By W. Gary CraigEssential to the success of any project is the ability of all team members to communicate efficiently. As a commercial building owner/developer working with our own accounts, we can usually select all of our team members. However, when working as a merchant builder or program manager for an outside client, we are seldom able to pick all the team members. Regardless of how a team is selected, applying a proven project management strategy can mean the difference between success and failure.Unfortunately, the more diverse the team, the more scattered or even confused the communication paths can become.Although, as a building owner/ developer company, we had successfully developed our own benchmarking strategies – 207,000 square feet of research and development facility in six months, 450,000 square feet of retail in 90 days, and the largest privately owned hydroelectric plant within two years – the problem we faced at the time was how to better facilitate these processes with our outside clients.Our need for reconciled portable information lead us to Lotus Notes because of its replication process and much-needed collaboration tools. Lotus’ ability to function on the Internet through a web-based browser as an application service provider (ASP) model requires that members of the project team need only have a computer with Internet access and a browser equal to, or better than, Internet Explorer 4.0 or Netscape 4.0. Any e-mail system, Outlook, Lotus Notes, or ISP system (such as AOL) can also be used.Accessible to all members of the project team through the Intranet site is a comprehensive database of intended action items. At the draft stage for any action item listed on the Intranet site, users can create a private draft for review or completion at a later time. When necessary, any private draft can be converted to a collaborative draft that several other team members can help define.Once finalized, private or collaborative drafts are locked and electronically filed in the database. Electronic notice is sent to each responsible or interested party at the e-mail address that they provide in the phonebook. Each such person’s e-mail account receives a notice of the action item, including a link providing access directly back to that item. Depending on the nature of the action item and its urgency, any person receiving the notice can copy the notice into the calendar or task portion of their e-mail and set reminders for future action.If current action is needed, the user simply clicks on the link and enters their user name and password when requested to access the action item and to process its transaction. Each time the person accesses the action item, an entry is made in the audit trail, which shows the date, time, and name, as well as type of action for each party that creates, edits, locks, or reads the document. The audit trail promotes accountability by providing each authorized user with the ability to check who has touched the action item and when.The end-result is an electronically facilitated management system that saves time and money.W. Gary Craig is president and founder at Liverpool, NY-based ProjectEDGE. As a licensed engineer, Craig has more than 30 years of experience in construction management and real estate development.