ProjectEdge Software Building on Collaboration

ProjectEdge's new collaboration environment helps realty company control development details.

Developing and constructing a large-scale real estate property can range from fairly straightforward to treacherous. For many in the business, it all depends on the amount and quality of planning and communication thats in place when the project gets the green light.

On a typical project, a developer coordinates information with multiple entities including architects and engineers, general contractors, subcontractors, land-use attorneys, local municipalities, and land-use boards, to name a few.

"In the process of development, you generate literally hundreds and hundreds of drawings, and youre dealing with dozens of design professionals," said James Psaki, principal at GRP Realty Co., in Stamford, Conn. "You have changes constantly—field changes or issues that occur with contracting or subcontracting—all that occurs during the construction of a building. The ability to have everyone who has data in front of them, on a desktop or laptop, and has the ability to solve any type of problem is wonderful."

GRP should know. The property management organization has been building apartment buildings for the commercial and residential markets in Connecticut for the past 20 years.

Among the companys more recent and complex projects was a $30 million contract to develop a 30-acre, 339-unit apartment complex in 1998. In addition to the typical issues surrounding development, the project, called The Ledges, involved a number of other hurdles, including complex wetland and planning board issues.

But GRP couldnt handle the impending tsunami of planning details and logistics alone. For that, it turned to Inc.

A software developer and reseller, ProjectEdge offers its namesake collaboration software built on IBM Lotus Domino. GRP runs the software on Intel Corp. hardware, and Domino runs on Linux, Unix and IBM AS/400 servers, said Chris Crockett, general manager at ProjectEdge, in Rochester, N.Y.

The companys project software features a database armed with 15 modules. Customers looking for a server installation must buy a Domino license and any requisite Lotus Notes licenses, as well as a ProjectEdge license, which costs $50,000, said Crockett. Domino is sold separately by ProjectEdge.

GRP decided upon Groton, Conn., for its property in 1999, received site plan approval in 2001 and broke ground in 2002. But before it could move on any of that, the company needed an online collaboration and project management tool. One of the goals GRP had in mind was to transform its paper-rich process into an electronic one.

"You start out [developing], and you have a plan with hundreds of drawings, but at the end of the day, the buildings arent built the way theyre drawn. They never are; theres always issues," said Psaki. "Having ProjectEdge you really have it literally at your fingertips. ... Its like having a librarian right at your desk to get you whatever you want as quick as you want it."

"At any one time, there could be 30 or 40 people dealing with information within [ProjectEdge]," he said.

ProjectEdge software includes a predefined electronic form and policy set that features 15 modules such as Action Items, Contracts, Communications, Discussion, Drawings, Meetings, Phonebook, Photos and Videos, as well as Punchlist, which is a standardized defect list. Other modules include RFI (Request for Information), Drafts, Safety, Service Requests, Submittal Process and Change Management.

Earlier this year, ProjectEdge rolled out an entry-point package featuring only seven modules, allowing a group to manage multiple projects in one system environment.

If customers want to view their engineering documents posted online in ProjectEdges module, they must have a Windows 2000 server to run Informative Graphics Corp.s Brava viewer Java application. This enables CAD drawing, viewing and nondestructive markup. Information Graphics is a ProjectEdge partner based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Crockett said ProjectEdge is involved from a very early phase, and one of its primary goals is to help developers set early ground rules for responsibility distribution and establish an early comfort level for participants.

"When we come in and bring a team together for the first time, we say, Lets talk about workflow; lets talk about how you want to work together," said Crockett.

GRP expects to finish construction on time late this year.

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