Blog post written by George Hubert, Nacht & Lewis Project Architect
With few exceptions, humans are social creatures. For this reason, teamwork, like community, is among those concepts that we intuitively link to happiness and success. If we are lucky, teamwork is a regular occurrence in our work and personal lives. In the 18 months that I’ve been at Nacht & Lewis, I’ve been very fortunate in this regard. But that’s no accident because teamwork is an integral part of our professional means and methods and one of our firm’s core values. There’s no overstating the importance of teamwork for construction professionals. A project without teamwork is doomed to fail.
This is the reason we are sharing our discovery of a groovy new software tool, which is actually named Teamwork. The creators make great claims to its utility for everything from world domination to smaller projects like a DeLorean time machine (“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads…”). All kidding aside, Teamwork is an extremely agile project management tool with a robust capacity to support typical architectural project management and design team communication tasks. Bob Petersen (Nacht & Lewis Senior Project Manager) discovered Teamwork in early November 2016 when he implemented a Last Planner-style, work planning methodology on a current jail expansion project. Teamwork ended his month-long quest for a software tool that could align with work plan documentation requirements and smooth our transition to that project management strategy. At that time, we were in the middle of schematic design and stuck behind a few annoyingly simple, but fundamental problems.
One of these involved translating the design team’s project work plan or “pull plan” into a coherent and legible format, then sharing that information amongst ourselves and with our consultants. The graphic and formatting limitations of typical project management software applications (e.g., Microsoft Project, AEC FastTrack) were compounded by their inability to share files easily between multiple users in multiple locations. Teamwork came to the rescue with standard CPM task management organization (including Gantt charting). Teamwork is not just cloud based, but also free for any participants who we invite to collaborate on our projects. Thus, our consultants can view, modify and add files at their convenience. Within a day, we distilled a two-day pull planning session for the jail schematic design phase from its paper format into a Teamwork project with specific milestone dates and a critical path with task dependencies. Our consultants quickly returned comments and corrections.
Removal of this communication barrier alone saved significant project resources with fewer meetings and improved access to project data. As we continued using Teamwork, we discovered other functions that solved or simplified additional problems. One of these was large file sharing (anything larger than 7MB was a problem for some of our consultants). Prior to Teamwork we had relied on Microsoft SharePoint, which we found to be fussy, complex and unreliable. Overall, Teamwork greatly improves the speed of communication and the completeness of coordination with our consultants. In addition, Teamwork has a remarkably seamless interface with Microsoft Outlook. As a project architect, it’s my responsibility to track multiple issues which can involve multiple participants, documents and email threads. Teamwork allows me to keep notes, reference files and setup automatic reminders for any issue or task from a single platform. This allows me to communicate much more quickly and completely without convoluted searches for documents or email. I also have freedom to leave a project, knowing confidently that I can pick up quickly when I return to the project.
Apart from being a powerful and thoughtfully crafted tool, we have developed real respect for the people who created Teamwork. We think Teamwork offers an easy way for us to further enhance ours and that of our consultants and clients.