Project Management Institute

Project management basics

using technology to collaborate more effectively and bring projects to completion faster

Global Collaboration Strategist for Autodesk


As Asia Pacific economies continue to modernize, companies are challenged to leverage new technology to make everyday processes more efficient. In countries such as China where construction is booming, and new designs must be implemented quickly while still conforming to new regulations, there is a need to examine project management fundamentals and uncover strategies for leveraging technology to streamline communication, reduce information loss when sharing design information and bring projects to completion faster.

In this presentation, Jonathan Knowles, Global Collaboration Strategist for Autodesk, will provide insights into fundamentals for leveraging technology in everyday processes to collaborate more effectively and reduce approval cycles. He will demonstrate basic principles for managing information across the lifecycle of a project, providing insight into how other regional companies have benefited from replacing paper-based processes with digital processes that keep information current, eliminate paper and streamline communication.

Mr. Knowles will explain how project management professionals in the Asia Pacific region can uncover better ways of sharing information with an increasing number of project team members and stakeholders. By leveraging collaboration technology to streamline workflows, companies can reduce costs and errors, maximize resources, and bring projects to completion faster. Mr. Knowles will also provide insight into how companies can reduce information loss when sharing critical design information.


Project managers are challenged with sharing design information while preserving design integrity and preventing information loss among a variety of stakeholders, including users and non-users of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.

To further magnify these challenges, organizational business processes are often disjointed and not secure. Since informational needs vary, it is critical for project team members to have access to the right design information, while simultaneously protecting the integrity of designs by ensuring that only the proper design and engineering team members have author-level access to modify design files. Moreover, a partner or supplier on one project may be a competitor on a future project, underscoring the need for project managers to protect the intellectual property associated with project design information.

Design information that project managers need to share can include design intent, file specifications and general information about a project such as the number of doors or amount of concrete needed for a project. For manufacturing, it may be information about a part. The increased complexity of addressing design review processes highlights the need to find better ways to manage information and streamline communication with all project team members and stakeholders.

Finding New Ways to Manage Workflows

Addressing Project Management Challenges

Project workflows today can be best described as managed chaos. Regardless of industry, challenges around the processes for sharing design data remain a frustration for project managers. Typical headaches include slow, manual, inefficient paper based processes, lack of clarity and files not being properly converted. There is little standardization across the workflow process, and work-arounds are common. In an environment where everyone feels the pressure to accelerate time to project completion, there have been a variety of solutions introduced in recent years to address these challenges.

DWF is an open platform built on industry standards, specifically architected to handle the challenges of sharing complex design data across project teams. DWF files retain all of the intelligence of original design files (typically DWG files), but are far smaller, and faster to transmit, allowing designers, engineers and project managers to easily and securely communicate design information and design intent among team members, even via email

The Evolution of Design Collaboration

The evolution of sharing design information began with tracing paper. With the introduction of the computer, designers began using various computer-aided design (CAD) software applications to create design files. Leading into the 1990s, the introduction of object technology allowed designers to work with a library of objects.

For example, instead of drawing the lines and arcs of a door or circles and lines to represent a gear, standard objects could be selected from a design library. (Exhibit 1) Today, the needs of designers, engineers, projects managers and their colleagues have led to an intrinsically collaborative process resulting in an evolution to a world of information modeling and lifecycle management.


Exhibit 1 – Trends

Design authoring software has evolved to become even more sophisticated with the introduction of three-dimensional (3D) technology. New 3D capabilities mean that it is no longer necessary for designers to abstract design objects into a two-dimensional (2D) space. Now, what designers see in 3D can be created in a 3D space, resulting in the need for a file specification capable of publishing, rendering and printing 2D and 3D designs and models.

In the case of major architectural projects like the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site in New York City, designers used sophisticated design tools capable of retaining the original design information. When the initial design for the Freedom Tower was not approved, designers were able to make the necessary changes without recreating the original design files, saving time and lowering costs.

