358 Lotus blogs updated hourly. Who will post next? Home | Downloads | Events | Pods | Blogs | Search | myPL | About 
Latest 7 Posts
IBM Verse – Connecting Me to We
Fri, Nov 21st 2014 162
Social Business Adoption 101
Mon, Nov 10th 2014 138
Culture is not part of the game – it is the game
Mon, Oct 27th 2014 176
The Collaborative Commuters
Mon, Oct 13th 2014 127
Social Connections VII in Stockholm
Fri, Oct 10th 2014 121
Embracing Corporate Communications with IBM Connections
Thu, Sep 18th 2014 110
Start small to build success with Social Business
Fri, Sep 12th 2014 81
Top 10
Culture is not part of the game – it is the game
Mon, Oct 27th 2014 176
IBM Verse – Connecting Me to We
Fri, Nov 21st 2014 162
Alternative to Lotus Traveler client on Android
Wed, May 30th 2012 151
Social Business Adoption 101
Mon, Nov 10th 2014 138
The Collaborative Commuters
Mon, Oct 13th 2014 127
Social Connections VII in Stockholm
Fri, Oct 10th 2014 121
Build your Collective Corporate Intelligence with Social Business #socbiz #ibmsocialbiz #e20
Sun, May 26th 2013 110
Embracing Corporate Communications with IBM Connections
Thu, Sep 18th 2014 110
Don’t expect to be social with your (closest) colleagues
Mon, Jul 7th 2014 95
How to move from Email to Social without moving at all
Wed, May 28th 2014 93

The Social Construction Project

I must confess that when I first heard about CEMEX’s successful use of IBM Connections I was amazed at how an apparently very manual, practical and non-IT-oriented organisation had become a social business:

It got me thinking about how I might apply a social business environment to other industries and I realised that the construction industry is an ideal place to deploy social business.

The Anatomy of a Construction Project

A construction project – building a new home, office block, shopping mall, or whatever, is all about people. In most cases the people work in many different organisations and are appointed either by the client (the organisation who has commissioned the building) or the contractor (the organisation charged with physically building it).

As well as the client and contractor there will likely be the following other companies to a greater or lesser extent:

  • Architect
  • Quantity Surveyor
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Electrical Engineer
  • Planning Supervisor

The contractor, whose job it is to build the thing will appoint sub-contractors who are specialists in their areas, e.g.

  • Electrician
  • A/C Engineers
  • Structural Steelwork
  • Plumbing
  • Groundworks
  • … and so on

What I want you to understand from this is that there are lots of different companies involved. Each company of course has multiple people involved and hence you immediately have a social network formed where people need to meet, understand their position and hear about what they’re doing.

The construction industry is typically quite conservative when it comes to working practices. This is partly because it is very litigious (often a company’s only route to making a profit on a project is through litigation). Times have changed, however, and nowadays project extranets are virtually mandated on projects of any size.

Information Overload

Construction is all about instructions. Everyone covers themselves with an instruction to do this, or othat, and failure to do so, or to act in time is often the basis of litigation. Therefore in the bad old days, a construction project would produce literally tons of paper. As time moved on this moved to fax and then email. Many hundreds of gigabytes of emails, drawings, documents and other information are produced on a construction project of any size.

Thus the project extranet was born. Instead of bombarding everyone with all this data and giving each company the same headache about receipt and retention of information organisations such as 4Projects, BIW and others have sprung up to provide a customised centralised location for information to be stored and notifications sent.

Although these systems achieve their aim by cutting down the IT hurdle involved in managing a construction project, they don’t offer the benefits an in-house project team deploying a social intranet experience.

