What does information management in an infrastructure project and climbing a mountain have in common? At first glance, not much. And yet Grip, a central application for storing, managing and unlocking all the project information in the executive agency of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (Rijkswaterstaat) has a mountain climber for its logo. Grip is configured in Relatics. Willem van de Wetering from Rijkswaterstaat explains why: “When climbing to the top of a mountain, a mountaineer sees it all: from avalanches to beautiful vistas. Getting Grip up and running has also been quite a challenging climb. The peak can be seen as a metaphor for an ideal information world. This is a world where perfectly clear specifications have been drawn up and collaboration between client and contractor runs smoothly. All the work processes are also uniformly supported by software and equally implemented. And all knowledge is documented in libraries.” Van de Wetering tells us of the steps that have been taken in the past three years to achieve that final goal.
Documenting and sharing knowledge and experience
The introduction of Grip will see Rijkswaterstaat clarifying the central framework for information management. “At a certain moment, there were two dozen projects all working within their own Relatics environment, creating isolated islands. This approach was just inefficient and expensive in the end. Everyone keeps on reinventing the wheel and there is no consensus on the best working method. Moreover, valuable knowledge and experience are not shared and could even be lost at the end of a project.” Another drawback of a fragmented approach is the lack of best practices, which are of course present in Rijkswaterstaat, but are not consistently documented and shared. “We have managed to reverse this situation working closely with the project teams.”
Create peace of mind in projects
Van de Wetering feels that storing all data in a single environment using an integrated approach, and then providing access to it within this environment can only bring big benefits. “The status of data has been documented clearly and transparently within Relatics. This creates a certain calm within projects, as there is no need to discuss it. And the calm is evident right from the start. Grip ensures that a project environment within Rijkswaterstaat is quickly made available. Therefore, the focus is immediately on achieving the project objectives.”
Present data with a single press of the button
Grip currently provides an extensive range of modules that support the entire project cycle: from strategic environment management and managing customer demands to system specifications, engaging in dialogue, risk management and contract control. This is all available for different forms of contracts, such as Design and Construct and DBFM. There are also plans to support performance-based contracts. “Regardless of the extensions and integration, the vital part is that all relevant information is documented in a structured and traceable way and can be presented with a single click of the button. This cuts out time-consuming processes and ensures the process is less error-prone. And these benefits are widely acknowledged within Rijkswaterstaat.”
Text-based versus model-based
Despite these positive results, the Grip team is not resting on its laurels, Van de Wetering emphasizes. “There are plenty of ideas for extensions and improvements, while the project teams have also supplied a host of suggestions. For instance, Grip plays an important role in the transition from ‘text-based to model-based’ concepts and approaches, documenting knowledge from manuals and books into a Grip library. This means that projects can profit immediately from this structured data. A clear example is the system of basic specifications that projects use as the starting point of the specification process.”
Optimally utilising the brainpower at Rijkswaterstaat
Van de Wetering still sees plenty of opportunities for development. “Rijkswaterstaat wants to continue to improve and utilize the brainpower within projects to maximum capacity. And Grip, based on Relatics, has an important role to play in this. The major strides we have already made by working closely with the project teams has in any case ensured that we have a better grip on our information today than we did yesterday. And that really fires me up to eventually get to the top with Grip!”
About Willem van de Wetering
As an employee of Rijkswaterstaat Willem van de Wetering has been working since four years in the field of Systems Engineering. With a small group of colleagues Van de Wetering has developed Grip™, based on Systems Engineering principles. After a relatively ‘ green’ study (Wageningen), later enriched with theology and MBA, Van de Wetering has started within a scientific environment (Systems Engineering), then ICT consultancy and finally Rijkswaterstaat. The runing theme in his work life is characterized by the words statistics, systems, change management and ICT.