the project plan is, in terms of unforeseen changes in design, working conditions, or costs. The new My Project Center dashboard and Project Timeline functionality in Fifth Edition allow AE firms to monitor everything about their projects – offering a risk mitigation strategy which provides visibility to information for better management decisions, which Newforma calls ‘project monitoring.’ By being able to see when project activities are not going according to plan they can decide how to respond more quickly. The addition of the integration with Deltek Vision software adds project financial and planning data that integrates
technical project information for project managers.
An important function of Newforma is the ability to be able to extend BIM by being able to compare views of the model, and compare submissions from consultants. Some of this functionality was already in the Fourth Edition but it has been enhanced in the Fifth Edition to include enhancements to My Project Center, the product’s project monitoring capability, and the new project timeline feature which integrates back to Deltek Milestones where the project plan is created.
“We’ve extended BIM support significantly to include markup review sessions, mostly for conflict resolution,” said Batcheler. “If you find a problem in the model, there’s a whole workflow in terms of how to resolve that in conjunction with your consultants in terms of what needs to be changed. None of which gets done by any of the BIM systems, which is added value by Newforma in addition to new project integration features.”
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