Neutrality – a big thing for project management software

Frédéric Debouche
Frédéric Debouche
Lead Technology at Proove

Neutrality is a big competitive advantage and makes Oracle Aconex a popular solution for many large-sized projects.

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Complex projects are characterized by the fact that many stakeholders collaborate to deliver the project. These stakeholders can be disciplines/departments within a company or even different organizations. Project owners, engineers, contractors and project management firms should, bottom line, all collaborate to drive the project to success.

Collaboration is an aim in Building Information Modelling (BIM), scheduling, cost management, document management, etc. The number of collaborative construction management software packages has grown substantially. All with their own strengths and weaknesses. Our Technology Team led by Frédéric Debouche does a tremendous effort to follow the market evolution. But obviously, nobody has full user experience with all of them.

Selecting the right software is a challenging task. This blog post has the sole aim to focus on one property of some cloud-based construction management software platform that we value greatly, namely neutrality. Oracle Aconex is one of the tools that offer neutrality. Neutrality is a big competitive advantage and makes Oracle Aconex a popular solution for many large-sized projects.

What is neutrality?

Neutrality means that any stakeholder has ownership and control of his own data. There is not a global administrator that has full access to the data or any other advantage in using the system. The system is fair towards all its users.

Most collaboration platforms don’t offer neutrality. These platforms are either owned by the project owner or by the general contractor. Collaborating parties can receive access to parts of the system, but the owning party configures the permissions and owns the data.

Let’s take Primavera P6 Cloud as an example. This solution is very much suited for collaboration on large-scaled projects. The way we implemented integral planning management with P6 Cloud for the large Oosterweel project is definitely a step forward. Schedules of owners, engineers, contractors and sub-contractors can all be maintained in one centralized database. Integration allows us to manage interfaces between different contracts and work packages.

But the P6 database is not a neutral platform. One organization owns it. On a bad day, they can change or delete data and/or your access rights.

Trust

Trust is a nice virtue. Having the level of trust required to all collaborate in a fully transparent way in an environment controlled by one party is not realistic.

We have to face the fact that collaborating parties in a project are also contractual counterparties. If one party governs the data, the other parties will most likely not be open to using these platforms as their working environments. They will only use it to publish data as contractually required and use their own platform for internal collaboration.

Again, this clearly is a step forward, but it is not yet the most effective way for the project. Neutrality is needed for that.

A neutral platform

In a true neutral platform (such as Oracle Aconex), any collaborating party owns and governs its own data. They are 100% sure that no one else can access this data or any internal discussion concerning this data. There is no global administrator who can cut you off or restrict your access. The data in this private workspace is private and has thus no contractual value. It is a collaborative working environment for the internal team.

It is only when information is transmitted or submitted to a different party that it becomes accessible to that party. At that moment, the data becomes contractual. A neutral platform should also guarantee that once data has been transmitted, nobody can still alter this data. Of course, updated versions are possible, but at any time there will be a full audit trail of all versions and changes.

Neutrality – the way forward

Neutrality is a key concept to obtain true collaboration between contractual parties. It allows them to ensure that they can also privately collaborate in the system based on their internal agenda. Because of neutrality, every contractual partner is treated fairly.

We hope that neutrality will become a characteristic of an increased number of software packages in the near future.

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