Extranet puts a new face on existing applications

Service consolidates the many applications used by Building Teams into a single point of entry

June 01, 2003 |

Today's design and construction firms are faced with the problem of working with different applications and services for different projects. Sometimes the owner has standardized on Meridian's Prolog, for example, while the construction manager may use Primavera Expedition. Add up the expense of installation, setup, licensing, and training, and throw in the many extranet services that are in use to today to enable Building Team members to collaborate, and you have a major mess on your hands.Because many of these applications and services are already entrenched in firms and practices, it would be beneficial if an independent party could take all these solutions and integrate them into a single-source solution. One such company, New York-based Cram Group, provides such tools to integrate software solutions for the construction industry. The Cram Group believes that A/E/C firms should be free to choose the solutions that are best suited for their needs. The Cram Group's job is to make these solutions work together as best as possible for their clients.

The firm currently supports Prolog Manager & Prolog Website by Meridian Project Systems, Expedition and P3 Scheduling by Primavera, and ProjectWise by Bentley Systems. The Cram Group consolidates these and other applications into a seamless single point of entry so that they all work together on a project-by-project basis.

The firm also provides the infrastructure to host these applications on site or at a secure hosting facility outside the client firm's office, thus alleviating the responsibility of managing and supporting these systems. This reinforces the ultimate goal of collaboration throughout the design and construction process for all Building Team members.

The key to this concept lies in the Cram Group's ProjectXnet Portal, which provides secure, centralized Web-based application and content access to all Building Team members. The portal manages security levels and provides time tracking, task management, discussion forums, and document management from a single secure source. Since the Cram Group maintains complete control over the applications databases, applications can be customized to achieve a certain look. Client firms can even brand their firm names throughout the system, so that it appears to be their product, not some third party's.

Writing the report

The Cram Group provides another feature that continues to be lacking in many solutions: reporting. Although Web-based reporting is an important tool for analyzing and managing project histories and resources, paper-based reporting is still essential for true success on a project.

Cram Group's report writer, Global Reporter, is based on Crystal Reports and is simple and easy to use. Once you log into the system, it takes just one click to pull up a "favorite" pre-configured report. Default reports include Open RFIs, Contact Lists, Contract Summary, Change Order Summary, Shop Drawing Logs, and Submittal Logs, but reports can be generated for just about anything from the project databases.

Jordan Cram, principal for the Cram Group, says ProjectXnet simplifies the user experience by: 1) providing access to key project reports within two or three mouse clicks; 2) maintaining client branding, 3) enabling modular and scalable solutions, and 4) removing complex IT burdens and proprietary vendor restraints.

He says a solution can be deployed and tailored to the client's image and specifications "in a matter of days," incorporating the client's chosen best-of-breed project applications. This outsourced service allows Building Teams of all sizes to have powerful Web-based project management and controls solutions. Such solutions historically have been the domain of only the largest construction firms. All project members benefit — company staff, building owners, consultants and subcontractors.

Recently, the ProjectXnet portal has been used to satisfy Hensel Phelps's project extranet requirements on Wedges 2-5 in the Pentagon Renovation Program. Here, the Cram Group deployed its portal solution running Prolog Manager and Prolog Web site.

For the New York Times Company, which is currently in the design phase for its new headquarters building in Manhattan, the Cram Group is using its portal to deploy Prolog Manager & Website, ImageSite's eQuroum, and Bentley's ProjectWise.

Integrated Construction Enterprises, a Northeast construction firm, has been using ProjectXnet to deploy Prolog Manager & Website, in addition to the full suite of Primavera's P3e/c product. "Having the burden of systems management removed, we are focusing solely on our GC and CM core competencies," says CEO Sid Raman. In the near future, he expects to roll out client access to project reporting and scheduling for job order contracts at key government facilities, specifically the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

For more information on the Cram Group, visit www.thecramgroup.com or www.projectxnet.com.

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