Tuesday, July 31, 2018

UniPhi 14 - RESTful API linked to PowerBI

UniPhi 14 provides an enormous stride forward for users in accessing their data. During this release, we expanded our RESTful API to include a lot more endpoints. The RESTful API provides a user friendly way of accessing UniPhi data without needing to understand the relationships across 400 tables and the business logic embedded within the UniPhi app. Using PowerBI, users can connect to an "end point" or table of information using the "Web" connector available from the "Get Data" function in PowerBI.

API documentation will be published as part of our 14 release and one of the key uses for this API is connecting the "end points" to PowerBI. This connection enables end users to design their own live dashboard reports and analyse their data in new and fascinating ways.

We have also created some standard dashboards to assist users in getting started. These will be presented as PBIX files (The PowerBI file extension) for users to download and then open in PowerBI desktop, a free desktop application downloadable from Microsoft.

There will be webinars on this new feature in coming weeks and its sure to be the biggest hit of the release. Here's some screenshots from our Major Projects demo site.

Cost Benchmarking

Geographic analysis

Financial performance

Timeline with key milestones - beats a Gantt Chart!

Monday, July 30, 2018

UniPhi 14 - Tactical resource planning

A more intriguing left field feature of UniPhi 14 is what we're calling tactical resource planning. As usual, a spreadsheet was shared with us from a client who said, can you help improve this. It was a one month look ahead resource by resource, project by project and task by task. The spreadsheet was updated by over 100 people! The summary sheet highlighted over and under allocations which was excellent information for management but oh what a nightmare to collect.

The problem was a distributed data capture problem that lends itself to a web based portfolio application as a solution. And, with the penny dropping that what they were after was a forecast of their timesheet, the solution became a simple one. End users were already entering actual hours, if we replicated this interface, they could enter forecast hours too.

Now, all staff members enter in what they expect to be working on, in collaboration with their project managers, over a rolling 4 week period. The summary report is run and resourcing issues identified by senior management.

Sample screen - before the first amendment to include comments
Summary report on overs and unders

Once again, working closely with clients and their end users has resulted in a nifty little tool for all our users. I can't wait for the feedback (which has already lead to a new comments field) and the inevitable improvements that ensue.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

UniPhi 14 - Defects Management

4 years ago, we released our OnSite mobile apps product. The main focus of this product was to assist in the management of defects, as per this blog post at the time.

Since then, the majority of use for these apps has been in site surveillances carried out by independent review engineers on infrastructure projects. The app has supported all sorts of new roads and rail networks. However, it hasn't been used much for its intended purpose. Hopefully, UniPhi 14 will assist in changing this.

The main issue in using it for defects was that the correspondence that was logged as comments in the issues module of UniPhi couldn't be extracted easily to share with non-UniPhi users. We use reporting services for our reports (see this post) and we didn't know how to strip the HTML stored in our database when using this platform. Turns out, there's a setting for that, so we now have the defects management report!

New Defects Log Report - With Comments!

This report puts all image files uploaded into their own column and adds all comments into the report as well. This new capability (that was there and hidden the whole time - Doh!) has opened up issues management to broader than just defects, with RFIs, Safety and other types of issues being able to be shared with non-UniPhi users as a register with all comments, actions, due dates and ratings.

If you want to find out what our other features are, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter - we post all our updates there!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

UniPhi 14 - Email Notifications

There's been a lot of expansion to the UniPhi email notifications in version 14. Thanks to considerable feedback from our lovely end users, we've added the following:
  1. Notifications on new projects created. This has been added to assist bid teams when new opportunities are logged into UniPhi
  2. Notifications on new actions you've been assigned to. This handy feature came about due to the great success of an independent verification deployment. There was so much activity that we had to get more nuanced as to the changes. Now, an engineer will know they've been assigned a new surveillance or review action rather than having to check modified activities/issues to see if that modification affected them.
  3. Notifications of documents awaiting your sign off contextualised to the lowest delegated authority. This was hurriedly implemented when a CEO did not like being notified of a document awaiting sign-off before all the underlings had already signed it off. Of course, unbeknown to the CEO was our experience of other CEOs incorrectly signing off contracts and invoices because they blindly relied on the fact that the underlings had already signed off the document. The question here being, what value are they adding signing the document off? With UniPhi presenting all the information they need in one screen, I would imagine a more productive thing would be that if they did sign it off before others then the whole document gets signed off. Alas, a battle for another day.
  4. Notifications on signed off documents. This helps external PMs (to a client of construction services) know when instructions have been signed off so they can then send the notice to the contract. The majority of UniPhi clients these days are developers who then engages with their external consultants to use UniPhi to manage their projects. This provides significant productivity savings for all organisations concerned of up to 50% on the activities undertaken in UniPhi.
Notification Email

UniPhi email notifications has always been a bane of contention with our team and our philosophy of providing a platform product for people to collaborate but truth be told, it is crucial to successful deployments. Hopefully these new features will assist in future deployments being even more successful.

To keep up to date on our feature release, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter!

Monday, July 23, 2018

UniPhi 14 - Resource Planning

There is one feature in particular which has been a big focus of the recent update.  From working on improving tracking its lifecycles to reports, feature 7 in our countdown is resource planning.

The resource module provides UniPhi users with a variety of different capabilities, for instance; the ability to budget resource hours in a project. 

Each resource in UniPhi has a cost and charge rate against their user profile.

Cost & Charge Rates

This means that when you budget, for example, Denis Adams for 8 hours in a week and he has a cost rate of $50 against his user profile (as seen above), running the report with "Cost" selected instead of hours will result in an output of $400 in the week instead of 8 hours.

