Towards Role Based Management of Cooperative Design Processes
Corresponding Author: Wasserfuhr, Rainer
Author(s): Scherer, R., and Wasserfuhr, R.
Organisation(s): TU Dresden (Germany)
Main reasons for inefficient project management and project delays are
- lack of information about the progress of work in a team of design experts,
- missing or wrong versions of data for starting an activity,
- incorrect receivers of produced data,
- incompatible data formats

Additionally, the problem of „islands of automation“, well addressed for product data in the last  decades, is now becoming a barrier to efficient, computer-mediated project management, because different semi-integrated software solutions like document management systems, messaging systems and email, workflow systems, project management software or PDM systems partially overlap in their functionality, but their simultaneous application will result in unacceptable 

Our goal is a coherent framework for an integrated management of design data, project management, project communication and controlling, enabled by distributed IT environments. Important improvements should be achieved by
- enabling the system to know about the dependencies between activities of users,
- making information about these dependencies available to users in a transpararent, simple-to- use manner, 
- relating electronic communication in a project (e.g. messaging, file exchange and file sharing) to a shared, workflow driven activity model.

Therefore we provide a model for a central repository of information about users, their roles,  running projects, involved organisations, available applications and document types. The relevant participants of a design team, their activities and organisational dependencies are modelled in a detailed object oriented model. The project and task specific maintenance of the possible roles of all participants allows to determine access rights and authorisation for changes of design data. Project communication and access to design documents can be done in a task centred manner. By representing time constraints and dependencies between tasks, it is possible to determine the status of tasks automatically. 

The model is formally elaborated in EXPRESS-C, an extension of the ISO 10303 modelling language EXPRESS for object behaviour, which is essential for a middleware-enabled distributed system architecture. In order to avoid the “YARM“ dilemma („yet another reference model“), the model is tightly embedded into existing EXPRESS specifications of the IFC standard. 

The work is based on a co-operation between Dresden University of Technology and Obermeyer Planen&Beraten, the largest German company for Integrated Design in A/E/C. Obermeyer is one of the first German companies which successfully applies document management systems in large scale projects. The results are influenced by the ESPRIT Project ToCEE, a consortium of ten European partners with software development resources of 40 person years. 

First versions of the software have been demonstrated since July 1998 and are scheduled for tests in real projects in 1999. The model has a rigid theoretical foundation by applying a calculus from concurrent constraint programming. It is well suited to be included in standardisation efforts or as a reference model for commercial applications of document management systems and workflow systems in the A/E/C sector. In the future, additional research will be made in a-posteriori  classification of user interactions and ad-hoc changes according to predefined workflow patterns.