Between itgroove’s nomination, and the victories of Provoke and SharePoint Gurus, we are ecstatic that our PDF Converter for SharePoint was so heavily represented in projects at the first annual Nintex Partner Awards this year! After hearing the winning announcement we caught up with Ivan Wilson, founder of SharePoint Gurus, to hear more about the massive project his team worked on with their client Hansen Yuncken, entitled the HYway Project.
(For a nice overview of the business (less technical) end of the HYway project we’d strongly recommend you read Bill Dawes’ article in Image and Data Manager, "Constructing a digital future with SharePoint at Hansen Yuncken")
Muhimbi: Tell us about SharePoint Gurus and your client, Hansen Yuncken.
Ivan: We started back in 2007 and obviously from the name we’re focused on SharePoint. I personally was a SharePoint MVP for 5 years. We’ve been working with a number of medium-sized organizations in Australia and are now a team of 6 people. We mostly work with clients on business management processes and helping organizations get the best out of their SharePoint environment.
At any given time we work with about 5 clients monthly.
Hansen Yuncken is the largest privately-held construction company in Australia. With over 800 employees Hansen Yuncken has offices all over the country and over $1.2B (AUD) in revenue annually.
Muhimbi: Tell us a little bit about the HYway Project:
Ivan: In 2010 Hansen Yuncken worked on huge project with the Australian government- the Building the Education Revolution Stimulus Package- that involved managing over 200 project sites and serving as liaison between the state education department, the project sites, as well as a myriad of other professionals such as architects, engineers, and suppliers. This project proved to be a big success wherein Hansen Yuncken created some pretty innovative solutions involving real-time communication and project management. Some of the techniques they developed in the project really inspired them to improve their own business processes.
To provide a bit of background as to what internal business processes looked like internally at Hansen Yuncken previous to this, there’s no better description than from Bill Dawes’ article about the project in Image & Data Manager:
"Like any company that has evolved its operational systems over many years, Hansen Yuncken had staff in different regions using disconnected applications including spreadsheets to prepare tenders, track construction progress and monitor performance. Consistency and accuracy of the information becomes a constant challenge in this environment, and there is lot of effort required to correlate the results each reporting cycle."
Their initial research phase lead them to adopt SharePoint and then bring in our expertise in terms of implementation. We coordinated with Scalable Solutions whom already worked with Hansen Yuncken and was familiar with their systems and way of operating.
Muhimbi: How did Muhimbi's PDF Converter for Sharepoint make its way into the project?
Ivan: As you may have seen in the IDM article, one objective was to work with existing programs and systems as much as possible and that being said, InfoPath was a key part of the work. We wanted to automate business processes and gather information by way of team members filling out electronic forms. The challenge then was to be able to show what a particular form looked like at particular point in the process, particularly during "sign-off".
We wanted to be able to capture exactly what a form looked like the moment someone approved it, because documents tend to change quite a bit as they move along the process; the construction industry is a dynamic one and there was a lot of dynamic information in differing versions of these forms. In that we thought of converting to PDF and a quick search of available tools indicated Muhimbi’s PDF Converter had exactly what we were looking for.
The fact that we could render the forms into PDF at the same moment they launched the document with Muhimbi’s PDF Converter was the key driver.
Muhimbi: Were there any specific features about the PDF Converter for SharePoint that lead to your adopting it?
Ivan: We chose Muhimbi’s PDF Converter because it rendered a very faithful PDF of what had previously appeared on the screen.
Furthermore, while InfoPath was a key-driver in this project, we were already working with Nintex as well and the easy-integration was very attractive to us.
Muhimbi: How do you use PDF Converter for SharePoint?
Ivan: As the forms go through the various signoffs we generate PDF "snapshots". The SharePoint user interface we created allows a person to select an InfoPath form and see a list of the snapshots that were created over it's in a way that they can click through the history of that form and see a timeline perspective. One can view multiple PDF versions of the "same" document and see the information as it's changed over time.
Muhimbi: What was it about the project that you think won you guys the Nintex award?
Ivan: It's tough to say exactly but we think it might be that we were working across a large number of SharePoint sites. "Templatizing" the workflow functionality and making sure we had a workspace for every project and when a workspace kicks off it needs to have the same workflows as every other project. For example, when the workflow to create a PDF snapshot runs, it should store the PDF in the current project’s workspace, but we still want to be able to make global changes workflows without having to modify hundreds of workflow definitions. We worked with Nintex and made sure that changes to functionality are easy to roll out to the existing workspaces.
Muhimbi: How has this project improved or change the way the Hansen Yuncken team works?
Ivan: It benefits on multiple levels: for the project manager it means they’re guided through the process a lot better than they were in the past with paper-based forms. They don’t have to re-key information they were already provided because such information is now centrally stored. Furthermore, as there were several offices doing similar tasks differently in the past, centrally located information has led to better consistency of information that’s been gathered across the organization.
On the board/upper management level it's now easier to aggregate information across the organization. Upper management now has its finger more on the pulse. Once that information is submitted it’s available, whereas in the past there was a lag time of weeks before they could receive such updates.
From an audit trail perspective, with use of Muhimbi's PDF Converer for Sharepoint, it's much more visible. Anyone can log in and can see a form, the history of changes it’s undergone, as well as the contributors, and the specific things they added to the document. For instance, if there’s any sort of discrepancy between what one claims they approved and the document at the moment this claim is made, Hansen Yuncken now has the ability to go back and check the document at the exact moment it was approved. There’s no ambiguity between what people have agreed to at any point in time.
Muhimbi: Have you noticed changes in culture since deploying the Muhimbi PDF Converter?
Ivan: There's a quote in the IDM article that's direct from Hansen Yuncken's CEO, that answers this question perfectly:
“The cultural change across the company is immense with the requirement for staff to stop submitting paper or maintaining local spreadsheets but instead enter everything via web-based forms. The pleasing aspect is that this project is changing behaviour in the organisation and goals are being achieved. The HYway project is continuing to add value to the way Hansen Yuncken manage their business.”- Joe Barr
Muhimbi: What is it about your business that makes Muhimbi's PDF Converter for SharePoint important for you?
Ivan: The HYway project was a pro-active move that stems from Hansen Yuncken's desire to constantly be improving, taking advantage of technology to ensure the organization is in a good position for the future. This wasn't a "me too" project to keep up with others, it puts them ahead of the pack…and Muhimbi's tool has played an important role in that.
Muhimbi: Do you have advice for others considering the Muhimbi PDF Converter?
Ivan: One thing we’ve always been really impressed with is the quality of the support. There's a palpable desire to help. It's not automated. A person speaks to you and follows through. That doesn't happen with every vendor we work with.
Muhimbi: Would you recommend PDF Converter for SharePoint to other SharePoint users?
Ivan: Yes I certainly would.