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- 17 min read

I’ve a message for you.

In early 2021, Finalcad One delivered a major innovation: Groups. I would like to explain why and how we implemented them.

 

1️⃣ Collaborating, a basic need

We listened to you

Talking with you is the best way to know your needs. We talked with dozens of users who told us about their practices, their experiences in the day-to-day management of their projects and how practices have changed in recent years.

In these discussions with many of you, we were careful to be representative. We balanced current or potential users, the various construction and maintenance trades, different stakeholders and missions. Thanks to them we were able to include Groups in Finalcad One and for that we are very grateful.

First finding: we need to talk

When working together, exchanges of emails and the different project management software are not enough: we basically need to talk to make adjustments when working together.

In everyday life, we all prefer to talk "live", face to face. In these Covid times - but not only - it is not always possible. In this case, we try to stay as close to these exchanges as possible, starting with the phone then emails and even SMS.

"Communication is the mainstay of teamwork and productivity. With the right tools, we can facilitate exchanges and limit meetings”.

 

Second finding: when it is not possible to talk, write

Unfortunately, everyone is very busy, and it’s not always possible to talk when we want. That's where written communication comes into play. Until recently, email was the main tool for this. Let’s face it, email remains a preferred means of communication. But we are aware of its drawbacks: too many people copied, difficulty in joining an ongoing conversation, and how do you track emails when you receive 200 a day?

With the arrival of Microsoft Teams or Slack, we observe the emergence of new practices that distinguish two different uses for this type of platform:

  • email will be used for important or contractual messages
  • messaging will be preferred to coordinate in real time or near real time

The practice of this messaging must also be widespread, which is not the case for everyone.

Another type of writing is practised by everyone and that is SMS messages. These can be WhatsApp, Signal or Apple or Android messages: these services bring together more than 2 billion users alone.

 

 

WhatsApp is the leading messaging service in the world

●      2 billion monthly active users

●      180 countries

●      Number 1 platform in the world

Source

 

Writing messages, the most popular form of communication after speech

When we cannot communicate in person, and need a simple, brief and fast exchange, we all do it: we send a message. Whether on Teams, Slack or WhatsApp, the mechanics are the same.

And we do it for the right reasons:

  • everyone is using these apps, no need for training ✅
  • they are available on all platforms (Android, iOS and Web) ✅
  • the form is rich: in addition to text, you can complete with images, videos, files, sound, etc. ✅

"Messages remain the most popular means of communication, after speech”.

 

However the limits of these messages are rapidly reached.

  • First of all, everything works great on the fly, but it’s impossible to have a follow-up. We get lost in the flow of conversation;
  • If we add a person afterwards, they will only have access to new messages since their arrival and no access to older ones;
  • As we log in with our cell phone number, everyone knows our phone number, which we do not necessarily want;
  • When software is used in addition to a messaging app, there are continuity issues: we can send a link to a piece of software in the message, but you have to go back and forth between the professional software in question, and the messaging app;
  • Finally, access management is non-existent or, at best, inadequate.
  •  

2️⃣ Integrating a messaging service into the software: the right answer?

The solution seemed simple: let’s add our messaging service to our software

To meet this collaboration requirement via messaging, software publishers have tried to integrate messaging into their offers. If this idea might seem an obvious solution - ideal even - it has instead proven to be a failure.

There are several reasons that we can rapidly sketch out:

  • in professional software, which is often rich and sometimes complex, working with the platform is not always easy - unlike a simple messaging app
  • if the software includes a messaging function, it often remains largely secondary
  • this leads to hiding it to make it inaccessible to most users, who only discover it after having gone through the arduous commissioning steps. And as a number of them give up before this stage, they never discover collaboration via messaging.

Comparing a conventional process between professional construction project management software, the number of implementation stages is doubled:



Professional construction management software:

  1. Create an account
  2. Create a project
  3. Invite other people
  4. Add a plan
  5. Create an annotation on the plan
  6. Finally, you get to send messages

 

Messaging:

  1. Create an account
  2. Invite other people
  3. Send messages

 

 

 

 

Why have publishers got it wrong?

Why is it not working? Because messaging is a "primary” need and it should be treated as such. Conversely, it is often relegated to the end of the chain, making it inaccessible to users.

 

"I need to get to the point: if the app seems impractical, I'll stick with WhatsApp. It's the easiest solution, right?"

 

Reminder of the issues: the 10 criteria for professional messaging

We had to go back to basics, and sort out what is essential in everyday life, and what is not. You can compare WhatsApp on the one side, and professional software on the other, and even an ideal situation.

