It’s tough enough for the typical remodeler to keep everyone on the same page now imagine if your projects required you to make cutting-edge home automation and mechanical systems disappear into the fabric of 300-year-old reclaimed building materials, and your clients’ selections were “everything that’s available, anywhere on the planet.” That’s the mind-numbing level of complexity that Allan Edwards, a high-end custom builder/remodeler in Houston, deals with on nearly every project.
Edwards’ clients are typically the movers and shakers of the business world, highly connected executives who demand to know the daily progress of their multimillion dollar projects. After trying a variety of industry-specific Web-based project management tools and finding them too difficult for clients to navigate, Edwards settled on creating a separate blog for each project using the free blogging service Google Blogger. He chose Blogger because each “Job Blog” can be made public or private (by invitation only), and they’re fast and simple to set up.
“I know this is a somewhat unconventional use of a blog,” Edwards says, “but clients find it familiar and easy to use so they do, and getting adoption of these kinds of Web-based tools is three-quarters of the battle. If it’s too hard to log into or too confusing to navigate, most people simply won’t bother and you’re right back where you started from unwanted phone calls and unscheduled site visits. Having the blogs minimizes all of those headaches and keeps us in control of our jobs.”
Update on the Fly
There’s no fancy layout or extra graphics. Edwards divides each project-specific blog into two basic section: scheduling and necessary selection decisions on the left of the screen and actual daily jobsite activities on the right. In addition, there are links to key suppliers, contact information, and even job-related documents. “It’s not very automated,” Edwards says. “I have to look at what’s coming up on the actual project schedule and then re-type what I want people to see into the blog posts, but that only takes a couple minutes for each job.”
Edwards then updates the blogs daily from his handheld phone as he walks the jobsites. He sometimes uses the text-to-speech service Jott to update the blogs without typing. “The ability to update them on-the-fly is key,” he says. “When I’m done with my site walk, everything is updated.”
Because it’s a blog, new job photos and even short video (taken using his phone camera) can easily be attached to any post. Clients or subcontractors can post replies on the blog, which Edwards tracks in real time on his handheld.
Finally, clients who are using an RSS feed reader can subscribe to their project blog and automatically get their daily updates. What’s next? “We’re looking into real-time webcams we can put on the blogs,” Edwards says. To see a sample Allan Edwards project blog, go to http://302oakstreet.blogspot.com.
This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the December 2009 issue of REMODELING.