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Redefining Project Information Management (PIM) for the AEC Industry

October 11, 2023

Innovative Ways of Managing Project Information

Each year, innovation is the core resolution for businesses who want to compete and thrive in a digital economy. As we finally exhale from the events of 2020 and look toward the future, AEC firms will inevitably reflect on the last year to learn how to better prepare for the unexpected. Although the industry was hit hard with a global pandemic and economic downturn, changing how we work – and where we work – has been a major challenge.

Before 2020, it’s difficult to remember a time when working in an office was considered the norm. Yet, by nature, the AEC industry has always worked in remote-like settings; design teams in one location, the general contractor working at the job site, and the owner located somewhere else. This increasingly distributed workforce has felt the repercussions of fragmented systems and processes, ultimately impacting productivity and – the bottom line.

PIM…A View from the Past

Reflecting on the past is necessary when planning for the future. And defining a roadmap for the future that leads to a more flexible and adaptable approach to managing project information is critical.

Newforma first introduced the concept of Project Information Management in 2004 to address the growing needs of the AEC industry to manage vast amounts of project information. Firms initially turned to Newforma as they struggled to manage the vast sea of project communication within their own boundaries including their inboxes.

The only alternative to storing information in Windows folder structures was Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS), where information had to be migrated to proprietary databases. These systems relied on manual input and disrupted existing workflows. The amount of time spent on renaming, categorizing, sorting, and tagging project files also introduced errors and mistakes, resulting in loss of critical documents and information.

Enter Newforma “deep” search

With unparalleled search capabilities, Newforma became the leading solution to tackle email- and file-based challenges. Project information was no longer tied to an individual – it could now be tied to a project.  This innovation not only provided firms with a full picture of the project, it protected against information gaps with staff turnover.

With Newforma’s unique “deep” search capabilities, project teams could rapidly find information buried in emails, PDFs, drawings, and other attachments. Finding the information to make informative and timely decisions became a reality.

Complexity Prevails…From Filing Emails, to BIM and Beyond

As technology progressed, the challenges our customers faced became more complex.

With the email and filing dilemma tackled, new formidable enemies emerged. Data silos and complicated construction administration workflows became the norm due to an array of disparate applications.

Newforma kept pace by designing a solution that connects information to project teams – wherever they happen be. Significant developments, including increasing our Connector strategy depth and breadth with Microsoft 365, Autodesk, Procore, Bluebeam, and more, enabled customers to manage the complexity of information across systems. Additionally, new graphical dashboards were added allowing users more visibility into all project items needing attention and analyzing project performance.

Fast Forward to the Cloud

Cloud-based project information management systems have emerged on the AEC scene with the promise of streamlining workflows and increasing productivity. However, as AEC firms move to cloud-based solutions, a new problem has surfaced…who owns the data?  And how do you get it back?

A major business imperative for design teams is to ensure sensitive information is secured and protected. This is the cornerstone for risk management. Although gaining access to information from anywhere is an advantage, losing control or ownership of information may outweigh any gains.

In the aftermath of 2020, it’s more apparent that having a digital strategy that enables continued productivity is more critical now than ever. But, what is the appropriate data management strategy for design firms?

Best of Both Worlds…a Hybrid Approach

Newforma understands that not every firm wants to fully adopt a cloud-based infrastructure, while some are ready to ditch the server altogether. Either way, design firms need to maintain ownership and control of their data.

Newforma’s hybrid solution to project information management enables design teams to access information from anywhere, while maintaining control over the data where it makes most sense for the firm. Whether data is on-premises, in the cloud, or both, design teams can keep pace with complexity while keeping data protected and secure.