So we set up a simple comparison, based on our discussions with our users. We came up with an analysis grid on 10 key criteria.

 

The need

Messages

Professional software

The ideal solution

Easy use of the app

 

You can add media (photos, video, sound)

 

You can add documents

 

Tracking of shared elements

 

Management of access rights

 

Providing any newcomers with all messages

 

Possibility of masking your phone number

 

Receiving mobile and web messages

 

Adding messages in the professional app

 

Receiving real-time notifications

 

 

3️⃣ What is the ideal messaging service for your projects?

Find the right positioning

Messaging is primarily a collaborative solution. It must therefore reach as many people as possible in the project team. On a housing construction site for example, specialist contractors, the general contractor(where relevant), the project management and the owner, or even the engineering office and, potentially, the purchasers are brought together.

In a word, the whole project team needs to be involved in this collaboration, not just a handful of players.

To meet this challenge, messaging must be easy to set up and use:

  • ✅ It will draw on the most popular messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Teams or Slack, for simplicity,
  • ✅ It will be simple to understand, clearly bringing value to each stakeholder,
  • ✅ People will be able to register in a few clicks, for example with a Google Account, Apple or Microsoft,
  • ✅ It may be used to launch a project on this single messaging concept, without depending on adding data such as plans, annotations or comments, for example,
  • ✅ It will allow flexible and simple management of access rights,
  • ✅ It will be resolutely multi-platform: for both web and mobile on Android and iOS
  • ✅ Its access will be free for most stakeholders, at least for basic use
  • ✅ It may be used to send real-time notifications, notices and add all types of media: photos, documents, videos, etc.

And more than a messaging service, it will be the door to complete project management:

  • ✅ It will be integrated into professional software, adapted to the tracking of projects, beyond messaging
  • ✅ It will be used to manage teams like sub-projects: by location, phase, group of stakeholders... the possibilities are endless
  • ✅ Finally, it will go further, by allowing the management of plans, linked elements, directly included in the message flow

Examples of circumstances of use and their benefits to users

The circumstances of use, like the related benefits, are very varied. Here are some examples collected from our users.

I'm a works engineer with a general contractor:

  • I use the app to manage my macro lots, my phases, my buildings, security, or relations with my customer.
  • I have one project for the whole site, with teams well partitioned according to their respective issues.
  • It’s easier to manage and avoids duplication and risks of error.
  • I improve collaboration, simply, and have more exchanges with my partners.

I’m a specialist, owner contractor or subcontractor

  • I only see what I need to see. It’s efficient and takes up little of my disk space or my mobile deal.
  • It's really easy. I know my guys will use it.
  • I can interact directly with the general contractor or project manager. It reduces the need for meetings or at least makes them more effective.
  • I can also create a group for my team in the app.

I’m a customer:

  • Without getting bogged down in details, I have access to important information on my projects. I can focus my efforts on critical points where I have a role to play.
  • I have a place in which I can discuss with the work team in real time.
  • I can integrate my end customer in the project, choosing their access rights so they have the information they need and may contribute when necessary.
  • It’s a modern solution that allows me to stand out from my competitors with respect to my end customers.

I'm a project manager:

  • I can create a pre-project group when I do my exploratory on-site visit during the study phase.
  • I can have an exchange group with a single buyer, with their plans, documents and related items (comments and forms).
  • I can keep the benefit of having one single project with groups to partition information when necessary. For example, I can have one group per purchaser, with all of their plans, documents and observations.

I have projects several hundred kilometres apart:

  • With a group, remote collaboration on these projects is improved.
  • There is now a direct line between the project owner giving their instructions, and the project manager running the project on a daily basis: we can report on the project's progress.
  • Collaboration with all the stakeholders and project providers is possible.

In addition to direct users, the contractor will also benefit from this collaboration development

Adoption
Failure to use an app is often the number one pitfall in digital transformation projects. As we have seen, simple and complete messaging leads to easier adoption.

Data security
The control of data is greater than a mainstream messaging service like WhatsApp: access rights are controlled, the history is available, and the data is not in Google or Facebook.

Respect for privacy
Privacy is respected since users do not need to give their mobile phone number.

The virtuous circle of improvements
Improving communication has a strong impact on collaboration, which, as we have seen, is at the heart of productivity. It reduces errors and rework, while eliminating unnecessary meetings or making essential ones more efficient: in a word, coordination problems are limited.

And ultimately, quality and working conditions of employees are improved.

The ball's now in your court.

 


 DavidV-mugshot

David Vauthrin

Co-founder and Head of Design


 

 

 

PS: do you have any comments, suggestions, or experience feedback to share? Feel free to contact me to discuss them.

 

 

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