Social Construction

So why would a construction project want to be run in a social manner? A project needs the following:

  • A place to store and manage controlled documents like drawings, specifications and reports;
  • A way of updating others on changes to files and other important information;
  • A project directory so that everyone knows each other’s responsibilities;
  • A management and workflow engine to provide a standard approach to managing changes and which provides industry-standard templates to achieve these changes;
  • A way of managing revisions to documents and being able to back-track through previous revisions;
  • Security and auditability of all changes in the system;

Using a Social Business approach to these requirements allows:

  • A great reduction in irrelevant information flooding into users mailboxes (remember that many construction professionals work on several projects at a time and hence can receive several hundred notification emails a day);
  • The necessary management and control structures to deliver industry standard processes which as subject to audit;
  • Cross-system tagging and discovery of information which previously was not possible through traditional systems;
  • The opportunity to simplify the reporting structure and information update paradigm so that although the same rigour of reporting is put in place, it is done so less formally (I will explain in a minute).
  • The basic utility functions of file sharing and information dissemination are covered through Files and Wikis.
  • Knowing who to contact is addressed through Profiles.
  • Fine-grained control of project activities, completion and progressing is delivered using Activities.
  • Standard Operating Procedures, Policies and other standard documentation is covered and controlled using Wikis.
  • Micro-blogging by each participant can be used as a way of updating others on the status of their part of the project, such as “Drawing 193783 – Second Floor Revision A drawing posted to the General Arrangements Folder”.

Working Socially in Construction


Blogging might be scoffed at as simply a way for the idle to promote themselves (ahem!). In a construction context, blogging can be a system of record where each organisation reports formally on the work they have done, advises others of issues arising and generally uses it to communicate.

I advocate that blogging would allow the individual organisations to make the formal reports they need, provides the security to prevent later tampering with the reports and also provides the longevity of data storage which is needed to aid referencing in the future.


Instead of endlessly producing memos of updates on the status of work, construction projects can use micro-blogging (similar to Twitter) to publish what’s going on. Those involved can subscribe to the feeds from different players in the system.

File Management

Centrally storing files and providing a mechanism for revision is a given in any viable project extranet. Any social business solution worth its salt provides this functionality. By tagging the files (with the same bank of tags which are used throughout the system) not only can the hierarchy of files and folders which the industry is used to be maintained, but cross-functional meta data can also be provided.

For example, any project would likely structure its files according to the building, the structure, then perhaps the package of work the drawings represent. This would still be the same. However, by using tags to further describe the content of the drawing it becomes possible to locate the information you need in future alongside other explicit knowledge in other areas of the system. For example, on an electrical drawing you might tag the file air conitioning, data outlets, electrical sockets. Later, blog entries, wikis, status updates and other content similarly tagged can then be grouped with what might otherwise seem to be an irrelevant file.

The ability for not only the owner of the file but in fact any user to tag the file means that the tacit knowledge the users of the system have can be applied. Let’s say I open the drawing and find that it also includes information on the lighting. I tag the file with ighting and have contributed to the body of knowledge without affecting the original data.

Process Management

Most project extranets provide inflexible approaches to managing processes. Some construction projects can be complex and require many different pieces of information to be recorded as well as actions to be taken.

Using a social system which has something like IBM Connections’ Activities framework (where rich templates of process can be defined and reused over and over) provides a mechanism to define, refine and run change management, information review and general management processes for the project.


Where information needs to be gathered into logical groups, communities can be formed. These allow files, wikis, blogs, activities and all sorts of other information to be brought together under one logical group.

This allows the like-minded to gather and discuss, share and contribute in ways which is not currently possible using traditional extranets.

Tuning Out Socially

As I alluded at the start of this article, there is a defined structure to a construction project. The amount of information generated can easily overwhelm anyone. Using communities and activity streams to group and connect with the relevant people involved in the project allows everyone to stay in control of the stuff that is important to their job.

A Social Construction Project provides these social features with the same rigorous controls for auditing and security which are needed to cover everyone’s backs but with the flexibility of encouraging collaboration and sharing.

Next time…

To illustrate some of these concepts, my next blog post will show how I would construct a Social Construction Project using IBM Connections.

Stay tuned or subscribe using the link on the side to be the first to receive a notification of the next article.

Living Social - An independent blog about IBM's Social Business, Analytics and Collaboration software. Follow me on twitter @alanghamilton.

Mar 05, 2012
28 hits

Recent Blog Posts

IBM Verse – Connecting Me to We
Fri, Nov 21st 2014 10:17a   Alan Hamilton
IBM Verse fixes email to give you back your day. If you have been around the IBM software ecosystem this week, you probably couldn’t have missed our announcement about IBM Verse. IBM has been working to bring the world of social collaboration into a context where many of us still work – email. Most of us still use IBM Notes, Microsoft Outlook or some other email client as the primary place we work. We use it for filing, for storage, for search, for communicating and well, for being a [read] Keywords: collaboration connections ibm notes email enterprise facebook microsoft outlook twitter

Social Business Adoption 101
Mon, Nov 10th 2014 8:17a   Alan Hamilton
People often ask me how to get started with Social Business. As I have said before in this blog “social” is not a thing in itself. Its more of a state of mind. It’s part of the culture of your organisation. If your culture is that information is power then you need to recognise that the culture will get in the way of any attempts to improve sharing, re-use and and better communication of information. Assuming, however, you’re ready for “social”, IBM Connection [read] Keywords: collaboration connections ibm enterprise facebook twitter

Culture is not part of the game – it is the game
Mon, Oct 27th 2014 10:14a   Alan Hamilton
Lou Gerstner, pictured opposite, used to be the Chairman and CEO of IBM.  In his excellent book “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance” there are many great lessons for anyone in business.  I came across recently, however, one particularly poignant quote related to the use of social collaboration in business.  We all recognise the need for the right culture to prevail in the organisation, but Mr Gerstner says: I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspe [read] Keywords: collaboration ibm enterprise facebook network twitter

The Collaborative Commuters
Mon, Oct 13th 2014 3:12p   Alan Hamilton
“Being Social” is not a thing. It’s not something a business would want to do. In the same way as a business doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t need to be social. It’s there to deliver something to someone – dividends to its shareholders, services to its citizens or aid to the people it is there to help. So why would “social” be something you would want in business? Let’s drop the word “social” for a minute and think about a new word – “collaborative”. Why would a bu [read] Keywords: collaboration connections archive email facebook ipod network office twitter

Social Connections VII in Stockholm
Fri, Oct 10th 2014 1:11p   Alan Hamilton
The worlds finest social collaboration conference comes to Stockholm on 13-14 November It’s time for Stockholm, Sweden to be the centre of the social collaboration universe with the seventh Social Connections conference being held in the “Venice of the North”.  This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who works with, or is considering deploying social collaboration solutions from IBM to get the facts and strategies they need to be successful. This is a community-run event wh [read] Keywords: collaboration connections ibm community facebook twitter

Embracing Corporate Communications with IBM Connections
Thu, Sep 18th 2014 5:15p   Alan Hamilton
Or how to avoid one of your employees writing a song about your company… One of the first uses many people consider for a social platform is corporate communications.  I mean the kind of top-down good-news story stuff that the senior management would want you to read and feel good about so that you’ll be […] [read] Keywords: connections ibm


Start small to build success with Social Business
Fri, Sep 12th 2014 6:13a   Alan Hamilton
If you are a regular reader of my blog, or even my book, you will know that I recommend an iterative approach to rolling out a social business project. By picking one area of your business and fully implementing IBM Connections to solve a specific business problem you: Don’t bite off more than you can […] [read] Keywords: connections ibm

Socializing Microsoft with IBM Connections
Thu, Aug 21st 2014 6:11a   Alan Hamilton
The title of this post is one which I borrowed from my colleague and friend, Omar Davison, who has (with some assistance from his colleagues) put together a very compelling and direct little video on how IBM Connections can bring a whole new dimension of collaboration to Microsoft SharePoint and Outlook: The point he makes […] [read] Keywords: collaboration connections ibm microsoft outlook sharepoint

Don’t expect to be social with your (closest) colleagues
Mon, Jul 7th 2014 6:11a   Alan Hamilton
You might think you’ve read that headline wrongly.  Surely the whole point of social business collaboration is to be social with your colleagues?  Yes, it is, but it depends on how close they are and which tools you are using.  Confused?  Read on. If you have a Facebook account and several members of your immediate […] [read] Keywords: collaboration facebook

How to move from Email to Social without moving at all
Wed, May 28th 2014 3:11p   Alan Hamilton
At work virtually all of us work with email. At present it is the default and defacto method of communication. We probably also all recognize its shortcomings when it comes to working together with other people. It is intended as a means of messaging primarily between two individuals but over time, of course, we get […] [read] Keywords: collaboration lotus email

Created and Maintained by Yancy Lent - About - Blog Submission - Suggestions - Change Log - Blog Widget - Advertising - Mobile Edition