Remote work and collaboration are buzzwords today. They inevitably revolve around ZOOM and SKYPE as the most popular samples of Collaborative Software. You may find another 20-odd products with similar functionality by just googling the web.

Interestingly, reviewers of this product category neither rank high the first two nor see big a difference between collaboration and communication words.

According to Wikipedia, the latter is the act of conveying meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs, symbols, and semiotic rules.

Collaboration is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal.

Task or goal makes collaboration special: it creates value - product, plant, or service. In other words, it has a state.

If the goal is a multi-billion infrastructure project, collaboration is the pivot, it may make or break the project.

Another not-yet-discovered feature of modern collaboration is its accelerating shift from human-human type to human-machine one. Artificial intelligence and automation are to blame. This shift, limited capacities of human beings, and abundance of competition beg the following question.

How to measure the precise contribution of each collaboration participant and get the most out of her/him?

This question is well known as well as the lack of definitive answer. It is the most probable reason why collaboration in project engineering (and partnerships) are all short-lived. To answer this cornerstone question, collaborative software shall implement a number of requirements.

These requirements do not include such popular trivial features as file sharing and processing, and sending emails. They are related neither to tools needed for a team to work remotely on projects, nor to the work coordination or project management. (The latter task belongs to business process management software on the steep rise.)

These requirements serve a single purpose - to create metrics of human behavior. In other words, they repurpose Collaborative Software (CS) to the true meaning of the digital transformation slogan - "Digitization is more about people than technology". Not physical and economic laws - human beings are under scrutiny.

Every requirement shall be implemented with a new collaboration/communication channel. Its data is stored and processed separately from other requirements.

CS should give us a clue on how to boost the engineer's productivity in solving the problems assigned. It may be stated as follows.

Collect all the information the user searched, learned, used, produced, or touched during the assignment execution.

In practical terms to get this, the data input in all the digital infrastructure systems (engineering, project management, knowledge management, CRM, SRM, etc.) shall have an extra tag with the owner identification, the timestamp, and the nature of the update.

The bigger the project is, the longer the user track is and the easier to analyze her/his performance.

The said requirement is a precondition for the second task. Its focus is on the project decision-making and approval pyramid. In most cases, it is rooted in a temporary project team or partnership. This pyramid changes with the project moving from one phase to another.

CS shall track the approval timing, questions and answers, redesign requests, and execution alacrity. Ultimately CS shall identify the weakest or overloaded links and give indication on how to enhance and streamline the decision making with software algorithms.

Next, CS shall address outstanding issues tracking. Here all the participants - subcontractors, consultants, customers - shall be granted full visibility of the project data. Issues shall be attached to any item or activity of the project.

HAZOP is not included in outstanding issues and is managed with a new communication channel due to the utmost importance of information and different approval mechanisms.

CS shall manage the search, storage, and retrieval of clarification questions and answers. It is the most loaded channel of communication between the project owner and the contractor.

Finally, CS shall implement such trivial task as workhours breakdown recording as per the nature of work - information searching, learning, designing and writing guiding documents, updating, and redesigning.

The above-mentioned requirements are being implemented by - digital infrastructure for project-plant lifecycle management.

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