ONLINE PROJECT management is an emerging trend that continues to thrive. Typically subscription-based and hosted by an outside service provider, it generally works well for all project members with access because everyone, at all times, is on the same page, figuratively speaking.
Within the product category are solutions aimed squarely at the construction industry. These often have numerous templated forms that plumbing, mechanical and HVAC contractors are likely to use in bidding and performing projects. For example ...
ConstructJob (Accubid Systems, www.constructjob.com, 800/222-8243) is a Web-based project management and collaboration software solution for contractors that enables users to create, e-mail, store and log project documents in a single location. Because the solution is Web-based and maintained in real-time, the latest project data is accessible from any location by an authorized user with an Internet connection.
The program, which is aimed primarily at commercial contractors and subcontractors who bill $1 million or more a year, consists of three optional modules: C-Job, which is the Web-based project management system; C-Bid, the online plan room used for posting jobs that are in bid stage and for sending out invitations to bid; and C-Town, a portal community in which ConstructJob customers can find vendors, suppliers and subcontractors, and which vendors can join to find contractors. Each module can stand alone but work at optimal efficiency in combination.
The solution is subscription-based (yearly) on a per-user basis. C-Job is the core product for contractors. C-Town is the core product for vendors. Any user who subscribes to either C-Job or C-Bid automatically has access to the C-Town community.
C-Job enables authorized project members to create, edit and e-mail contracts and subcontracts, RFIs, submittals, purchase orders, change orders, transmittals, progress billings and daily reports. The module comes with instant access to templates, which are customizable with company logos.
Users can also upload CAD and other drawings, graphics, spreadsheets and other documents to the RFIs and other documents for e-mailing.
The robust module also includes task/appointment scheduling, for tracking and monitoring different stages of the project, and individual project calendars that could be helpful for scheduling, equipment tracking, delay documentation and other time-sensitive data.
Navigating within C-Job is based on point-and-click, although training is included as part of the subscription. Management from each subscriber organization controls team member access to all project data. The quick dispersal and updating of all information online eliminates copying and need for hard copy deliveries, speeding responses to all requests. Authorized project members can input daily reports from the field, bypassing need for a superintendent having to collect the reports or for workers to have to stop by the office to deliver them.
The C-Bid module is an online virtual plan room where contractors putting projects up for bid post bid information and from which subcontractors can download drawings, specifications and other data on jobs they are bidding or considering bidding.
Contractors can send bid invitations by e-mail to individual subs or vendors or groups of them instantly and receive responses quickly, all in one place, which makes comparisons fast and easy. (Critical bid documents can reside in the bid project “library,” with equal, and possibly simultaneous, access to all, eliminating 11th hour rushes from either side.) The module also includes a bid calendar that connects to the personal calendar in the system, eliminating duplicate entry and assuring accuracy of dates.
Users can export data from either C-Job or C-Bid to Outlook for e-mailing and/or to a Palm, for instant communication with project members in the field.
The third module, C-Town, which the developer depicts as a portal for an online construction community, enables contractors to enhance visibility in the marketplace by promoting themselves directly to companies needing HVAC and plumbing services. All C-Job and C-Bid subscribers automatically are listed for free with basic contact information. The comprehensive listing (for a separate yearly fee) includes a detailed profile of the contractor’s offered services and products; access to view upcoming project names and bid due dates available for bidding by C-Bid On-line Plan Room clients; and pre-formatted Request for Bids from C-Bid clients for projects of interest.
Contractors’ vendors or subs need not belong to C-Town to send in bids. They can enter the plan room merely by supplying a unique e-mail address.
In addition, C-Bid clients have one click access to all member contractor profiles, enabling them to send bid invitations and bid information to contractors in which they are interested, inviting them into the client’s private On-Line Plan Rooms.
Throughout the whole solution, the data residing online is securely protected by advanced 128-bit SSL encryption (the same type used by banks).
Accubid has established relationships with professional reprographic firms that will scan and either upload the drawings and specifications or send them to the contractor for uploading, with those services orderable directly from the plan room Website.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].