Constructing a digital future with SharePoint at Hansen Yuncken

Australia’s largest private construction company, Hansen Yuncken, is investing in the future with an innovative new platform to deliver real-time data analysis through a SharePoint platform being rolled out to over 800 staff nationally.

The scope of the program incorporates many aspects of the business involving processes, people and projects. Hansen Yuncken operates in Victoria, NSW, SA, Tasmania and Queensland and has an annual turnover approaching $A1.2 billion.
 
Founded in 1918, the company has a heritage stretching back to the early days of the Commonwealth. The company CEO Joe Barr says “Our longevity is testament to having a culture of innovation, manifesting itself in the use of technology in the way we do our business, whether it’s how we partner with clients to resolve design challenges or to construct a building  more effectively. 
 
“It’s now turning towards how we manage information to make sure we are more efficient in our business.”
Like any company that has evolved its operational systems over many years, Hansen Yuncken had staff in different regions using disconnected applications including spreadsheets to prepare tenders, track construction progress and monitor performance.
 
Consistency and accuracy of the information becomes a constant challenge in this environment, and there is lot of effort required to correlate the results each reporting cycle.
 
In 2010 a project opportunity arose to provide a centralised platform and structure a $A492M program of work in South Western Sydney that Hansen Yuncken successfully delivered under the federal government’s BER (Building the Education Revolution) Stimulus Package. This project posed significant challenges in liaising between the state education department that commissioned the work in over 200 operational schools where the work was to take place. That is on top of the typical interactions with architects, engineers and building materials suppliers.
 
“Success on this project required us to understand what was going on very quickly, understand the topography, understand services, the site conditions, etc. and we only had a budget for staff to spend a few hours on each site. We used GPS cameras and data acquisition and then collated all of that so we could get the most out of the data without revisiting the sites time and time again.”
 
“The system enabled linkage between geospatial data, design drawings, site photography and visualisations. So when the client asked where we were on a particular project, rather than ringing up the project manager and asking him to send through a report, we could go on-line and get real-time data.”
 
“Hansen Yuncken received innovation awards from the Australian Institute of Building and Engineers Australia in recognition of its successful completion of the BER projects.”
 
“The success of this process on the BER project convinced us to apply it across the whole business. We also saw it as a way to maintain us as an innovative company and get us ahead of the game in terms of our competition,” said Barr.
The Hansen Yuncken board initiated the HYway project to establish a collaborative information management platform, based on the BER initiative, to expand these benefits to the organisation as a whole.
A thorough investigation and recommendations report resolved the Microsoft SharePoint platform would best meet the current and future requirements of Hansen Yuncken. 
 
The project to implement the SharePoint platform has been driven by a team including CEO Joe Barr along with the company’s Chairman and Chief Operating Officer.
 
HYway’s project manager Michael Parkes has qualifications and over 30 years’ experience in building construction, IT and program management and has performed a variety of key roles within both government and the private construction sector. Michael played a key role in the system development of the BER project and has established a small team with complementary skillsets from existing employees and consulting firms SharePoint Gurus and Scalable Solutions.
 
The team are working to an agreed overall roadmap which utilises existing systems wherever appropriate. SharePoint has been integrated as a collaborative platform with dashboards displaying data from multiple sources to improve decision making. Workflows have been implemented to control consistent process, remove inefficiencies, improve transparency and manage risk.
 
An agile approach is applied to development, implementation and change management. This involves regular releases so that the organisation can derive immediate benefits and gather valuable feedback from real world experience. Lessons learnt in each cycle are used to improve the delivery of subsequent modules.
Existing forms and processes have been reviewed and are being streamlined as they are redeveloped using InfoPath Forms. Many of the manual steps in the process are now automated using Nintex Workflow. A flexible approval workflow was designed that allows actions to be reassigned while maintaining a visible audit trail.
 
Other products that have been incorporated to the solution include Muhimbi PDF Converter which is used to generate snapshot PDFs of InfoPath forms as part of the approval workflows. These are included in e-mail notifications so that approvers are able to see all the relevant information, regardless of their location or device they are using.
 
Qdabra DBXL allows details from InfoPath forms to be stored in SQL Server database tables without losing the flexibility that InfoPath provides. Nintex Workflows can make changes to the underlying XML, send the changes to SQL and have these automatically saved back to the forms library.
 
Ivan Wilson, SharePoint Gurus director said “The HYway project is one of the most innovative and exciting projects we have worked on and the complementary skills of the team and the support of HY’s senior management are key factors in its success. A major benefit of the project has been the ability to implement national processes for managing construction projects. Historically each of the offices implemented their own approach for tracking projects. This made it difficult to provide a national view and for sharing information between offices. 
 
“With the HYway project Hansen Yuncken has been able to create a consistent approach to the capture and processing of information. Implementation of initial phases have demonstrated the benefits that the HYway platform can provide.”
 
Hansen Yuncken’s entire portfolio of construction projects can be viewed in a geographical representation via Google Earth, with the ability to drill down on each project to analyse live data delivered from enterprise applications. Reports aggregate information in the form of business intelligence and depict key performance indicators from source information.
 
Already the project has received recognition for its innovative approach. Nintex (a global SharePoint workflow vendor) recently awarded the project their annual software innovation award for the Asia Pacific region. Hansen Yuncken is also working closely with University of NSW, University of Technology Sydney and the Australian Institute of Building to demonstrate the efficiencies of effective information management in the construction industry to students as future leaders of the industry.
 
“I can gain a view of our business development pipeline in two or three minutes via this portal, whereas previously that would take two or three days to get a number of reports generated and collated,” said Barr.
“We are aiming to gain total transparency on where the business is at any given time through having a consistent approach across the whole organisation.”
 
“Our staff’s engagement in the project will be the measure of its success and will only prosper if led by management. Unless the leadership of the organisation is insisting that people report through this system it will fail. They can’t short circuit it and submit a bit of paper.”
 
The cultural change across the company is immense with the requirement for staff to stop submitting paper or maintaining local spreadsheets but instead enter everything via web-based forms.
 
The pleasing aspect is that this project is changing behaviour in the organisation and goals are being achieved. The HYway project is continuing to add value to the way Hansen Yuncken manage their business. 
Subsequent phases will involve automating more of the processes, including HR, Marketing and IT and we are very enthusiastic about the prospects of innovation to our organisation,” said Barr.

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