Digital Dry Shack Blog

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Digital Dryshack #63: Agile Project Mangement

I had the opportunity while on vacation in Southern Utah recently, to talk with a veteran project manager in the high-tech field. My friend has managed projects for two of the most recognizable names in tech for more than ten years. From my construction experience, I (thought) I saw an opportunity to pitch our time-tested critical path method analysis method for high tech projects, and to demonstrate its value to a young, smart person with responsibilities similar to a construction PM's. Instead of coming off as the knowledgeable old guy, I received an interesting lesson in Agile Project Management instead. "We haven't ever found conventional CPM scheduling methods applicable to what we do", she told me. "There are too many unknowns in our programming projects. We often end up with a completely different end result than we started with, as a result of the customer really not being able to articulate what they really want or need at the beginning of the project. They often find out they don't need all the stuff they asked us for when the project started. Or, once we deliver what they've asked for, it's likely to open up a whole new idea, that they want [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #62- Viewpoint User Conference 2013 Recap

Just in case you missed it, Viewpoint Construction Software recently held its annual User's Conference 9/24-9/26/2013 in Portland, Oregon. From the inspiring Keynote speech by global circumnavigator Neal Peterson to the final session on Thursday afternoon,  all three days were well worth the time invested. Sessions ran a broad variety of topics. Learning to maximize workflow proficiency using Viewpoint's latest development efforts, seeing planned future enhancements still in the pipeline, and watching users display their creative and powerful skills with V6 are to name just a few. One thing Jay Haladay, Viewpoint's CEO,  pointed out in his opening address that caught my attention is the recent trend toward "micro-apps." New, nimble, single-purpose apps are proliferating online, interacting with more complex legacy software. Additionally, these micro-apps can be developed using new tools that can compile the code to iOS, Android, and Windows, all with a single programming effort. The days of the behemoth, monolithic, do-it-all mega-apps are numbered. I think the next few years will see the "de-construction" of these legacy apps into more discreet subroutines, each with a choice of designated micro-apps that can efficiently perform its function over the Internet using laptops, tablets, and smart phones. In the four years [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #61 Resistance to Change in Company Culture…

Resistance to change is a given in our highly conservative industry. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is often akin to “we’ve always done it that way”, (even though it IS broke).  So the pain of change often kills a worthwhile positive initiative, making successfully implementing new processes very difficult. We spoke with the VP and the CTO of a very successful and highly-reputable $500mm GC firm recently, about adopting new, improved processes at their well-established company. Both these senior-level managers voiced frustration concerning their company's inability to overcome forty years of bad habits. (In this case trying to improve the distribution of timely job information, and the sharing that data across all departments). Old habits run deep, and in a larger company, convincing many senior managers to get on board and all row in the same direction is often difficult. A well-crafted, collaborative plan begins with a thorough review of the company's current means and methods, and includes the input of Ops, Accounting, and IT. Weaknesses are identified, and new technology tools are often chosen to help strengthen those areas. Company leaders shoulder the responsibility to make the financial decisions, with the consulting team typically in charge of implementation, configuration, and [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #60, First look: Viewpoint Mobile Field Manager (MFM)

We recently attended a demonstration of Viewpoint's new Mobile Field Manager, its new jobsite data collection software. MFM is an efficient, tablet-based system that captures employees' cost-coded time info, job productivity, and Daily Report data, all in one easy to use platform. Daily and overall project productivity status is displayed conspicuously and effectively, so superintendents have an easy-to-see running account of exactly how their project stacks up against the estimate. It includes an electronic time sheet signature feature to certify time cards, and is also bi-lingual, accommodating the ever-growing Hispanic population on the jobsite. MFM works with Androids, iPads, and Windows machines, offering optimum flexibility. In our experience, superintendents find tablets far friendlier than laptops, so buy-in is easier than with more laborious keyboard entry at the end of a long workday on the site. While optimally linked to the company's server and the Internet, it functions perfectly well disconnected, enabling its use on remote projects. When reconnected to the Internet, the saved daily field info is easily uploaded to Viewpoint Construction Software, as well as virtually any other mainstream construction jobcost and project management system. It uses a SQL back-end database, and contains a built-in report writer as well. We're [...]

