Our platforms humble beginnings
Up to the Year 2000 using Word docs and PDF files, we "EDocs" manually assembled O&M’s. The word docs were printed, and then we would rummage around in a filing cabinet for copies of manufacturers data sheets, then finally hole punch the lot into lever arch folders !
It was time to inject some technology into the production of O&M’s !
Firstly, Microsoft Word VBA macros were used to build a library of Microsoft Words templates that made it quicker to find specific clauses and content and assemble the countless templates into a document.
Soon the number of templates got too many, and the number of projects running needed organisation to control the document production process.
The Word VBA macros were dropped. A data base was needed, and we chose Microsoft Access to build the first “Manual builder” application which gave a fixed workflow project management for each set of handover documentation.
We were scaling up, but “Draft manuals” were still being printed and sent in the post. Then we would wait forever for the paper copy to land back on our desk covered in red pen or sticky notes.
So, the next big pain point was the “review commenting process” getting comments from customers and then actioning these online. The decision was taken, a much more sophisticated software application was needed using the knowledge from the simple Access database.
At this point the first ASP (Not .Net at this time) web application was built, with a Microsoft SQL server database. The word documents had gone, we were now programmatically building the O&M manuals from snippets of HTML and storing them in the database. A simple markup tool was added so users could click on a pencil icon and add a comment online. This revolutionised the production process.
Then arrived an investment with no strings attached from Microsoft, the .Net software language appeared, and as a Microsoft Partner we knew this was a game changer. The Azure Cloud platform was being born (we knew it as Red Dog!), and we were given considerable support from Microsoft to build a cloud optimised solution in Azure.
From that point on the platform has grown, used by more than 40,000 users, gaining forecasting, validation, analytics, model data extraction, automatic COBie, 3D model integration, plus data connectors to CDE’s BIM 360, Autodesk Revit and many other features and processes.
It has always been one of our core principles to be transparent within the data, to show all users (security permitting) who did what when and log the history, as this industry loves to point the finger at who is holding me up! More recently following the building safety bill, further developments have made our change control simpler for users to track history, changes, and validation. Leading to increased quality accuracy we like to call it “process driven data assurance”.
Today at EDocuments we focus on much more than the humble O&M manual we started with, concentrating on a wide range of topics from information security to the legislative impact from the building services industry, and hopefully still making everyone’s day easier.