Five Signs Your Software Solution is Not Designed for IPD

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What does the word “Integrated” in “Integrated Project Delivery” (IPD) mean? While there is no single, authoritative definition of IPD, interpretations can be taken from the IPD report published by McGraw-Hill Construction and AIA California Council, along with looking up the definition of the word “integrated” on

in•te•grat•ed [in-ti-grey-tid] adjective: combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole.

Five Signs Your Software Solution is Not Designed for IPD

Unfortunately, some attempts at digital solutions for project team communications have overlooked the important and interdependent role that all of the project team members play in the process. For example, some digital systems implemented by general contractors or construction managers have not included means for the architect to route the documents between their design consultants and subconsultants. I have spoken with many architects in recent years who have been frustrated with use of “project management” systems by GCs or CMs that have this limitation. The architect is able to remotely access the contractor’s system to download a new document or upload a reviewed submittal, but still must maintain their own separate submittal log and exchange documents with their consultants and subconsultants by email or other means.

In other cases, architect-centric systems have failed to recognize the role that subcontractors play. For example, in 2006 AIArchitect published an article titled “According to Hoyle: The Submittal Process." It was an excellent article with many good points about managing the submittal process from an architect’s perspective. It also included a diagram showing submittal routing that involved the general contractor, architect, and consultant—without any reference to the important role of subcontractors and suppliers.

Overlooking the roles of certain participants was common with paper-based communications, but in an era of integrated practice and increased collaboration, a more holistic view is needed. For a construction communications process to be truly integrated, it must include all of the project team members. It cannot be considered truly integrated or efficient if digital documents are being exchanged between two of the parties—for example, the construction manager and the architect—but the other parties are still exchanging inefficient paper copies.

Here are warning signs that a project communications software solution is not designed for Integrated Project Delivery or truly collaborative project team communications:

  1. The software is hosted on servers located inside one of the project team member’s offices, and the other team members are granted limited access to it through a firewall or web portal.
  2. You are expected to download and email copies of submittals or other documents to other team members (for example, subcontractors or design consultants) because the software does not allow them to have direct access.
  3. You must keep your own submittal log in a spreadsheet or other format, manually updating it as the project progresses, because you don’t have access to a shared log through the software or the software’s log doesn’t include all of the different exchanges.
  4. It takes you more than five clicks to upload or download a document.
  5. The software doesn’t allow you to create a transmittal or cover page for your documents on your own letterhead or using the project’s standard template.
Matt Ostanik, AIA, CSI, LEED AP

Matt is a licensed architect and the president and founder of Submittal Exchange, a comprehensive online system for architects, engineers, contractors, construction managers, and facility owners to exchange, review, and archive construction submittals, requests for information (RFIs), and other construction communications electronically. He provides coverage of advances in software, cloud computing, and information portability specific to the AEC industry for

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