Engineering company uses IBM Enterprise Content Management platform to orchestrate collaboration

Published on 30-Jun-2009

Validated on 12 Nov 2013

"IBM FileNet’s content engine has an extremely flexible and powerful architecture that supports all of our commodity content management requirements and frees us to focus our development energies on the bigger picture—data integration and work process integration—that provides even greater ROI to our organization." - Manager of Information Systems, Engineering and Project Management Services Company

Global Engineering and Project Management Services Company

Construction / Architecture / Engineering

Deployment country:
United States

Enterprise Content Management

IBM Business Partner:
The Sword Group


To meet customer demands, the company needed to allow project collaboration in an electronic environment utilizing the power of the Internet to share and work with information. A suite of engineering applications leveraging IBM ECM application program interfaces and integrated with the Sword Group’s Fusion for IBM FileNet P8 solution made it possible to manage and transmit 100 percent of the company’s documents electronically.

Business need:
The company’s projects generate large volumes of data, documents and drawings, which it shipped to customers by mail. The company needed to allow project collaboration in an electronic environment utilizing the Internet.

A suite of engineering applications leveraging the Sword Group’s Fusion for IBM FileNet® P8 solution make it possible to manage and transmit 100 percent of the company’s documents electronically.

-- 35 to 40% reduction in project administration costs -- Company won $35 million contract and larger, more prestigious clients -- Improvement in productivity through electronic document management and distribution

Case Study

In an ever-changing business environment, engineering and construction management firms need to reduce project development and construction times while coordinating with an ever-increasing number of geographically dispersed partners. To satisfy these demands while remaining competitive, there is a need to provide a viable platform to deal with the multiple tools and business processes required for project execution—as well as the thousands of documents and drawings created in the process. Unfortunately, most engineering and construction firms are handicapped by multiple, isolated, business systems and processes. Disparate business systems for creating and managing contracts, collaborative design and approvals, permit applications, documentation, materials management and construction management all need to be integrated to be more efficient.

Unlike the fixed, repetitive, processes in many industries, the demands of engineering and construction management firms require greater operational flexibility. Processes, while structured, are more ad hoc in nature and vary greatly depending on the task or project at hand. They are generally comprised of a series of events as well as controls, such as changes and approvals, which involve multiple parties and individuals all working in concert. In essence, processes need to be orchestrated rather than driven through a series of siloed routines and functions.

To manage the project as it evolves and to coordinate the work of multiple groups requires timely and precise communication of information between all involved parties. This requires a vehicle to merge all of a company’s applications and content sources to improve access to information, while linking engineering, suppliers and construction—regardless of location—to speed business processes, optimize productivity and aid in making the decisions that are critical to completing a project on-time and on-budget.

Customer profile

The engineering project management and services company was founded to provide project management, engineering, design/drafting, procurement, inspection, construction management and training services to the oil and gas industry. The company specializes in onshore and offshore production facilities, pipelines, midstream/gas processing projects and deepwater developments. The company has completed more than 4,000 projects for over 260 customers in over 30 countries.

The challenge

The company’s projects take place in every corner of the world. In order to meet the demands of its customers, the company needs to collaborate with those customers in a very interactive manner. Its customers have teams of “Knowledge Experts” deployed throughout the world. Those knowledge experts are valuable and unique resources that need to engage in the projects they undertake regardless of their location. Because the company’s projects are complicated, they generate large volumes of data, documents and drawings, which historically were shipped to customers by mail. The goal was to allow project collaboration in an electronic environment utilizing the power of the Internet to share and work with information.

As the company grew and more documentation was created and updated electronically, there was a growing disconnect between the company’s process requirements and its ability to efficiently control documents. “Managing documents on a network file server without real version and access control was not working,” says the company’s manager of information systems. “Plus, our customers required us to have the ability to transmit documents electronically. Our goal was to be able to manage and transmit 100 percent of our documents electronically.”

The challenge issued to the Sword Group (Sword), an IBM Business Partner, was to provide the engineering applications the company’s engineers demanded—but based on a best-in-class platform that could be accessed from anywhere in the world. The platform had to allow the company to utilize its existing applications while making the information available throughout the enterprise and to customers worldwide. The system also had to be capable of bulk loading, exporting and working with large amounts of content on a daily basis. Equally essential was providing a user interface (UI) that supported the company’s highly transactional business processes and large amounts of content. The UI needed to be intuitively simple, offer flexibility in how documents could be browsed and configurable to match each user’s role.

In addition, the company wanted to move away from the J2EE™ Java™ environment to provide a user interface for collaborative working with its partners and suppliers based on Microsoft® .NET technology. There was also a time constraint. Engineers in the United States needed to work closely with their international counterparts as part of an upcoming project. The solution had to fit within the project’s tight execution timeframe.

