Read the fine print, especially when changes are being made to a platform or tool that has a new release. We highly encourage you to read the fine print. Even more importantly, if the platform is re-branding or re-releasing, it is critical to understand the ins and outs of all the changes and how it will effect you and your day-to-day business functions, and most importantly how it will effect your team and clients.
I could go on and on talking about trying to keep up with multiple technologies and such, but let's get right to the point - after four decades of writing architectural specifications, not just for projects and masters, but also for governments and spec platforms such as National Research Council of Canada's (NRC) National Master Specificaitons (NMS) and ESpex, I want to share with you what I have learned and what I look for in a specification tool to use in my own firm. I have broken them down into considerations for you to ponder and think about how each area may effect you.
Intuitive Function - There is a learning curve to every upgrade and new tool. It is important to get feedback from participants who have used the program and have applied user function to a project. What is the learning curve window you expect in adopting a new tool or release?
Office Masters and Standards - Does system "house" office (or firm-wide) standards to be applied to all or selected projects? When those masters are to be updated, can changes be applied to all active projects? Does the system allow for project or firm specific standards to be applied to projects of the specifier's choice?
Publishing Function - Word documents will be around for the foreseeable future. Publishing to .docx and/or .pdf for ultimate industry usage is critical. Flexibility in content, before and after publication is also an important consideration. Cloud-based specifications allow everyone on the project team to have access to the most current information at all times. How important is the publish function for your office?
Structuring Based on Families - Does the system allow for ease of alignment with drawing terminology or BIM families? Is there a clear connection or link between Uniformat assemblies and the sections containing the corresponding family components? What if you could build the spec in Uniformat, and when necessary, link it to MasterFormat?
Product and Manufacturer Information - Is the product and manufacturer content "Pay to Play"? Meaning, you will only see those manufacturers who have paid a fee to be included in the platform. That can open up possibilities for manufacturer-controlled content and reduce honest product application and information. Is the system designed for spec-writing or for promoting manufacturers and products?
Integrating Existing Specifications - A system that allows for ease of pulling in existing documentation from existing projects or standards can save a tremendous amount of time. Providing the ability to edit that content and bring it into a new project is a time saver. Would pulling in legacy documents save time?
Version Comparison - Comparing versions saves time and allows for many parties on the project team to quickly review changes in the documents. Would reviewing versions side-by-side save you time?
Assembly Approach in Uniformat - Does the system provide Uniformat® as a checklist that allows user to identify scope of project at the beginning and throughout the process of developing project? Does Uniformat® provide a narrative to allow the design team to think about and answer questions as phases progress? Does it function as a tool for contractors and other members of the team to review and comment on? How important would this function be for scope, budget, and schedule control?
Uniformat® to MasterFormat® - Does system reference MasterFormat® section inside Uniformat® and allow the documents to build on the narrative? What if Uniformat® components could refer to sections in MasterFormat®?
Global Tagging - Make decisions or choices early. Apply those decisions throughout the specs. Update the choices quickly and easily. For example: Apply a LEED requirement to the specifications. If the requirement is updated or removed, global tagging will allow the edits to happen quickly and easily throughout the specification. Could global tagging save you time?
Collaboration - Are decisions provided in real-time to project team members who are in the documents? Does system allow for:
- Capturing history of decisions made by the team during design.
- Audit trails to allow for tracking of project progress and greater accountability.
- Breaking assembly categories down into brief descriptions and components within the narrative and connects Owners, estimators, and contractors to the pertinent information with speed and ease.
Is the system designed to help close the communication gap in the project team and bring transparency to the project?
Does the system allow for unlimited user collaboration, or is every participant required to have a license to view the project?
Fun Spec Writing - Spec writing can be fun when it is efficient, transparent, collaborative and leads to a transformation in behaviors of the entire project team. Consider ease of use and interface: Is the system easy to navigate and designed to flow with the design process? Does it provide convenient access to past projects and decisions to incorporate lessons learned and valuable feedback into other current and upcoming projects?
Test Drive vs. Demo - Understand how a tool works through practical use and application within a sample project. A demonstration should allow hands-on options to dig into areas that are of priority to you, as well as areas that provide benefits that will drive success on your firm, team, and project.
So there you have it. Everything we find extremely important to have in a specification tool that will benefit the entire project team. Are you ready to schedule your test drive and experience a specification tool that will provide the solution to all of the above considerations? 2023 subscriptions are currently half price.
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