While the vast majority of nearly 200,000 apps in the App Store have nominal value, there are many apps that actually help business users do their job better and more effectively. Here we look at a day-in-the-life of a couple of professionals in commercial project management and commercial property development and how the iPhone is helping them remain productive while on the go.
Commercial Project Management and the iPhone
by Noel Ragin
The business of managing the construction of commercial projects has gotten out of hand. The time frame and budgets for getting projects completed is collapsing while the number of participants and regulations that cover the construction of these projects is expanding. We must now work even harder to keep everyone informed and moving in the right direction. That’s what project managers do, and we have to use every tool at our disposal.
The most exciting tool for keeping everyone informed is the iPhone. The convenience, mobility, and power of this "computer in the pocket" is amazing. I use the iPhone primarily for taking pictures of conditions on job sites. When a project involves the addition or modification of a building feature like a window, I take a picture of the condition, bring it into uCantMeanIt ($0.99; citygraphs.com) and then add notes regarding the changes that need to be made. After the notes are made and the image is saved, it can then be e-mailed to a contractor. The contractor is then able to prepare an estimate for doing the work. I also take pictures of completed work. Sometimes the work that is done is not correct so I take a picture, bring it into uCantMeanIt and then add notes regarding what needs to be corrected. The "tails" and the bubble notes produced by the uCantMeanIt app let me point to exactly the point on the image where the note applies.
Construction plans, elevations, and detail images on the iPhone when they are in a JPG format are no different than photographs. Notes can also be added to these images. The number of drawings for large commercial projects can sometimes run into the hundreds and deal with subjects like architectural design, structural design, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design, landscaping and civil designs, interior finishes – the list is almost endless. All of the information associated with these different types of documents must be shared and coordinated. Many individuals are involved in the production of projects and their work must be reviewed for consistency with the intent of these documents. I do not maintain copies of all of these drawings on my iPhone, only a few of the most important ones like the architectural floor plans. When I’m away from my paper drawings I use the uPunchit+ ($2.99; citygraphs.com) app to add numbered notes to my iPhone plans when I see work that has not been done or has been done incorrectly. The most important thing about producing images and applying notes to them is the fact that I am able to keep a record of the instructions that I issue. Proper record keeping of instructions issued while on a project is extremely important when they have to be done quickly and economically.
I also do some sketching using the iPhone and the app, uSketchit+ ($2.99; citygraphs.com). Rather than using a napkin or the back of an envelope, I now keep a blank grid as an image in my Camera Roll. The grid is a light gray color on a white field and works just like a sheet of grid paper to help me keep line work straight. Each of the grid squares serve as one foot or one inch increments. And when the sketch is finished, I e-mail it off, and of course, keep a copy.
iPhone Apps for Property Development
by David Funderburgh
Letting new technology change the way you develop projects is a very interesting challenge. After being in the banking business first and then in the commercial property development business, you tend to settle into a routine that involves the use of tried and true techniques. However, as the economy has become more challenging, so has the need to be even more efficient and productive. The iPhone has been a wonderful new tool that helps me do this while I’m away from the office.
In the commercial property development business, I am constantly selling and it is very important to have the proper sales tools at the right time. The iPhone lets me carry around a number of sales tools in my pocket. Normally, a prospectus for a project involves a number of documents that range from cash flow summaries to schematic site plans to architectural renderings. These documents are assembled into a PDF file with many pages. After e-mailing the document to myself, I’m able to access this PDF file on my iPhone, find the page I’m interested in and then zoom and pan around until I find exactly what I’m looking for on that page. In the past, I had to carry the paper version of this document around and sometimes I would forget to bring it with me.
But what is most helpful is what can be done with these images after they come to the screen of my iPhone. Normally, I will produce a screen capture of a page and then import it into an application so that I can mark it up. I’ve placed bubble notes on captured images of spread sheets to give a number additional clarification. I use the application uCantMeanIt by Citygraphs to do this. I’ve also used uCantMeanIt to place bubble notes on site plans and architectural renderings to help give a particular point in the image additional clarification. After each of these markups, I’m able to save the image and e-mail it to a client. I’ve also had occasion to mark up captured images of site plans and floor plans for a project. I’ve used uSketchit to mark the outline of some lease space in a retail center. I also receive photographs of projects from clients with questions about a specific problem. I’m able to save these pictures to my Camera Roll, add notes to them, and e-mail them back.
The convenience of being able to carry around documents on my iPhone helps me make the most of my time. In the past, lots of physical documents had to be on hand. Now many of them can be stored on my device, recalled, marked up quickly, and sent off with additional information that help answer people’s questions. This means greater understanding of the project issues more quickly and a satisfied client.