How can the introduction of business & software systems affect your business

April 15th, 2009

 

I remember being in my mid-twenties when the concept of a duplicable-business-system was introduced to me. My perspective about business changed forever. I found myself re-evaluating everything I had previously understood about smart business. I began to look for opportunities to understand the skill behind guiding a cohesive team, consisting of individuals with their own agendas, their own ideas and their unique ways of doing things.

I began to see McDonald’s as so much more than just a burger fast-food eatery that asked you to “upsize” at every opportunity. Developing smart business solutions is about so much more than just mass production, greed or limiting the self-expression of the individual. It’s about developing a strategy to create order, to facilitate communication and the sharing of knowledge in such a way that the whole team heads in the same direction, towards a common goal. Global statistics reflect that around 80% of all businesses started will fail within their first 5 years and 80% of the enterprises that survive the first 5 years will fail in the second 5 years. Let’s face it… the odds aren’t good. Systemization is one part of the puzzle in assisting businesses in becoming and remaining successful.

Refining your business system may involve minor tweaking of your current business processes or just simple and consistent documenting of team knowledge. You could introduce regular training workshops, refine some office standards or do something more dramatic like add a new documentation platform to your office environment.

Introducing new software, such as Revit, into your office can initially be disruptive, stressful and daunting. Changing a primary documentation platform will inherently raise any unresolved issues, some of which are not software related at all, but are rather management, work flow or documentation issues that may have remained unnoticed or unchecked for some time. This evaluation process however can be an invaluable opportunity for a company to refresh and review office processes and standards which may no longer be as efficient or even as necessary as they once were. The key to a successful implementation is to embrace this development process and to take the time to evaluate and review previous ways of doing things.

Most experienced Revit users will acknowledge that there is often more than one way to achieve a particular outcome using various tools; however each option has a set of ramifications that need to be understood and considered before deciding on a best documentation approach. By asking questions about how BIM-capable software, such as Revit, can improve the accuracy and consistency of your documentation you will instinctively re-examine previous workflows and begin to find ways to streamline and improve the documentation flow and output within your company.

So how does systemization relate to the construction industry or affect your specific business?

It is imperative to review our office processes and to challenge how we order, find, edit, manage, distribute, update and collate data, project files, drawings, warranties, legal papers etc. I believe that the industry pursuit of the BIM ideal, the advancement in software’s and new technologies all raise a real threat of information overload. Without good office systems disorganized companies could soon lose much of their profits as they become more and more inundated with all kinds of information.

Here are some brief examples of what a system-based-solution can prevent, thereby saving time, frustration, inefficiency and money.

•             Losing a file that someone has accidentally deleted moved or altered.

•             Not being able to determine the most current version of a working file instantly.

•             Inheriting a project file where no office conventions or apparent logic has been applied.

•             Finding corrupt files that have not been deleted, archived or worse, are still in use.

•             Transmit t als or revisions have not been accurately maintained or managed.

•             Insufficient or irregular protection and back-up of data on servers.

•             Tasks are often repeated by several team members due to insufficient communication or a lack of shared data collaboration.

It intrigues me why some systems work well and why others are ignored and fail. What is the secret?

I think there are several factors that seem to facilitate a successful outcome when refining a company’s processes.

Here are some secrets to making it work:

•             Management & leaders must support the new initiative and revised system.

•             Avoid creating processes that create additional workload for teams with minimal benefit.

•             A Business system and outlined processes need to be simple, easy to follow and should reduce confusion.

•             Any system worth creating is worth maintaining and monitoring. [Document management and process procedures clearly.]

•             Create well considered system solutions that pre-empt possible hurdles or risks of failure.

•             The system is designed to improve efficiency and/or output accuracy.

•             Don’t try to appease everyone but remember to consider the impacts on other departments.

•             Where possible create processes that can be supported across several, if not all, departments to ensure minimal variances in procedures. Consistency and simplicity is the key.

•             Steer clear of creating a system that is too inflexible.

•             Resist the temptation to create a procedure for absolutely everything. Avoid micro-management.

Knowledge and industry experience can be a company’s most valuable asset. Essentially knowledge management offers a company some protection and ensures that valuable knowledge and experience is duplicated throughout the office. Be sure that when senior or long-term staff members leave your firm that they do not walk out the door with their wisdom. Take the time to capture some of their insight and fundamental knowledge of office protocols so that you can use the knowledge to train and co-ordinate your staff to harness team strengths. Reward personnel who are eager to contribute to knowledge management and try and discourage a self-centered work ethos that perpetuate an isolated learning environment.

Here are some things that may be worth documenting:

•             What are the desired project workflows and office procedures?

•             How do various departments interact?

•             How is data managed, edited, repaired, updated and/or issued?

•             Who is accountable for documenting and updating relevant procedures? [Security permissions]

•             How should staff members be notified of changes in procedures?

Once you have captured some of the valuable knowledge the key is to reproduce it amongst your staff members. This can be achieved in the form of reference manuals, intranet or training and inductions. If you take the time to formalize the transfer of knowledge through various training materials you will be ensuring the correct knowledge is duplicated through the office environment and that everyone is following the same protocols. Consider setting a partnership/buddy program within your firm that supports and encourages the sharing of knowledge and mentorship.

Whilst working at Woolworths I created a Revit user guide which proved to be a useful tool to ensure everyone was heading in the same direction. I documented the Revit system, expected document outputs and company specific Revit practices. This guide became an invaluable means to ensure existing and new staff had a consistent reference to work from; thereby ensuring that six documentation offices across Australia all produced identical working drawings and staff could switch across projects, if needed, without any confusion with regard to project and office standards as well as content libraries.

In my experience Revit’s performance ability can be dramatically improved upon by clever and disciplined principles. I have found that a well-considered and consistently followed convention for shared parameters, family sub-categories, view templates and family naming can make a world of difference to how data can be controlled, maintained, repaired and monitored. What excites me most about Revit is how the software excels in an environment of order and how easy it can become to identify inconsistencies if chosen standards are closely followed. I think the key thing to keep in mind is to create systems that are clear, simple and flexible. See for yourself how systemization could benefit you, your team and create a better work environment.

Best of Luck!

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About the Authors

Mishka Louw

Michelle Louw worked for Benn Design in the architectural and the Revit Training & Implementation division for several years. Since then she has found a passion for system development, content creation and Revit┬« management.  She has worked in national Revit System roles for Woolworths and Mirvac Design.  Michelle is now working for PDT Architects, www.pdt.com.au, in Brisbane, Australia as the Revit & BIM Manager.  She has also recently started her own blog http://bimboombam.wordpress.com

 

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