Digital Dryshack #58, Estimating Survey 2013

June 10, 2013: Derek Singleton of Software Advice informed me last week that their new 2013 estimating software survey was recently published to the web. Check it out at Software Advice's Estimating Survey 2013. If you're an estimator, I suggest that you take the survey, as I did the other day. It's always interesting to see how our own opinions on the state of digital estimating compare with those of our peers. I am looking forward to this year's results.   We're also pleased to see that Derek & team acted on our suggestion in the 2013 survey, to tally and compare the popularity among the estimating software brands. Last year's results affirmed the value of investing in a dedicated estimating software system, according to the majority of those who took the survey. (I agree). Capturing data to describe and publish the digital state of our craft isn't easy.   Not all the survey's questions and multiple choice options fit my own view of the best way to go about collecting the info, but I sincerely appreciate the effort and good work by Derek and his colleagues at Software Advice. Whether you use Excel or a proprietary database estimating system, logon to Software [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digitial Dryshack #57, Sage SQL 13.2 & new WBS Tool

As stated in Digital Dryshack #56, we've been working with the new Sage SQL Estimating 13.2, (on both Windows 8 and 7 remote desktop servers), and generally liking its new format and more modern look and feel. And the MS-SQL back-end is a huge advantage as well. We have a few early adopter clients, and while not without some problems, they too are generally upbeat about this new release. The main issues are related to estimate files becoming locked, primarily due to a program crash. The odd thing is that some workstations rarely if ever experience the problem, while others fight it often. Talking with our clients' IT departments who've installed 13.2, they're struggling to find a common thread to pinpoint why some workstations work well, and some don't. In our  testing so far, we've been lucky to experience problem-free installs. We like the smoother  front-end screens to create estimates and entries in the new Address Book. However saving and printing spreadsheet layouts and reports is more challenging and time-consuming than in prior versions. For the last simple budget I created, I ended up exporting to Excel to get the look I wanted, which was disappointing at best. We've started [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #56.2, Sage Estimating 13.2, MS-SQL Release

2013, IV, Digital Dryshack #56.2: We've been working with Sage SQL Estimating, dubbed version 13.2, the first major upgrade in years to the Timberline Estimating family. As the name implies, the big news is its back-end database, Microsoft SQL, a major step forward for the Sage Estimating platform. Gone is the oft-problematic Pervasive database engine, with its cryptic "PVData" subfolder structure, a ball and chain gladly shed. We're frankly excited to see the new platform with its more modern toolbars and screens, nesting windows, and more customizable user appearance. Another improvement is the way screen layouts and reports are saved, a weakness in prior Pervasive versions. The biggest obstacle for most estimators will be the amorphous "all in one" database structure, eliminating individual estimate files as we know them. This in reality is a good thing, it just takes some getting used to. For anyone familiar with Primavera's P3 transition to P6, you should understand the main advantage: for the first time, all your estimates reside in a single database! This opens up all kinds of new possibilities, difficult or impossible to achieve with individual files. Think multiple-estimate capability: queries, comparisons, and reports, in addition to dynamic integration with other [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:29+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #55: Obituary. PC, R.I.P.

As the technology pendulum pursues perpetual motion, its direction is unquestionably away from the more traditional desktop / pc-based platform as we know it, and toward the remote computing model. We are all using a variety of more connected tools, via laptops, ultra books, i-pads, 'Droids, and smart phones. And let's not forget the current storage fad, "The Cloud." (More on that in another post.) Some leading-edge construction projects now REQUIRE ipads (or Android) tablets be issued to field personnel. Because it saves time and money, that's why!  Web-based programs for project management, time collection, and other industry-related hosted apps are commonplace. Meanwhile, back at the desktop, most of us are using Citrix or a Remote Desktop client daily. For many companies it IS the primary platform. Why save files on a local pc, accessible to one, when the data can reside on the company's server, available to all, (who need to know)? Why should an IT department have to maintain 10, 50, 100, (or several hundred) individuals' laptops and pc's, when it can focus on a well-run server array, accessible by thin-client workstations instead? The savings in personnel hours, having only to upgrade software on a few servers instead, is [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:29+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

PM software debate- web or hosted?

The Digital Dryshack has been quiet lately, our efforts distracted by a heavy workload. Too busy with urgent business to do what's important. Sound familiar? The bane of the small business, (and some larger ones as well), catches us all from time to time. Lots of ideas. Some topics in front of me at the moment, of the many I've scratched out lately, follow: -> hardware ahead: ->thin client, tablets, & RDP (and the accompanying demise of the PC & laptop) -> new Construction Sequence Index (stay tuned) -> Project Management on the web, vs. on a locally-hosted server environment Starting at the bottom, we see an ongoing battle between the two project management software models. And to an extent the entire software industry as a whole. The primary advantages of web-based project management software : - easy access for team members - potential reduction of IT cost, by eliminating the need for internal software hosting and additional required security The primary advantages of internal server-based PM: - ease of integration with accounting, scheduling, and Windows / apps in general - full control of security and data backup regimen These four issues are among those at the heart of the [...]