Specifiers 2001: Their Traditional Role is Over

June 30, 1998 · by Paul Doherty

Having moved swiftly from the Old Economy to the New Economy, a more realistic Networked Economy is taking shape that will connect not only People easier and faster, but also Places and Things.

The traditional role that specifications and spec writers have played in the AEC industry in the past is being presented with the enormous challenge of integrating into the Networked Economy. Having moved swiftly from the Old Economy to the New Economy, a more realistic Networked Economy is taking shape that will connect not only People easier and faster, but also Places and Things. The digital world of specifications is about providing new environments that fundamentally change how specs are written, distributed and used, both in the field and in the process of e-commerce for materials, talent, services and systems. AEC businesses are beginning to modify their Information Technology strategies to become more “virtual,” using communication tools like the Internet to connect their people to data to make accurate decisions and perform work. The basic structure of how AEC firms will work in the Networked Economy can be best described by three concepts:

In addition to Communicate, Coordinate and Collaborate, the strategic framework that these AEC businesses are forming include these two main focuses:

Knowledge Management—Information Technology (IT) systems are designed and built today to meet the anticipated needs of users, but Knowledge Management (KM) environments are designed and built to meet the unanticipated needs of users. A specifier’s ability to lead, manage and/or substantially contribute to a client’s knowledge base will determine their value beyond the deliverables of plans and/or specs.

Building Information Life-Cycle—facility data is transforming into four basic modules:

• Data Acquisition—Laptops, PalmPilots, Web browsers, Java, Databases

• Data Access—Project Extranets, Corporate Intranets, Middleware

• Data Management—Document Management, Groupware

• Data Leverage—Knowledge Management environments, linking disparate data (CAD, SAP/R3, PeopleSoft, etc.) for analysis and decision-making

Specifiers and the entire AEC industry are in a unique position as we enter the Networked Economy. By having set the standards of how construction information is coordinated, communicated and collaborated through CSI 16 Division methodology, the stage is set to move the position of specifications forward in the design and construction process. The emergence of Extranets is the first stage enabling specs to be used beyond a static paper medium. The fast approaching world of Object Models is providing an environment for a reinvestigation of what a specification is and how it affects the entire project. The ability to set the standards on how a project is procured, how it moves through time and how its many elements (materials, systems and even people talent) are purchased is providing a future without limitations.

The traditional role of a specifier is over. Attempts to slowly transition into expanded roles while maintaining the past is like painting a room when an entire new building and foundation is needed. The new architecture that is necessary involves a solid understanding of the effects of the Networked Economy (increased value in fluid information and the intangible) and globalization (increased networking, new relationships, fast access to relevant information). Once learned, the Networked Economy Specifier will increase in value and provide a viable future for the profession.
It is our choice to meet these challenges swiftly and efficiently.

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