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Project extranets could hold the secret to achieving the efficiency gains demanded by Sir John Egan. We report on this useful new tool for project managers.

When project management was still in its infancy, a project manager had to rely on little more than a basic schedule of works and his own management and communication skills to ensure that a building scheme was completed on time and to budget.

But with the advent of increasingly sophisticated computer software, he has been provided with a whole range of tools that make his life easier.

One of the most recent and significant developments has been the developments has been the project extranet, a kind of computerised pool of information about a building scheme that can be easily shared between the different members of the construction team.

Graham Howarth, management director of extranet expert Sarcophagus, believes that project extranets have a key role to play in the design and construction stages of a building project.

He reckons that they could even help the industry meet the efficiency improvements that Sir John Egan called for in his landmark rethinking construction report.

`Extranets enable earlier identification of errors and faster dissemination of information, allowing a wider group to contribute to the design and supply process.`

There is nothing particularly clever in project extranets. In many cases, they are simply computerised records of the paper documents that are produced and filed for any building project: technical drawings, tender, bills of quantities... and so on.

Being on computer however, the documents are easier to access. For example, a project manager on site can remotely log on to the extranet from his laptop and print out a document, rather than having to phone head office and get them to fax him a copy.

Moreover, if you want to search for a particular document, you don`t have to sift through hundreds of paper files - often a time consuming process - but simply input your search criteria into the computer and, viola, the desired document pops up on screen.

According to Eagan, only 30 per cent of the time that workers are on site is spent productively. `The rest of the time they are stood around waiting,` he says. By having quicker access to documents, project managers, at least, should not have to do so much waiting.

But there is more to project extranets than simply rapid dissemination of information. As all the details are held in a centralised resource accessible by every member of the team, potential problems and areas where improvements are possible can be pinpointed sooner.

For example, a cladding specialist who has access to the architectural drawings might spot a problem in the way the contractor has proposed to connect the cladding to the frame. The service engineer- on the other hand - might know of a more efficient method of laying out the ventilation system.

If it wasn`t for the extranet, these companies might never have seen all the documents and not therefore have had an opportunity to air their ideas for making the building more build able.

But it is not just during the design and construction process that project extranets show their worth. It is often assumed that the project management role ends once a building has been completed.

But Howarth does not believe that this should be the case. He argues that a building should be project managed throughout its lifespan, from the moment it is conceived by the client to the day that it is demolished.

`The idea that a building project is complete at the end of defects period is unrealistic,` he says. `In fact, most change occurs during throughout a building`s useful life.`

He urges that project managers should also put in place a project extranet that lasts the lifetime of a building. And the rest is history.


Sarcophagus Content Management Interface


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Sarcophagus™ Ltd The Plex, 15 Margaret Street, Wakefield, WF1 2DQ, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
UK Phone: 01924 925400

Sarcophagus Limited is a company registered in England and Wales with company number: 3780350
VAT number: 758536881


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