C+S April 2022 Vol. 8 Issue 4 (web)

When it comes to collaboration technologies, the telephone came first and remains a favorite. Yet Teams has replaced conventional phone systems. A handful of colleagues said we’d have to pry their handsets from their “cold, dead hands,” but they came around when they became able to seamlessly make and receive office calls on a smartphone. When the pandemic forced people to work at home, they were happy to have a softphone alternative to their office phones. And Teams, like most collaboration platforms, also offers messaging (chats) and videoconferencing, and does so on mobile as well as desk - top computers. These capabilities are especially useful when discuss- ing site conditions or working in the field. Single-pane access to multiple workflows Collaboration means much more than communication. In Teams, for example, “collaboration” also covers the group editing of a Word, ex - cel or PowerPoint document. No more emailing attachments and won - dering which version is current. This is a game-changing workflow, especially for large teams. Teams doesn’t just facilitate collaboration among people. It also pro - vides a platform for different software applications to work together, inside it. Naturally, it accommodates Microsoft applications: • Office365 (Collaborative multi-user access to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, etc.) • OneNote (Collaborative meeting minutes and notes, acces - sible to the entire team) • Planner (Simple task assignments and tracking to teammembers) • Calendar • Microsoft Stream (for training videos) Engineers tend to be visual thinkers, so they like Power BI business intelligence software, which graphs data useful in managing projects. Because this data can be both internal- and external-facing, it’s a good way to update clients on their projects. A very cool integration with Teams is the HoloLens 2 with Remote Assist . It's an augmented reality headset to wear at the jobsite. People meeting with you on Teams can not only see what you’re seeing, but can see the model superimposed over the structure. Because all these applications work inside Teams, you’re able to do many tasks in one software pane. No more jumping back and forth. Channel apps and the challenge of integrated software Teams accepts non-Microsoft applications, too. Using such “channel apps,” Teams becomes a single pane in which you can brainstorm ideas using a whiteboard software ; or manage emails, file transfers, and construction administration using project information manage- ment software. All in all, single-pane collaboration has been a hit with engineers. Col- leagues have told us, “I just want one platform to use for communication.”

Could a model viewer come to Teams? SmithGroup is working with Autodesk to develop a model viewer to use within Teams. Imagine opening a model inside Teams! Project managers would be able to view some aspect of a model without risking changes or using Revit tokens. Two recommendations for IT managers: scripts and sync Scripted processes Because Teams is so open-ended, we recommend employing scripted, automated processes to open and close projects, move data, and more. Consider the Power App suite, Power Automate in particular, to automate business or project processes. One example: tagging people at the creation of a project that includes them. In addition to ensuring consistent process, saving time, and eliminating human error, scripting makes it easier to change platforms in the future. For example, if BIM 360 replaces Teams and you have processes scripted, it’s practical to switch one repository for another, because you understand the pathways between them. Sync Show people how to put cloud-hosted files on their local computers using the sync function. The file stays current because, in the background, changes synchronize with the cloud-based original. It really saves time, and engineers like it. Single-pane collaboration platforms are one way to reconcile the pe - rennial question of whether to do as much work as possible using one, big, complicated software application or to combine many easier-to- use, best-in-class applications. “Desire path” adoption versus telling people what to do and how to do it Desire paths are the trails pedestrians make themselves, as opposed to the paved sidewalks planners provide for them. They are an excellent metaphor for software adoption. Software often offers multiple ways to do a given task. For example, some may choose to share a file by attaching it to an email, while others will email a link to the file. Some may send it as an attachment in a text, or in the public message section of Teams, which is a chat to the group. Still others will use project information management software to send files and log record transmittals. All those different ways of doing a task are examples of users blazing their own paths.


april 2022 csengineermag.com

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