Leading construction and engineering firms such as Japan-based Maeda Corporation leverage collaborative project management solutions to gain efficiencies across the design, build and operate processes for projects across the Asia-Pacific region. Enhanced collaboration has helped Maeda deliver facilities and asset management services to retailers such as Seven-Eleven, allowing them to more effectively share information with architectural offices across Japan and reduce the time it takes to open a retail outlet.

In the infrastructure industry, project managers face similar challenges. Companies like Telestra, a leading Australian telecommunications company, leverage digital technology to share critical geospatial and system information with field staff. By sharing information electronically, Telestra's field staff has direct access to spatial information from any location and can notate equipment changes in the field, greatly streamlining the update process.

Securing the Future of Design Information

As projects become longer lived and increasingly complex, it underscores the need not only for project managers and their teams to have access to design information, but also for design information to be viable many years into the future. To this end, standards-based specifications are essential in future-proofing information so that stakeholders can have access to design information well into the future while minimizing errors, costs and information loss throughout the process.

A study from Autodesk found that for each design creator, there are at least ten consumers of that design information within an extended team, both inside and outside the enterprise, who must provide feedback to the original designer. In addition to sharing this information among members of the design team, designers need to share the full scope of their work with many stakeholders including colleagues, clients and partners outside the design profession (Exhibit 2).

Example Design Review Process

Exhibit 2 – Example Design Review Process

Moreover, it is important to make sure design information is secure and that it cannot be changed by team members that should not have authoring rights to the design files. A company's design information is its livelihood, underscoring the need to protect the value and intellectual property associated with designs by sharing information more securely. Enabling technologies like DWF help companies securely share and preserve their design data, while the compression allows them to communicate in a faster more streamlined manner.

The Autodesk DWF file specification integrates with all Autodesk applications, and it is possible to create DWF files for free from any design application, even from three-dimensional design applications. Autodesk® DWF™ Composer is one of many applications that take advantage of the DWF platform for distributing design data, allowing project team members to collaborate across the design review process in a secure and efficient way. Informational needs vary among team members – some need to view and print design information, and others need to consume design information from a view, navigate and print perspective in the workflow process. DWF Composer provides an all-digital solution for bridging the design review process between the designer and his or her non-designer team members. Without needing the original design creation software, teams can review, mark up, and revise drawings, maps, and models, improving workflow and streamlining the review and editing process.

The benefits of leveraging an open file format for the efficient distribution and communication of design information to team members regardless of location are readily apparent in the building, manufacturing, and infrastructure industries. In terms of managing projects from a building lifecycle perspective, designers can turn design files into DWF files and share information quickly over the web. Previously, this information was shared by printing out designs on large format paper and sending it via courier service to extended team members. The ability to leverage web-based collaboration streamlines the design review process, saving both time and money and helping organizations use paper more efficiently. Since project team members can use DWF to electronically review, track and communicate design changes, it reduces the number of paper drawings and blueprints that must be faxed or couriered between offices.

The savings can be significant considering that, on typical large construction projects, costs associated with printing and courier services like FedEx can easily reach as high as $500,000. Leveraging DWF along with web-based collaboration allows project mangers to connect critical design information into workflows without compromising accuracy, security or intent of original design information.

Final Words

To achieve true collaboration and bring all the various pieces of a project together into a unified whole, project managers must find ways to replace inefficient processes and better manage information and workflows across the lifecycle of projects.

Technology continues to evolve to address the needs of project managers challenged to complete projects of increasing complexity such as the Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site. Developing and choosing the right collaborative solutions for these types of projects involves careful evaluation. It is important to evaluate the type of information moving through the collaborative process and consider the specific requirements of the information.

Across industries, project timelines have become less flexible. To create efficiencies in everyday processes and make sure that projects are completed on time and on budget, a secure standards-based approach to collaboration is essential to ensure that all project team members have access to design information when and where it is needed.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2006, Jonathan Knowles
Originally published as a part of 2006 PMI Global Congress Proceedings - Bangkok, Thailand



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