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From file-sharing to dynamic data-sharing

The drive towards dynamic data to communicate specifications and standards

Your choice of specification management system can make the difference between controlled consistency and uncontrolled proliferation of vital specification data. Businesses today must manage a significant quantity of specification information, spanning assets, brands, spaces and beyond.
Whenever a business wants to make specification changes for its facilities, equipment, or operations, it needs information easily at hand. How specifications, standards, manuals, and datasheets are stored, managed, and made easily accessible is a business-critical matter.

Documents can be difficult

The reality of managing ever-expanding information across design, construction, and operation, is that with volume, comes an increasing level of complexity within the information management landscape. This problem lies at the heart of numerous challenges facing businesses as they try to simplify their systems and use of information. They must work to keep information optimally accessible and up-to-date, whilst managing increasing data volumes, and ensure their systems can scale to cope with ongoing change as they evolve.

When the volume of information in question resides in documents in an array of formats and styles, that problem is significantly compounded. Owners, stakeholders, and team professionals across numerous functions rely on specifications, policies, and standards to do their job, to exchange information and maintain consistency.

In our previous article “5 reasons you need a dynamic information system” we identified several of the drawbacks of relying on information held within electronic document management solutions – whether they are web-based, or not. Database-driven content management systems that hold a single repository of unconflicted specification information can support solid decisions. The use of common data structures and data presented in a consistent manner gives credibility and enhanced accessibility of specifications and standards to all actors within your business’s build and fit-out supply chain.

Database management system advantages

There are more reasons why companies are switching from document management solutions to database-driven content and specification management systems to hold and serve up their design data, specifications, standards, and policies. In fact, people, and their role in creating and handling documents could be argued to be a central part of the challenge.

Document downfalls – the automation that makes desktop document production so effortless for users becomes a headache for managing manuals and documentation. It is far too easy for individuals to alter documents, create version differences, and save documents in multiple locations. With a smart digital design specification management solution, the format remains flexible. Information, formatted to suit the user’s browser, is not forced into a specific document format.

Fixed layout constraints – typically information is presented in pre-determined formats and combinations of documents, but the consistency of approach is constantly subject to drift as individuals creating documents think they can make incremental improvements. A lighting schedule might be accompanied by a set of datasheets for each standard fitting and list of consumables but the consistency of these can easily vary. Dynamic information that comes from a single central database source is compiled into a number of standard views, without any risk of contradiction, and maintaining the consistency of approach.

Multiple owners can often mean no owner at all – the content of each individual document is determined by its creator or contributors, and even with electronic management of those documents there is in theory nothing to stop either duplication, contradiction, conflict, and deficiencies in completeness. It means that a single, complete, comprehensive overview of all the documents that go to make up the overall set of specifications and standards is simply not possible. A rigorous data structure in a digital design specification system will ensure every type of information has a place and a clear designation – so you can easily see when information is missing or duplicated.

If you’re interested to keep all design, standards, and policies under control in one database-driven location, please call us on +44 (0)1858 468 345 or email iconsystem@elecosoft.com.

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