Engineers get a global environment

A project manager in Manchester can communicate in real time and share proposals and documents with an engineer in Kuala Lumpur and a client in Sydney, on Sinclair Knight Merz's evolving Worldwide Information Sharing Environment.

Consulting firm, Sinclair Knight Merz has created an open shared-information environment to encourage a culture of learning and innovation amongst its engineers and clients.

A raft of mergers and changes within the consulting firm made knowledge management a critical business issue. The firm is involved in several infrastructure developments, including the Dublin Light Rail in London and power generation and mineral projects across Asia, at any one time it could be working on 10,000 active jobs.

Information systems manager Peter Nevin said the firm was looking for a Web-based solution to enable engineers to collaborate, exchange drawings and related documents on everything from excavation to drainage and improve review and response times.

Nevin said reasons for the switch from tradition file and print included reduced costs and improved performance for in-house users.

"For external users, it was to improve the quality of service we provided to our clients," he said.

"We looked at a number of products early this year. Seven in all were considered, which were quickly cut down to three, which were documentum, Livelink and PC documents.

"In the end, we went with Livelink (from Open Text) due to the level of Web support for users through the Internet browser which provided maximum benefits to our end clients, both internal and external," he said. "Livelink also integrated easily with our existing legacy environment."

The solution will replace a Novell-based file-sharing environment running a Cold Fusion project-based extranet package.

Livelink delivers a Web-based user interface to 2500 seats in the consultancy.

The knowledge management tool will support Sinclair Knight Merz Group's Worldwide Information Sharing Environment (WiSE). This Web-based environment consists of both intranet and extranet applications for the company's employees, trading partners and clients. Sinclair Knight Merz, with the use of Livelink's extranet capability and other tools, will establish 'virtual' project teams to bring the best skills to every project regardless of geographical distance and organisational boundary.

"We have developed a replication engine that sits underneath Livelink for our 30 locations worldwide. The replication engine sits underneath and allows internal and external clients to have global view of the data," he said. "This is relevant because our major clients span across geographies."

"There is a lot of IP [intellectual property] in relation to the system we have developed. The replication engine has generated massive interest within the Livelink population around the world," he added.

Livelink went into pilot phase in December, which involved a small number of projects in our Sydney-based office, but is due to go live in mid January to enable worldwide project collaboration.

Nevin said the firm already provided extranets to clients and has now extended that intranet value add to our clients.

Livelink's capability to work well in a decentralised environment and at low bandwidth meets Sinclair Knight Merz's total cost of ownership ratios for cross border communications, Nevin said. The solution can help reduce duplication by collating the firm's collective skills and cumulative experience into a globally accessible document library and providing tools to manage the project-related information. Also a built-in document conversion ability will translate common desktop application files into HTML for quick viewing, saving time and cost.

The firm is also reviewing virtual meeting tools, such as Open Text's MeetingZone, to ramp up its WiSE platform.

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