Massachusetts Port Authority takes business to Web

Massachusetts Port Authority takes business to Web

Digital communications help agency keep in touch with vendors, the public and its own workers

By Merry Mayer

Special to GCN

When workers renovating a parking garage at Boston's Logan International Airport run into a problem, they now grab their keyboards not their phones.


MassPort construction manager Kenneth F. Johnson demonstrates Active project software used to coordinate construction of a parking garage addition at Logan International Airport.


Their new digital communications outfit is the result of the action of the Massachusetts Port Authority (MassPort). Two years ago it formed a committee to find how to best use the Web and develop an approach that would accomplish two goals.

The first was to design a Web site that would post flight times and other information of benefit to the public, as well as help MassPort attract a wide pool of vendors for its many construction projects.

MassPort will oversee projects totaling $3.6 billion over the next six years at the properties it manages. What those projects entail is one click away at Doing Business with MassPort on the MassPort Web site, at www.massport.com.

Advance notice

This information gives interested vendors much more lead time to set up teams before bidding, said Ken Johnson, program manager for the Logan modernization.

'When it goes in the newspaper, vendors only have three weeks to get a team together,' he said.

The second goal was to use the Web to help MassPort communicate easier with vendors once on the job.

Let's go back to those workers who turn to their keyboards when they have a problem'perhaps they find an underground barrier. Instead of summoning the engineer to see the problem, the workers can take a digital photo of the barrier, upload it to a shared Web site and arrange a conference call with the engineers and other officials to resolve the situation. This process saves time. No longer must workers stop to wait for an engineer to arrive.

When the time came to choose a communications system, MassPort wanted one that would work easily with the software on the desktop PCs of all the architects, engineers, contractors and subcontractors, Johnson said.

Finding the right fit

'We looked at several service bureaus, but many required us to change the way we do business,' Johnson said. For example, as a state agency, MassPort can't go completely paperless, he said.

'Most of the service bureaus we evaluated have a generic look and feel, use an application like Lotus Domino that must be customized for each project, and do not support a permanent record when the project is completed,' Johnson said.

MassPort selected ActiveProject from Framework Technologies Corp. of Burlington, Mass.

The communications software runs on a server hosted by an outside provider, SEG Network Technologies Inc. of Hanover, N.H.

MassPort purchased 10 licenses for two projects: a $91 million repair and renovation of a central parking garage at Logan and a makeover of the airport's Terminal B. 'I don't have a dollar figure for that second project because some of the funding is provided by airport tenants,' Johnson said.

License holders have read-write access to ActiveProject, Johnson said.

There is unlimited read access for employees who may need only to see the information. The Web site is password-protected.

MassPort's desktop PCs run Microsoft Windows NT, but that isn't needed for access.

'ActiveProject broke down the barriers associated with people using incompatible software such as Corel WordPerfect and Microsoft Word. Everyone can instantly access, view and provide feedback on project information using a standard Web browser,' Johnson said.

It is simple to add new users through ActiveProject's subscribe feature, he said. All you need is a uniform resource locator, user name, password and e-mail address.

The application is also easy to use.

'Instead of giving information to a secretary for distribution, I drag and drop the information onto a project Web site in real time,' Johnson said. He needs only to hit a button and the meeting minutes are online.

If an architect moves a wall two feet, the app automatically posts a notice on the Web so that the mechanical and plumbing engineers will learn about the change, Johnson said.

That's not all

MassPort will buy 20 more licenses for a third project, a $321 million expansion of Logan's Terminal E.

Johnson said he expects to use ActiveProject on at least 75 percent of Logan's projects.

The remaining projects, such as the renovation of Terminal A by Delta Airlines, will be supervised by other companies.

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