Newforma Project Center Seventh Edition Beefs Up E-mail Support, Server Power, and Remote User Functionality6 May, 2010 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson
Project information management solution works with any CAD or BIM option to facilitate integrated project delivery for AEC.
Newforma just released the latest version of its Project Center information-management solution for architecture, engineering, and construction firms. With Newforma Project Center Seventh Edition, the company aims to streamline AEC workflows while maintaining the core product functionality of organizing, locating, and sharing project information among the design team as well as with the broader project team, said Bob Batcheler, vice-president, industry marketing and product management.
Newforma categorizes Project Center as project information management (PIM). It can be used in conjunction with any CAD or BIM (building information modeling) software. Together, Newforma explains, PIM and BIM comprise IPD, or integrated project delivery. Alphabet soup aside, that helps AEC firms manage data inside as well as outside their building models and supports collaboration among all project stakeholders throughout the design and construction process.
Users can search all information published through Newforma Info Exchange, including project e-mail messages. Search results are limited to the information to which users have been given access.
What's new in Project Center Seventh Edition? "The big news is we now support any mainstream e-mail server environment that's IMAP-based," said Batcheler. That is, e-mail management capabilities now expand beyond Microsoft Office Outlook to include Novell Groupwise, Google Gmail, Lotus Notes, and Domino Server, and other platforms employing IMAP-compatible servers.
The Newforma Viewer capabilities have been expanded to include display of drawings created in AutoCAD 2010 and AutoCAD 2011.
A fundamental change in underlying technology accounts for many of the improvements in Seventh Edition. The new version employs Newforma's own advanced indexing system based on the MySQL relational database management system with the result that the software is said to index five times more data with a single indexing server. A single Newforma Project Center server now can accommodate 10 TB of data, enabling firms to better manage many projects at once, the company reports.
Other new features include:
- increased scalability
- improved performance, particularly for remote office and VPN use, "which gives [remote] users essentially LAN-speed access to project data," according to Batcheler
- increased flexibility in providing access to information via Newforma Info Exchange, including the ability for users to search and view e-mail via the web, without VPN access
- data access via standard SQL reporting tools, enabling development of custom reports
- virtual server deployment.
Many of the customer suggestions incorporated in this new release aim to make the user interface clearer and improve workflows. For example:
- User interfaces for Document Set and Compare functions are easier to use.
- The Info Exchange home page provides quicker access to projects, as well as a summary of upcoming and overdue items.
- Enhanced submittal and RFI workflows now accommodate both multidiscipline and contractor work processes.
- Incoming submittals and RFIs that external team members create in Newforma Info Exchange show up in the appropriate Submittal or RFI activity center as pending incoming items, simplifying the workflow.
- Out-of-office users can now access and search project e-mail via Newforma Info Exchange
- Project e-mail addresses have been added which, among many uses, allows smartphone users to file messages in projects as they send them.
- The Newforma Viewer capabilities have been expanded to include display of drawings created in AutoCAD 2010 and AutoCAD 2011.
Another new feature allows users to add keyword tags to e-mail messages, Project Center objects, and even entire projects by simply right-clicking on any element and selecting Apply Keyword. For example, users could track "extra work" or "lessons learned," then search by keyword to locate tagged items later.
The new Keyword activity center provides a quick, simple means of categorizing project information, supplementing the content-based search capabilities of Newforma Project Search. Here, items identified as being related to LEED certification are summarized for review based on keywords.
Newforma reports that its current Project Center user base sits at 450 customers with 40,000 licensed seats under subscription, managing 300,000 projects. The solution is in use at firms that range in size from 10 to 2,000 employees, but is ideal for 25 to 30 users or more, Batcheler explained. New customers typically deploy Project Center among a limited user base to test it, then "within a year of the initial implementation, more that 50% of our customers move to companywide implementation," Batcheler said.
Training for Newforma Project Center usually begins with a one-hour session for about a dozen users, reviewing e-mail, search, view, and markup features. Once users are comfortable with the basics, training moves on to cover information exchange for RFIs, submittals, and transmittals. Power users and others who get excited about the short-term results tend to share their experience with other users, facilitating the training process companywide, Batcheler added.
More detailed information about what's new in Seventh Edition can be found at www.newformant.com.