The module, furthermore,  provides users with the ability to forecast resource hours (week ending) and have variance analysis between actual and budget, as well as forward workload planning. 

Resource Variance Analysis

This means, you can now report on hours or on cost depending on your needs, view the variance and are able to more accurately plan further in advance for all your resource needs.

To keep up to date on our feature release, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter!

Friday, July 20, 2018

UniPhi 14 - New Reports

UniPhi has used Microsoft SQL Reporting Services as the platform for reports since 2003. This is a solid platform for producing tabular reports that export to excel and can be embedded in a web app but they're not best for graphically rich interfaces and require a software developer to write the underlying SQL queries to produce them. This is expensive and removes the ability for clients to do custom reports (hence our template engine from the previous blog post).

So why keep using this platform? Well, it turns out that senior execs like the ability to run ad-hoc tabular style reports that answer the key questions they're looking to be answered. This epiphany arrived across my desk via a one-on-one with one of our key client's CEO. She was telling me that it's great that her CFO can do all these funky pivot tables and graphs of information but often she just wants to know the profit on a job, which jobs are off track or which clients are buying and which aren't. She also wants to be able to run a report, know the data is live and accurate and the ability to get this information is fantastic.

With that in mind, UniPhi 14 comes with some funky new reports to support our CEOs everywhere:

Portfolio Profitability by Project - A new method of calculating portfolio profitability and enabling team profitability assessment.

Resource Custom Fields - Get access to your custom resource data. Great for managing campaigns and prospecting. See the movie:

Project Profiles - Issue pretty reports on projects you've completed

Contracts Requiring Formal Approval - Monitoring where things are at in the approvals workflow

Lifecycle Budget vs Actual Forecast - Compare a project's budget snapshot to phased actual/forecast values during a lifecycle phase which enables project managers to track staged budget releases (e.g. Masterplan budget v actual, concept design budget v actual etc)

Forward Workload Summary and Detail - For tactical resource planning and will be the subject of a blog post soon.

Tender Analysis: Elemental Rates per Key Metric - For analysing anomalies in contractor quotes where one element may be significantly cheaper than competitors and hence might have misunderstood the requirement

Tender Analysis: Project Rates per Key Metric and Percentage - "Who's the cheapest, let's go with them" Said the King

Contract Export - Feed other systems with data dumps from UniPhi. This could be superseded by our API but we'll see over the next 12 months

Metric Export and Elemental Metric Export reports to the benchmark report tab.

Defects Log - Long awaited for by our Ridgmill friends. I hope it fits the bill?! Another one to get its own blog post soon.

To make sure you don't miss out on the next enthralling installment, follow us on LinkedIn where all these posts are shared!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

UniPhi 14 - More and expanded template controls

From the day our resident genius +Murray Stiles developed the UniPhi template system way back in 2003, we've been using it to automate project status reports. To be honest, we have had mixed success. However, as the Indian in the Clint Eastwood classic "the Outlaw Josey Wales" once prosaically stated, we must endeavour to persevere. UniPhi 14 has six key new or expanded template controls that will hopefully increase the quantity of PCG reports being produced out of UniPhi.

These new features are split into three categories for the use cases they are looking to support - 1) General improvements applicable to all types of documents, 2) Cost Plan Report changes and 3) PCG report

General Template Improvements
  1. Added the ability to auto generate document names using template variables. This is a great feature that can standardise document naming to a common convention....the holy grail!
  2. Documents: Changed the line height of list items to match that of paragraphs.
  3. Custom CheckList template control now has a four column layout option.
  4. Distribution list template control now includes the Position of the relevant contact.
  5. Added a classification column to Distribution List template control.
  6. Document templates may mandate a minimum number of individuals required to sign off each document, in addition to the signoff roles being met.
  7. If a document has both an Autonumber step and a VariationOrder No or EOT No, the Autonumber will now take precedence in the document register.
Cost Plan Report Improvements
  1. Benchmark Elements template control that compares approved budget snapshots for a selection of projects.
  2. Budget Summary template control shows the level 2 codes plus any random other lines you wish to add into the Budget screen
  3. Budget Summary Text template control shows all text entered against the level 2 elements describing any assumptions, constraints etc. Note this data can come from underlying cost estimating tools that we integrate with. Ask us which ones and how to configure - our resident cost management expert Trudi Kirk will be able to assist.
  4. Budget template control: when showing the budget for a parent project, includes an option to show the budget breakdown for each child project as well.
PCG Report Improvements
  1. Document Register template control shows the metadata for a filtered list of signed off documents including document name and ID, author, date modified, etc.
  2. Issue Summary template control will now allow multi-select for projects when used in portfolio mode
  3. Issue Summary template control will now include issue custom fields as optional columns.
  4. Periodic Issue count template control now allows a subset of categories to be included/excluded from final output.
You can see an example of a PCG report being generated here:

And comparing two cost plans here:

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

UniPhi 14 - Task Summary Dashboard

The my work summary upgrade that occurred in UniPhi 13 has been adapted and applied to a portfolio view of all resources in UniPhi 14. This allows project and program managers to filter and sort across their portfolio for issues and actions assigned to people, deliverables due, milestones due and risk actions outstanding.

Tasks dashboard option

New Portfolio Tasks Dashboard

An early 14.1 release (September 2018) will add to this table view with a timeline view. This long asked for visual of work will be used for multiple timeline aspects of UniPhi including conversation threads in issues and milestones  as per below:

New milestone timeline graphic

Keep up to date with our features release by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter!