Nov 13 2015

Beyond the Common Data Environment

Common Data EnvironmentDocument and drawing management have long been the core offering of extranets/collaboration platforms such as CONJECT.  Over time the advent of BIM and the need to manage model files and associated data has led to the rise of the term Common Data Environment (CDE), which is a term the UK industry is becoming familiar with to describe a central repository for all project data whether it is 2D or 3D.


Document Management evolves into the CDE

Effectively managing documents and data throughout the design, build and operation of built assets is an ongoing challenge, solving this challenge has traditionally been CONJECT and other vendor’s raison d’etre.  This space has become increasingly crowded with a huge range of document and data management solutions on offer with capabilities ranging from simple online sharing like Dropbox, to PAS1192 compliant Common Data Environments offering advanced control capabilities, detailed audit trails and the automation of communications and workflows.

Whilst there are important differentiators between the scope and quality of the alternative data and document management solutions on the market, providers are increasingly developing additional offerings to add value for clients.


Controlling Risk – The next dimension 

For example at CONJECT our CDE forms the core component of our solutions, providing a collaboration platform for users. However additional functionality can be added which allows users to add time, cost and change information to the data already contained within.  This allows for detailed reporting on budgets, actual spend, commitments and forecast spend,. When dynamically linked to the transaction data held within the CDE a new level of combined understanding presents itself, one that combines scope (quality), cost & time.

At a time when cloud based data management solutions are a standard tool it is the additional capabilities that help teams improve their understanding of risk, reduce waste and make better decisions.  At CONJECT we envisage that it will become increasingly necessary for time, cost and change management tools to link to the detailed data held in CDEs.  The good news is this level of integration is already provided in CONJECT applications.

The development of APIs and improved integration between CDEs and data analysis and management tools leads into the final point in evolution of project collaboration.  The new area of focus is on fulfilling customer demands around , Asset Information (Models) “AIM” to benefit the entire asset lifecycle.


Asset Information Management – Value throughout the lifecycle 

So far we have considered adding value during design and construction, and this has largely been the focus of project collaboration providers, targeting primarily main contractors and Owners.  There has often been talk about taking a ‘lifecycle approach’, so with the advent of BIM and measures like Government Soft Landings (GSL) this is becoming reality.  Some asset owners are starting to accept the potential benefits to an asset’s maintenance and operation phase through securing high quality information from the  design and build phases.

The export of key asset data, potentially in a COBie format, are already becoming a market demand, helping asset owners prepare for the operation of their assets.  However at CONJECT we envisage a considerably more joined up approach with owner/operators being able to take over a version of the CDE containing relevant asset information and use it to directly support their activities and potentially integrate to existing FM and asset management applications.


Connectivity and interoperability 

Going forward, a Common Data Environment will continue to be at the core of information management throughout the plan, build and operation of built assets, whether it is 3D, BIM or 2D based. However it is the additional capabilities where software vendors can really innovate and deliver sustainable improvements for customers across the built asset lifecycle.  This is going to drive greater interoperability between applications and vendors as customers select the applications offering the best solution for each problem, looking for seamless information flows between them.

About the author

Steve Cooper

Steve Cooper is Managing Director of Conject Ltd. He has spent over 25 years within the construction and engineering software markets, successfully running sales and marketing teams. He spent a number of years at SAP within their E&C practice, set up and managed a distribution channel in Asia Pacific for a division of Misys and ran a sales and marketing team within CSB COINS. In 2000 he gained an MBA from Henley Management College.

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