Technology through COVID-19
Within the last year, the COVID-19 crisis has brought about accelerated change in how we interact with each other, as we look to maintain social and professional normalcy, staying as safe as possible. Like you, we at PICCO have not been spared from this reality. We have had to make considerable efforts to keep our staff safe while maintaining the level of service that our clients expect. One of the largest of these efforts is the integration of new technologies into a workflow, that prior to 2020, relied heavily on in-person coordination and daily team interaction.
We contemplated so many questions in the spring of 2020, as we considered our response to the pandemic:
1. How will our staff access the sever and software while working remotely? 2. How will we continue to maintain quality control—digitally? 3. How can we communicate or collaborate with each other, in groups or in pairs?
There were several new (to us) technologies—and old technologies used in new ways, that we've implemented in order to answer these questions.
The first, and most immediate issue was how to grant everyone access to the server and different software they needed. Things moved so quickly in March 2020; we did not yet have a remote working infrastructure in place. Enter AnyDesk—a software that allows staff working from home a way to “tap” into their workstations at the office, as if they were right there.
A simple solution for sure, but of course nothing was simple in 2020:
Issues arose within the first few weeks—internet bandwidth frustrations, power outages in the office, and file version confusion to name a few…(but nothing that our team could not handle!)
As we do on all projects, we worked together to solve the issues we could, and putting new workflows in place
Most importantly, we supported each other when workarounds and best practices were discovered
PDF files are not new to us, nor was the program we used to work with them, Bluebeam. However, some features in the program became much more powerful for us in our new remote work paradigm. In the office, a common practice for quality control was printing pages of drawings, details, or tickets, for hand, red line mark-ups. This practice helped us maintain a record of the corrections and allowed the draftsperson to highlight completed comments. In a remote setting, the process of transferring printed drawings to each other became impossible.
Bluebeam’s studio feature was discovered by members of our team to be very useful in solving this workflow gap:
PDF files of drawings are created and shared in a collaborative space called a “session”, with team members invited to comment and mark-up the drawings as if they were paper copies
All members can see the mark-ups and are able to highlight completed corrections, replicating our physical workflow
Sessions can be downloaded and saved for future reference
This process has proven to have additional benefits, such as reporting on workflow and reducing paper waste. This new process will undoubtedly continue into a post-COVID environment.
From birthday celebrations and weddings, to simply catching up with family and friends, we have all become familiar with the video call. One of the first realizations we had, when looking at how we could work remotely, was that we needed a way to talk to each other. Not just through email or text messages; not even simple phone calls. We needed a collaboration tool! We tried a few things early on such as What’s App messenger and GotoMeetings, but Microsoft’s Teams quickly became the tool of choice for all of us.
Teams has become an all-in-one meeting space critical to maintaining the communication that has been essential to PICCO’s workflow:
Teams provides text messaging for quick requests and inquiries
Teams offers virtual calling capabilities for internal/external conference calling and screen sharing that is important for ensuring information is passed clearly among team members
Teams has great add-on tools that we continue to find, still today, new and helpful ways to utilize—from planning, to task delegation and due date tracking
One of our core values at PICCO engineering is teamwork, and Teams has been a critical tool for us in maintaining this cultural norm in an abnormal time.
"With all of this said, the most important tool that we have had at our disposal is our team’s flexibility. Without exception— every member of the PICCO team has been open and responsive to the new normal. There is no technology on the planet that could replace the ability of a strong team to respond to challenges with the positivity that we have seen from ours."
Technology is a “standard” feature of PICCO’s service to clients; always current and always adaptive to the needs of our projects. Our proximity, or lack thereof, to a site has never been a challenge for us. Just as our clients rely on us to achieve their vision, and to get it right, we were able to put ourselves in their shoes, rise to the challenge and find the right solutions.
Dustin South is a project manager and has been with PICCO since 2003. He has extensive experience in project coordination and management, cost management, and is responsible for workload delegation, detailing, estimation, and day-to-day scheduling.
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