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SKYSITE syncs risks with greater docs control, tighter security

SKYSITE syncs risks with greater
docs control, tighter security

By JONATHAN BARNESfor BuiltWorlds | Jul 22, 2015

When a large hospital project at Penn State University went awry in 2012, contractors pointed fingers at each other, and in subsequent litigation, some even blamed the 2D modeling used on the job. More broadly, the legal complaint also ignited an industry-wide controversy over the limitations and alleged culpability of building information modeling (BIM).

But the BIM process which was brought to the Penn State project after it already had begun actually caught the design problems that led to the lawsuits between general contractor and subs. The case was subsequently settled for undisclosed terms, but it still reverberates today. The lesson? Even with high-tech tools in use, if they are not used properly or at the right time to catch problems, everybody can still end up in court.

While litigation occurs in every part of our society, it has long been the bane of the AEC industry. The very small profit margins under which many firms labor can be erased overnight via simple mistakes that should have been detected before they became problematic. With that preventative aim in mind, Walnut Creek CA-based ARC Document Solutions (formerly American Reprographics Corporation) has parlayed its history in documentation into developing a new AEC-specific file sharing solution, called SKYSITE.

Driven by the expansion of our increasingly paperless culture, the new product is a result of the company’s shift in focus a few years ago from traditional reprographics and paper-based services, to the virtual organization of documents. 

“We realized that the way the AEC industry shared files had changed,” says Kerman Kasad, senior director, worldwide marketing and communications, for ARC Document Solutions. “We actually had helped our clients manage physical documents, (so) we had experience in how AEC worked, and had been working in that industry for a long time.”

Less paper, fewer errors, diminished risk

By design, the cloud-based document management system helps companies reduce project risk through document control. Updated this summer, SKYSITE’s automatic synch, and functions like schedule coordination, supply delivery, and inspections, already represented a major upgrade for many firms. Some still use systems like DropBox, which create their own non-secure repositories for files. But this is risky without security features or control over which versions of docs are available.

To address these common concerns, SKYSITE provides real-time synchronization of documents, and allows users to access the platform through tablets and other mobile devices. The company’s customer service is old school, at least in the sense of being personal: ARC provides online-based, telephone-based and face-to-face consulting at local offices around the country, on things such as setup, or other issues in learning the system.

According to a new research study that ARC released June 30, decision-makers in construction are now looking more carefully for the right tech solutions, and they are finding that some solutions are lacking. ARC surveyed 1,000 AEC industry professionals and found 31% believe using cloud tech solutions not specifically designed for the AEC industry made completing a task more difficult, as opposed to using an AEC-designed solution. 

That fact may seem obvious to many in an industry where projects often involve people in diverse locations and roles, including owners, general contractors, architects, developers, subs and vendors. Keeping documents organized and up to date across the team, while ensuring the right people have those documents and that they have read them, is a large part of a huge battle.

ARC partnered with Newlio, a market research firm, to conduct the recent study. They found that 75% of respondents attribute up to a third of project cost overruns to project document difficulties and issues. Thirty-three percent said accessing the latest set of documents and having the most current information available was challenging for them in completing a project.


ARC surveyed 1,000 aec professionals... 75% said a third of project cost overruns could be linked to document-related difficulties


With profit margins for some firms averaging just 5%, contractors are increasingly vigilant about not allowing costly mistakes and avoiding schedule delays. SKYSITE’s tracking and reporting functions work to prevent such problems, by increasing employee accountability through tracking and generating reports for each document that is shared, downloaded, deleted, marked up, and/or distributed. Reports can be easily shared with others on the project team --or kept close for just a few-- through a privacy setting that can be used to restrict team access to certain documents.

IT consultant Hagen

IT consultant Hagen

Some of ARC’s clients see SKYSITE as “insurance” to shield them from problems tied to inaccurate documents, Kasad adds. And the policy is affordable to many, according to one industry expert. “At $100 per month for the first 10 users, SKYSITE is very reasonable,” says Carol Hagen, a construction IT expert based in Phoenix, AZ. “The question everybody has to ask is, is there a customer experience [with the doc management or project management solution], or are you calling a support center?"

Reaching a live person when seeking help is important, but the company’s knowledge of the industry also informs its focus, notes Evan Casey, ARC's national director of business development.

“We know the drawings as intimately as our clients,” Casey adds. “If you look at our experience, you’ll see we’ve always done document management -- except before, it was in an analog world.”

Based in Pittsburgh, the author writes about construction technology for BuiltWorlds, and has contributed to Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, ENR, and other media.

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