Everyone in the A/E/C industry uses email to manage the multifaceted communications that zip back and forth among key players on design and construction projects. But tracking emails and searching for key discussion threads amid complex, far-flung projects has become even more difficult in an era of overloaded in-boxes.
Mail Manager, an email plug-in that works with Microsoft Outlook, claims to offer unique features to ease the process of tracking, filing, searching and organizing project communications for A/E/C firms.
Built by Arup’s Oasys Software division, Mail Manager has been on the market for more than six years. But recent improvements as well as a surge in legal claims during the recession have helped its tracking functions gain more traction.
A key feature is its ability to create project folders that can be sent to all of a firm’s offices around the world on that firm’s network. A nested folder system helps administrators and users configure simultaneous projects and folders.
“It offers key search functions across multiple projects,” says Alec Milton, a product manager for Oasys.
Hardware reqs: None
Software reqs: Microsoft Outlook 2000 and above
Another feature is “Snap and Send,” which launches an image tool that lets users crop design documents and add comments, arrows and other call-outs to the document. It then generates a PDF file of the markup that is attached to the email, all of which is automatically saved.
Greg Bosworth, director of information technology for civil engineering firm VHB Inc., and Geoffrey Pangonis, messaging administrator for the firm, say they researched similar products to find project-sharing capabilities.
For most of its history, Bos-worth says, VHB had been recognized for its competitive tracking approaches for project communications. But the company’s shift to email in the early 1990s threw a wrench into those processes. “That same dedication to following [communication] policies kind of grew lax,” he says. “Like many firms in our industry, the number of claims we saw coming in the door was definitely going up [in the last few years].” By 2007, the company’s CEO made finding a solution a high priority to ensure VHB was deploying best practices on project communications.
The fact that Mail Manager requires no server infrastructure sealed the deal. “All the functionality is on the client,” Bosworth says. And it helps administrators manage a glut of email files.