To reach its goal, the company decided to automate its manual procedures for document design, creation and processing. However, not just any document management software would meet the exacting requirements of the company. The new content management solution had to be robust enough to support the project execution of a state-of-the-art engineering company.

Creating an innovative solution

The IBM ECM platform could provide the core capabilities the company needed, but it also required a specialized engineering focus. Customizing the IBM ECM platform to meet these specific requirements would have involved extensive software development, as well as the on-going maintenance and support challenges.

“We are in the systems configuration business,” says the manager of information systems. “We did not want to get into software development. Fortunately Sword Group’s development team had an intimate knowledge of how to work within the company’s framework for executing work. They understood our business process, our needs for working with engineering content and being able to communicate that to their development staff.”

The strategy to solve the company’s challenge involved interfacing Sword’s Fusion software with the IBM FileNet platform to provide a document vault and access to the functionality in the IBM ECM platform. The result was a suite of engineering applications that could efficiently leverage the IBM ECM application program interfaces (APIs). The Fusion for IBM FileNet P8 solution also added the valuable document-management capabilities to the IBM ECM platform that the company’s engineers and technical users had asked for. The combined solution, integrated with established engineering process rules and work requirements, made it possible to manage and transmit 100 percent of the company’s documents electronically.

The products delivered and installed as part of the ECM solution include:

IBM FileNet P8 Platform is designed for the most demanding compliance, content and process management needs. It is a unified, enterprise foundation for integrating the company‘s various applications. It combines enterprise content management reference architecture with comprehensive business process management and compliance capabilities. The platform provides a flexible API for Microsoft .NET and SharePoint for a rich and interactive user experience that can be easily customized.

Fusion for IBM FileNet P8 provides a database to manage all of the content generated during a project (e.g. CAD drawings, correspondence, RFPs, vendor documentation, photographs, etc.). This information is securely managed and can be defined to match the specific requirements of the project. Fusion also provides Web-based communications within the project team, dramatically improves the distribution of information and promotes closer collaboration.

IBM Content Manager is designed to manage all types of digitized content across multiple platforms, databases and applications. Content Manager provides the company with imaging, digital asset management, Web content management and content integration. Built on a multi-tier distributed architecture, it also provides the scalability to manage its geographically dispersed enterprise while helping to meet its regulatory compliance requirements.

IBM FileNet Business Process Manager provides comprehensive process management including business-oriented process modeling, forms, analytics, simulation and business activity monitoring. It helps the company increase process performance, reduce cycle times and improve productivity and decision making by automating, streamlining and optimizing processes. It also provides a collaborative and agile development framework.

IBM FileNet eForms is a Web-based forms management solution that integrates directly with IBM Content Manager and IBM Business Process Manager to add an intuitive forms-based user interface for managing the company’s mission-critical business processes and content. eForms also provides a quick way to introduce work flow processes to the organization.

“Everyone had a lot at stake in this,” the manager of information systems says. “There was no Plan B so we all had to make this work. As a result this was very much a collaborative effort, a far cry from the usual client-contractor kind of thing. Sword really did deliver for us.”

Sword’s professional services team has also integrated Fusion with the company’s corporate system for project control, process management and materials management.

Incorporating Microsoft SharePoint

For years the company has been trying to improve the way it collaborates with its customers, vendors, contractors and various groups throughout the company. So it chose to do its collaboration in a platform that its customers had been using—Microsoft SharePoint. By exporting its content out to a SharePoint site, customers can receive, review and publish documents in the same manner in which they would within the FileNet framework.

“Today, we populate Microsoft SharePoint with documents controlled and managed by our IBM ECM infrastructure, then use the SharePoint interface to collaborate on these engineering and design documents with other groups in the company, outside agencies and partners,” says the manager of information systems, “IBM's strategy for SharePoint enables us to address current business content management needs within its ECM infrastructure while allowing IBM to meet upcoming challenges—including integrated records and e-mail management—while streamlining business processes.”

Ensuring end-user success

No major Sword project is complete without getting the end-users comfortable with using the system, and the company’s solution was no exception. After completing the implementation of the system, a series of workshops were held with various user groups.

The big issue was taking people from the manual process they were comfortable with and making them understand the business reasons why the company chose to utilize the IBM FileNet/Fusion solution. Only after they used the system did they understand the value in being able to search for content and more importantly, being able to deliver all of the information they needed to the customer. These workshops proved to be essential to the acceptance and successful deployment of the solution.

Generating business results

The new solutions implemented by Sword extend IBM’s ECM software platform to enable the company to proactively collaborate with its customers in a matter of hours rather than the days and weeks it took with manual processes. There is no waiting for mail to be sent or received. Everything can be done online by simply sending an e-mail to a customer with a link. The customer goes to the link and it takes them right to a collaboration session. They can see what they need to see, they can provide feedback and comments immediately, moving projects forward faster than ever before.

“We won a $35 million contract largely because we were able to send the customer information electronically, and our competitors could not. It was the first time that documents for an entire engagement were developed and transmitted electronically. All the documents supplied to the client were 100 percent electronic. In the past, we wouldn’t have done it this way. Instead, all of the documents would have been printed and put into binders, which might have filled several bookcases,” says the manager of information systems. By doing everything electronically, the company has been able to achieve the following benefits:

Reduced costs

Automating labor-intensive registration, distribution and transmittal of clerical activities reduces project administration costs. The company is now able to quickly distribute project deliverables to the different discipline teams without needing to copy and print paper-based documentation. Electronic transmittals allow quick and secure dispatch of project documents to project partners through e-mail or the Internet infrastructure. This eliminates traditional printing and postal charges and allows reduction of supplier delivery lead-times.

Improved productivity

Project content is now available on-line 24/7, allowing decisions to be made faster and deliverables to be tracked throughout the lifecycle of the project. Routine procedures involving the review and approval of project deliverables are streamlined to improve efficiency. Electronic document management and distribution improves productivity by removing delays waiting for information required to complete a project activity.

Improved compliance

Fusion for IBM FileNet P8 manages the full lifecycle of each deliverable associated with the project. All lifecycle activities are controlled and audited within the system. Project correspondence is captured and managed. This reduces the risk of project delays due to contractual disputes or non-compliance with regulatory or statutory requirements.

Increased customer satisfaction

Project handover content is assembled during the execution of the project itself and may be handed over electronically to the customer. This allows the company to complete projects faster for competitive differentiation.

Better safety and security

Version control ensures only current information is available to project and site personnel, dramatically reducing the risk of using inaccurate information. Security features enable project managers (and/or document controllers) to establish read, write and access privileges to prevent confidential information from being accessed by unauthorized people.

According to the manager of information systems, IBM FileNet was initially chosen over competing systems due to its scalability, functionality and flexibility. “IBM FileNet came highly recommended to the company by many of our customers. The ability of IBM FileNet technology to be readily adapted to many different industry applications played a large part in our decision to go with the FileNet platform years ago. The purchase and customization of the IBM FileNet system has been less expensive and better received than the internally developed system it replaced.”

With IBM FileNet, the company is now able to better manage the complete project document lifecycle. “The bottom line is that this system has empowered our business,” says the manager of information systems. “It has enabled us to scale up in ways we couldn’t have done in the past. We can now manage all of the information for our projects.”

“We’ve seen a huge improvement in productivity, and we’ve realized cost savings of 35 to 40 percent in terms of document transmittals,” the manager of information systems concludes. “The IBM FileNet system has provided us with functionality that we simply didn’t have before. We now have better version control and improved management security.”

“The implementation of the IBM FileNet Enterprise Content Management solution has provided the company with a competitive advantage that has led directly to the acquisition of larger, more prestigious clients. IBM FileNet has enabled us to step up and win larger projects because IBM FileNet gives us instant credibility with customers. It’s a brand name they respect.”

The company is also looking to start new projects with Fusion for IBM FileNet P8 as well as migrating selected existing projects. The use of Fusion and the IBM FileNet P8 platform will be expanded to include drawing approvals, data books, and Purchase Orders (POs). Each PO will require a complete transaction record including: specifications, approvals, authorizations, contract awards and follow-throughs.

About The Sword Group

The Sword Group is a global provider of content management application solutions that enable enterprises to improve their business performance through better management of their information. Sword has more than 17 years experience and domain knowledge developing focused content management business applications for heavily regulated industries such as engineering, construction, energy, oil & gas, utilities and manufacturing. More than 120,000 users across 650 sites in 30 countries worldwide employ Sword’s software making it one of the most popular solutions in its markets. Sword, an IBM ECM ValueNet Business Partner, has built Fusion for IBM FileNet P8 to support globally distributed project and owner teams. Fusion for FileNet P8 automates key project document control procedures using 100 percent Web-based software. Sword provides specialized software solutions and a full range of professional services for IBM’s ECM suite of products.

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Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

FileNet P8 Platform, FileNet Business Process Manager, FileNet eForms, Content Manager Enterprise Edition

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2009 IBM Corporation Software Group Route 100 Somers, NY 10589 U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America June 2009 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo and are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at Microsoft is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Java, J2EE and all Java-based trademarks are trademarks of Sun Microsystems in the United States, other countries or both. Other company, product or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. This case study is an example of how one customer uses IBM products. There is no guarantee of comparable results. References in this publication to IBM products and services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates.