Newforma Adds Mobile Functionality, Revit Connectivity, and Contract Management3 Mar, 2011 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson
New modules extend reach of Newforma Project Center Eighth Edition, the company's core project information management solution.
For AEC companies still working to regain stable economic footing, is now the time to be investing in new software? For many, the timing couldn't be better. In fact, some technology — if it can help a smaller staff be more productive; help reduce mistakes, scheduling slips, and cost overruns; or help improve customer responsiveness — could be just what the doctor ordered for staying healthy in today's business climate.
Newforma believes its project information management (PIM) software is one such solution, and recently announced not only a significant upgrade to its core product, Newforma Project Center, but also three new add-on modules designed to help architecture, engineering, and construction firms optimize work processes that require integration with BIM (building information modeling), increased mobility, greater transparency, and improved accountability.
Newforma's PIM solution now includes:
- Newforma Project Center Eighth Edition. This latest version includes new features for managing document control, actionable meeting minutes, project images, Microsoft Office Excel reporting, remote access to project files (even from an iPad), and more.
- Newforma Mobile. This new product module brings PIM functionality to any smart phone equipped with a mobile browser, including iPhone, Blackberry, and Android mobile devices.
- Newforma Add-in for Autodesk Revit. This new module connects spaces and elements from within a Revit Architecture, MEP, or Structure building information model to related project processes for document control, punch lists, room information management, design review, and more.
Through the Newforma Add-in for Autodesk Revit, project information from Newforma Project Center can be synchronized with and displayed in the Revit building model, permitting, for example, a color-coded display of open punch list items as a view in the Revit model. (Model provided courtesy of HOK, Inc.)
- Newforma Contract Management. This new module provides a comprehensive platform for tracking construction phase and contract administration workflows, including those for RFIs, submittals, change orders, addenda, supplemental instructions, bulletins, punch lists, and more.
Newforma Contract Management is an optional module of the Newforma project information management (PIM) solution that supports contract and document change management during the construction phase of an AEC project. Shown here: the RFI activity center.
Bob Batcheler, Newforma vice-president of product management, commented about the new Contract Management functionality. "We previously had the capability to originate, track, and review RFIs and submittals … but what we heard from our customers is they really need something that's going to take them all the way through the different elements of contract management during the construction phase. We've incorporated a lot of customer feedback with respect to submittals and RFIs, as well as building out the ability to track document changes … all those things that are used in the field to capture and communicate changes in construction documents. We've done all this in a way that we believe supports all the various players in the construction process."
Newforma Mobile, Newforma Contract Management, and Newforma Add-in for Autodesk Revit are optional add-ons for the core Newforma Project Center product.
The new PIM products are not the end of the story, reports Newforma CEO Ian Howell. "As we go further down the path this year, we have a couple other tricks up our sleeve — additional products that are also coming — so our PIM solution will grow to being more comprehensive as we add even more capability between now and the end of the year," he said.
What's New in Project Center
Newforma Project Center Eighth Edition incorporates additional capabilities and customer-requested enhancements for managing key project information and further streamlining project delivery. The new version updates the Info Exchange file transfer server and View/Markup functionality and adds several new features, including Document Control, Meeting Minutes, Project Images, Spatial Index, and BIM Activity Center. Highlights include the following:
- Document control. A new Document Control activity center enables AEC project teams to standardize revision management of record documents issued for review, permitting, and construction without disrupting existing document filing protocols. Document control can be used to manage sheet sets from Autodesk Revit as well as related project processes such as action items, markup, RFIs, and change orders.
Batcheler explained, "We've always rejected the document management label because traditional document management has always been too inflexible, too rigid — all kinds of things that have made it largely unsuccessful in the AEC space. What we heard [from customers] is that they want a degree of control over documentation as it’s issued at critical milestones and also in the field during the construction phase. … We realized that the sharing capabilities that we had built into previous versions of Newforma Info Exchange only took them part way there. They wanted in addition to that to know who got what, when."
- Actionable meeting minutes. A new Meeting Minutes activity center — "the most requested update by our customers," Batcheler said — simplifies the management of agendas, minutes, and follow-on commitments associated with project meetings to keep project teams focused and accountable for project priorities. The Meeting Minutes activity center links meetings scheduled in Microsoft Outlook with related action items and supporting documents and tracks action items, RFIs, and other open project items across a series of meetings until they are resolved.
- Project images. A new Project Images activity center enables firms to take control of the ever-expanding volume of digital site photos and project images. Photos and images can be located with ease regardless of their location in project folders, and may be filtered, sorted, searched, and grouped by any image file property, including EXIF properties such as camera model, date taken, tags, and subject. Additionally, images can be tagged with project keywords for search and filter-based discovery and retrieval.
- Shared files and coordinated folders. Newforma Info Exchange has also been enhanced in Eighth Edition. In addition to the existing capabilities to easily and securely transfer large project files with automatic logging and tracking of who downloaded what and when, project folders on the network can now be linked and automatically synchronized with folders on the Info Exchange server. Internal users simply copy files into synchronized folders to share them with remote external or internal team members. External team members and remote internal users can now upload files via Info Exchange using a new drag-and-drop capability. Download access and upload permissions for external team members, as well as sending e-mail notifications and reminders, can all be managed by internal users with no need for IT support.
- Remote access to project information. Newforma Info Exchange now delivers role-based remote access capabilities for internal and external team members from any Internet-connected browser, even via an iPad. Live access to project information from the field including record document revisions, meeting minutes, full log views of RFIs, submittals, change orders, action items, and more helps project teams avoid delays in making decisions. Smart phone access is also available using the Newforma Mobile option.
- Microsoft Office Excel reporting. Easily modified Excel-based templates can now be used to customize the formatting of reports throughout Newforma Project Center.
- Building Information Management and Spatial Index activity centers. These new activity centers provide project teams with a spreadsheet interface for editing sheets, spaces, and properties from a Revit building information model. Bidirectional synchronization is provided through the optional Newforma add-in for the Autodesk Revit family of products.
CEO Howell summed up how his company's PIM solution can support today's AEC workflows: "When so much of the administration — the logging, the tracking, and so forth — is automated, project architects, project engineers, and project managers have time that's freed up to do what they're supposed to do. It lets you do what you came to work to do, which is to design, to engineer, and to build."
Pricing and Availability
With the introduction of Newforma Project Center Eighth Edition, Newforma has adopted an enterprise-wide annual subscription license fee structure, scaled to the size of a firm. It allows unlimited use of all functionality of any licensed products by all employees and includes the ability to invite an unlimited number of external team members to have browser or mobile access to the information being shared for any project. The company reports that Newforma licensing fees are on par with other AEC-focused enterprise solutions.
The new product line is undergoing product acceptance testing with some of the industry's top firms, Newforma reports, and will be commercially available in Q2 2011.