March 2013

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Kerri Lee SinclairEMAIL INTERVIEW Kerri Lee Sinclair and Ken Sinclair

Kerri Lee Sinclair, Vice President, O&M Solutions, Aconex

Kerri Lee is currently Vice President, O&M Solutions for Aconex, the leading online document management and web collaboration system that uses the internet to manage information for projects of all sizes in construction, engineering and infrastructure.  Part of the company’s leadership team, she has been responsible for acquisition integration and currently heads up a new business unit formed through a recent acquisition in July 2012.

Kerri Lee’s previous experience includes co-founding AgentArts, a patented, end-to-end personalization solution for entertainment content and service providers acquired by Fast (a Microsoft subsidiary) in 2008.  Other professional experience includes working for a range of growth technology businesses including Telstra Wholesale, Intelematics, and LookSmart, as well as global management consultancy, McKinsey & Company.

Smart Manuals

“out of the basement” and into the cloud. 

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Using Aconex Smart Manuals, building owners can navigate to the desired records – including floor plans; electrical, plumbing, hydraulic, and fire systems data; photographs, and more – to review or update information. A video demonstration of Smart Manuals is available on the Aconex web site.

ABThanks for the news that you’re launching Aconex Smart Manuals, but let’s step back -- what is Aconex?

Aconex:  Aconex is the world’s largest online collaboration platform built specifically for construction, infrastructure and energy and resources industries.  We have over 10 years’ experience working with top owners, construction and project managers, contractors, architects and consultants on projects of all shapes and sizes.  We work on projects from early stage/feasibility, through design and into construction, helping all participants on the project to manage complexity, decisions and deliverables required wherever, whenever they need.

ABOK, I guess Smart Manuals has something to do with handing over that information to Operations and Facility Management teams?

Aconex:  Exactly.  While the some information required is often already on Aconex (as it was delivered as part of the drawings, commissioning data or test reports) – it is contractually required to be delivered to the Owner/Facility Manager in an “O&M Manual”.  This requires assembly, detailed review and then compilation by (usually) the general contractor (who manages the rest of participants) before practical completion.  Aconex Smart Manuals is about making this process easier to manage for the general contractor, so that the Owner gets a timely, compliant, complete set of operational information that can be used on Day One.  The information received isn’t just “a set of data”, but each asset is tagged and the information is easily searchable via three ways:  1) geographically tagged allows you to navigate visually; 2) super search allows you to search entire manual “ala Google”; or 3) using a folder/directory based browse (ie just show me all of the schematics).

ABIt is great that you help the general contractor, but our readers are on the other side, in Operations & Facility Management.  Can they buy Smart Manuals, and if so what do they get?

Aconex:  The flexibility of Aconex Smart Manuals is that it can be used as part of a new project, existing project or for assembling/recreating O&M manuals already in Operations.  For example, we are working with one major hospital to help them take their existing O&M information “out of the basement” and into the cloud.  They have 17 buildings on a large site connected by a series of underground tunnels that were built in the 1930s, which is part of a major redevelopment.  They need to manage approximately 3,000 critical documents and over 2,500 drawings  currently stored in the tunnels (sometimes ankle deep in water).   Amazingly, they have 70% of the documents electronically, but they struggled with how to get their IT departments to keep the documents secure, editable and accessible forever!  Aconex Smart Manuals Dynamic (a live version of the O&M Manual) was the perfect solution for them.

ABWell, this is . . . we see our readers using a set of different solutions with open standards and a range of devices – how does Aconex Smart Manuals fit?

Aconex:  We believe good data in = good decisions out.  That is what all of the standards/solutions are trying to do – whether COBIE or BIM!   We see structured data and processes around key documents and drawings is needed now to deal with the complexities (and unknowns!) we are navigating.  Let’s move one step ahead to making this a reality, rather than waiting for something to develop. Therefore we don’t “integrate” with any particular systems because our customers don’t use one system (or set of systems), and it is all evolving.  However we offer either a read only (importable) version of  Smart Manuals, or Smart Manuals Dynamic is accessible in real-time via our open API product.    So far, we have been able to deliver a solution to a customer whether they have an in-house FM solution or use a major controls system.

ABSo how do we bale all this paper in the basement and convert it to electronic online documents?  With a manual intervention scanning paper into pdf?   Manual linking to existing web content?  Is there any way to use self-discovery or automate this task?

Aconex:  Unfortunately we cannot change reality – there will be some effort involved to do this!  In the hospital example we used earlier, we were able to find 70% of the documents in an electronic form, and Aconex has great “bulk upload” tools where by you just upload the .zip or grab the files and it helps categorize the information.  Further, we have a Rapid Wizard tool (patent pending) which we can use to help match up drawings, asset id’s and documents which can save time.  However, to repeat myself: good data in = good decisions out.  Someone needs to take some ownership of these documents – technology can never do that.  In the hospital for example, they have prioritized to focus on compliance documents first, and they have one Facility Engineer who is reviewing and checking those key documents with what he knows from working on site for the last few years.  Then they plan to update/maintain as part of the ongoing preventative maintenance procedure (for example, upon a routine check of the Air Cooling Units, they will ensure the documentation is updated, tagged and current).  The benefit of this is taking some of the accrued knowledge from the team on the ground, and keeping it in the facility, which we believe helps manage the facility better in the future (lowering the impact of employee churn).

ABCould you comment on some of our first articles 1999 when I was struggling with baling paper? Note; pdf was just being invented…

and expand on this comment and update us as how this is likely to play out.

All of the traditional building O&M documentation for the project will be requested in HTML form and weaved into an interactive internal web site with connection to vendors and manufacturers’ internet sites and email addresses.

Aconex:  To be honest, I wish we saw more HTML O&M Manuals!  Across our global footprint, we are yet to see a contractor who has delivered this to a client – they are still defaulting to DVD with local links.  Why?  Because general contractors, subcontractor & consulting engineers aren’t web designers or have IT departments who can handle this complexity. 

HTML has other weaknesses:

ABLots of trying in the past to sort this mess out. How will Aconex be different? An example below and there are many more on our web site.

Aconex:  Aconex isn’t new -- we have been changing how the industry designs and builds its capital projects since 2000, now having supported more than 300,000 users on a total of $700 billion worth of projects across the world.  If we had walked out in 2000 and said “use collaboration and the internet to build your O&M manuals”, the industry would have dismissed it.  Today, collaboration platforms are now used on most new major capital projects, and therefore our commitment to the industry and innovation needs to continue to fix what is clearly broken.  If we only do that for our current clients and projects, that is still good!  However we believe our experience, track record and unique solution is the reason we will make this work.

ABIn 1999 we were both commuting  to SF, you from Australia with LookSmart, a search engine company, and me with Sinclair Energy Services from Canada. There has been a few changes in the industry since then but I am amazed that the core of internet business has not changed that much. Do you agree or have you seen great change? What are your thoughts?

Aconex:  Guess it depends what you mean by “core of internet business”.  If you consider that what Tim Berners-Lee created, then you are correct, it hasn’t changed much.  However, I am amazed how much the internet business has changed in the last 15 years.  The early internet was very social, engaging people and communities via rudimentary devices (do you remember how excited I was with my Psion Revo?).  Data was very expensive and moving it around was difficult.  The costs and infrastructure have improved, and now that social/community aspect is changing how people build physical (real life) structures.  I never would have expected that would happen in a decade!   Many people now expect they can access building data and capture defects on their iPad, for example.  We have specialized contractors in regional US who are providing custom aquariums designs to major projects in Asia without leaving the county.  I used to think getting an email out of the office was exciting!


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