9 Feb, 2006 By: Joe Croser Cadalyst

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses ProjectWise to improve communication and data management.

Why work like a team?

This question may seem ridiculous, especially for the Cadalyst readers who would struggle if not part of a functional team. Projects are rarely completed by one consultant or by one company or even by one team. The USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) knows this fact all too well.

In October 2003 the USACE issued its final report on sweeping process improvements and organizational changes. Through its 2012 transformation program for the 21st century, it would improve its service to the nation by becoming a team of teams that operates as one Corps with synergistic relationships and efficient communications across all teams and all projects.

How Will the USACE Work Like a Team?
The requirement to communicate more effectively led the USACE to evaluate ProjectWise, Bentley's integrated suite of file and data management collaboration servers.

As M.K. Miles, P.E., L.S. of the USACE, explained: "One of the tenets of the Corps' 2012 Initiative is to be more businesslike. For engineering and construction this means working virtually. We learned quickly that sharing engineering design information electronically required a powerful collaboration tool -- like ProjectWise. After a few successful prototype installations and our recently signed Enterprise License Subscription agreement with Bentley, we are now implementing ProjectWise across the Corps to manage both our civil works and military design mission projects."

So, precisely how will ProjectWise serve the business needs of the Corps and enable the virtual working environment?

Combined, ProjectWise and MicroStation make one platform for distributed workflows, collaborative design and synergistic construction and project management. The platform facilitates the concept of one Corps by promoting mutual interdependence throughout the organization by having the right information in a reliable state for autonomous decision making.

Accessible Data
As the Corps has devolved responsibility to regional business centers, the management of project data and the need to make the data available to a distributed team has increased. They have a clear need for a district repository of engineering information with local access in the field and central administration. The ProjectWise integrated suite of collaboration servers was designed with this scenario in mind.

For instance, ProjectWise caching servers increase file access speeds by an order of magnitude when located in a satellite office -- since "chunky" data is stored and accessed locally, while any changes are silently replicated around all caching servers. At the other end of the spectrum, when out in the field with nothing more than a connection to the Internet, a user needs to easily and securely access relevant project data for review, markup and amendment. In ProjectWise V8 XM edition, this need is served by integration with Microsoft's SharePoint Portal Server providing anytime, anywhere access to the same project data as the rest of the team.

Another key endeavor within the 2012 initiative is the concept of communities of practice, which are intended to enhance learning from within. According to the USACE, these communities will not have functional boundaries; instead, they will require unencumbered access to all relevant project data on an as-needed basis.

In MicroStation V8 XM and ProjectWise V8 XM editions, Bentley is introducing a new technology called Distributed DGNs, which enables MicroStation users to concurrently share files from within ProjectWise and make independent changes to the same file. When both users have completed their changes and they each send those changes back to ProjectWise, a change manager can accept or reject design changes and conflicts in a single file when returned from many sources. In this way, the engineers are never constrained by the boundaries of the ProjectWise projects or the MicroStation DGN files.

This need for the removal of functional boundaries in the field is reinforced by the many competencies required to participate in a USACE project. As the current USACE vision statement makes clear, the Corps is building one team that must be relevant, ready, responsive and reliable. ProjectWise will serve these objectives in the following ways:

•Relevant -- If a specific piece of project information is not relevant to the project, then what happens to it is irrelevant. Naturally, if a piece of information is relevant, it is essential that it is accessible from anywhere, protected from malicious or accidental loss, and stored in a format that can perform a plethora of functions. ProjectWise's file management and security model enables users to version and group or archive project data as required to guarantee that what is relevant to a user is visible to the user.

•Ready -- The USACE needs to launch a project and draw on experience from around the globe in a heartbeat. ProjectWise V8 XM edition incorporates project templates so that replicating existing processes, existing user accounts and security permissions, as well as deploying entire project standards, are now just a few clicks away-- which means the Corps can roll out a new structured project in a matter of minutes.

•Responsive -- When the nation calls, the USACE responds. Any technology infrastructure relied upon by the USACE must underpin this need. Users need to access information upon request, not an hour later or a day later, as every second can make a difference to life or death in times of natural disaster or conflict. ProjectWise's network of caching and automation servers will ensure that the engineering platform is as responsive as its users and they can find files within seconds requesting them.

•Reliable -- As Lt. Gen. Carl Strock stated, "You can count on the Corps to do the right things and to do those things the right way." ProjectWise will provide a reliable environment within which the USACE can collaborate to do the right things. The addition of structured projects will help the USACE to also do things the right way. ProjectWise V8 XM can operate in a clustered-server environment so that the configuration of a large number of servers can ensure that the failure of one is protected by the continued and trouble-free operation of the rest, resulting in 24/7/365 system reliability.

The USACE 2012 initiative is designed to deliver better projects in a more energy- and time-efficient manner for less money and in a more secure environment. All of this relies upon making considered, informed decisions and getting things right the first time. Working as a true connected team will help the USACE achieve its goal, and using ProjectWise in concert with MicroStation will help the USACE deliver on its promise to the nation.

About the Author: Joe Croser

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