Take the nightmare out of managing your email

August 11, 2010

Newforma Project Center’s interface allows users to track individual words across any project or across all messages a user has received. It also allows easy viewing and markup of CAD and image files.

A EC firms are under enough pressure without having to worry about losing important emails in the overflow of information flooding their offices.

That's the threat Chicago-based A/E firm OWP/P was feeling a few years back. “Email felt like the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” said CIO Joe Talamantez, affecting how the firm managed RFIs, project submittals, and task tracking. “It was such an important part of our day-to-day operations that it had to be addressed.”

In searching for a solution, however, Talamantez said there were a lot of products that focused on contractors, not on architecture and engineering firms, while enterprise content management solutions like EMC Documentum were pricey and not a good fit. After spending weeks trying to develop his own program, Talamantez met a fellow IT head at a large-firm CIO roundtable who introduced him to Newforma Project Center, a project information management (PIM) product developed specifically for architects and engineers.

OWP/P started using Newforma in its Chicago office in late 2006 and has since rolled it out to 320 associates in Chicago and Phoenix. Project Center indexes project information from existing assets, such as Microsoft Outlook and company servers, rather than requring a separate and additional document repository.

Respecting the “little quirks” that every AEC firm has in its project information processes was a concern Newforma had to address, says Bob Batcheler, VP of product management. “It had to be the light touch: 'Don't make us abandon applications we already use, don't change our workflow,'” he says.

Newforma Project Center works from a server installed next to the AEC firm's central server and automatically indexes and categorizes all project information so that it can be easily accessed, managed, and searched. There is no need to move files to specific project folders or add tags to them—the indexing system automatically keeps track of which documents belong to which project.

For project-related emails, Newforma created plug-ins to Microsoft Outlook that let you save incoming and outgoing emails with their respective projects with a single click. The application can also mark up drawings and snapshots of 3D models in its built-in viewer, manage and track issues to resolution, and create and manage document sets, submittals, and transmittals.

Newforma's user interface resembles a Web page with a “My Projects” list at the top and a project tasks pane on the right rail. The My Projects list automatically includes each project you're working on. Powerful column filters let you further narrow down project information.

By clicking one button in Outlook a new project message is added to Newforma Project Center. The program's powerful search function can be filtered to check for words used in emails from a single project, all your projects, or all of the firm's projects. All filed messages can be accessed by the whole Building Team. Newforma Project Center eliminates duplicate messages that multiple team members might save, thus saving storage space.

The search function searches not only message content but also the content of attachments and XREFs. Filters can search only a message's header information for faster searching. All prominent AEC file types are supported by Newforma's viewer. DWG, DWF, Microstation DGN, 2D and 3D PDF, and PLT files can be viewed and marked up in the viewer; indexed attachments are all readable by Newforma's search function.

Newforma CEO Ian Howell says he wanted the application to be the Switzerland of PIM platforms—completely neutral. “Everyone can mark up and view messages despite different workflows, be they Bentley, Autodesk, or other formats.”

Talamantez said Newforma was used on six projects in the Chicago office last year. Based on those results, he felt confident rolling out the latest version (4.0) firmwide, including IT admins, accountants, marketers, and HR. “Marketing is using it to view jpegs for project materials, and IT is using it to create Help Desk tickets,” he said. “It's provided all the tools we need to work together.”

Perkins+Will and HOK have also deployed Newforma firmwide recently.

To see a case study from HOK+Sport of Kansas City, go to: www.newforma.com/_docs/HOK_SVE_case_study.pdf


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