Email sucks! — escaping the inbox in the project portal
I hate to bang on, but don’t emails annoy you? I mean seriously, don’t they? Emails that don’t turn up, get caught in filters, branch off so you don’t know which one to answer or which is most recent. Then you have to work out which to archive when a project wraps — do any of them actually contain the whole thread of the conversation? Even if they do, you end up with emails archived separately from the rest of your project documentation, unless you figure out a way to copy out of the emails. Emails are a terrible way to collaborate and communicate on a project. That’s all there is to it. They just are.
From an architect, engineer or construction designer’s point of view, to be able to know that all the communications I’ve had during a project lifecycle are all in the portal is fantastic. I can search for it, it’s all threaded, and when I archive the project, forevermore I can go back to that project portal and all of that stuff about that project is all in the one place. Document libraries, image libraries, chats, all fully integrated back into Synergy. No downloading it and uploading it into another app. With Synergy project portals we use emails as a notification not as the communication! It’s just a nicer, cleaner, faster, safer way to collaborate.
So, what have we done with this latest update to Synergy project portals?
The tender trap — collusion avoidance within the portal
As it stood, you’d send a transmittal to 10 people and those ten people could then download off the transmittal, but because they’re all named on the transmittal, as a receiver, you can see the other ten people who’ve received it. Now, in a collaboration sense that’s great. That’s what collaboration’s all about — we all know what each other is doing and we’re all working together. Brilliant. If I send a drawing to my mechanical engineer through the portal, and my structural engineer and the mechanical engineer say, “Oh, thanks for that but it’s missing a particular drawing” then the other engineer might say, “Oh, you’re right that is missing a drawing, I need that too, please resend the transmittal”. So, you collaborate, that’s what it’s all about, right?!
But there’s a thing called ‘collusive tendering’. It’s illegal, and it’s bad for your business, but it exists. Basically, collusive tendering is when somebody, let’s say ‘Company X’, goes out for tender — you and I are going to bid for the job. Company X is saying, “you need to bid to win my work”, but they don’t know that we’re friends, you and I. We get together over lunch, and say to each other, “That’s a pretty big job, I reckon we shouldn’t bid less than $10 million for that, what do you reckon?”… Then we agree we’ll both put in a quote for $20 million… At this point, it’s no longer competitive tendering. We’re not competing against each other, we’ve got together and we’ve agreed on the price. Now Company X gets all the quotes and says, “That’s a coincidence!” — that’s collusive tendering. Or, we might agree that I’ll bid a certain amount less than you to win this tender and you bid a certain amount less on the other one, with that other company, to win that.
Like I said, completely illegal, and it never [wink] happens. The point is you shouldn’t be setting it up to happen.
Before this update, when we sent out a transmittal to say “here’s a bunch of drawings” it was done with the concept of the job having already started and a bunch of people needing to collaborate on it. In this particular case, though, when you’re at the tendering stage of a project, we want to use the same mechanism but we’re inviting people to give us a price before they really join the job. And we don’t really want them talking to each other. No virtual handshakes over lunch, thanks very much.
If you send out an announcement and somebody who is not yet officially ‘on’ the job yet answers or responds, we don’t want their face to show up. Now, it will just say ‘Anonymous User’. Because we don’t want the others bidding for the tender to know who else is bidding, but we want them all to have equal, easy access to all the project information.
Privacy in the portal, please
The other thing we did, which is useful, is that when you’re generating that transmittal to send out — and you can do this with any document type — there’s a tick-box now where you can say, “this one is private, it’s not collaborative” and instead of making one transmittal and putting twenty names on it, you make twenty, separate transmittals and send them out as twenty separate communications. So that each one of those only has one person’s name on it. Any questions you’ve answered on the chat boards in the portals are visible to everyone bidding, but those bidders and aren’t visible to each other. Unless you want them to be.
Synergy project portals have just become an even more dynamic hub for your AEC project communications. We’re continually tailoring to meet the needs of our industry and this is another step. We just want to hang out in the project portals all the time at this point. Cool places to be.