Please note that we have two types of charts:
The discussion below is for the horizontal version. A similar discussion for the probably more interesting vertical charts is available.
The coding for the horizontal FIDICcharts demo is not yet optimised as we are mainly focussing on the conceptual issues related to accessing and visualising complex contractual documents. The approach used mirrors the ProNavVis concepts for navigating "complex model collections" as developed by Markus Hipp1 and colleagues (see "Concepts"). The techniques used to protect the primary source material, namely the sample letters, are discussed below under Rights Management.
FIDIC2, the International Federation of Consulting Engineers, publishes standard forms of contracts for works projects. The most widely used are the Construction Contract for building and engineering works designed by the Client, and the Plant and Design-Build Contract for electrical and mechanical plant and for building and engineering works designed by the Contractor.
To help in administering these contracts, Peter Boswell and a colleague have drafted a collection of sample letters for use with these two contracts. The aim is to publish the collection as a book, together with a limited amount of guidance.
Sample letters, sometimes called standard letters, for FIDIC contracts are sent between the Employer, the Contractor and the Engineer.
In preparing the sample letters, the authors have classified the letters according to the letter number for a given sub-clause, i.e., SC13.2(4) corresponding to the fourth letter that relates to Sub-Clause 13.2.
A web application (see the Charts link above or click FIDICcharts) has been developed to help coordinate and track the various letters. The application uses swimlane charts (a form of timeline chart) to chart the sequencing of the various letters while a contract progresses.
Interactive swimlanes are well suited to providing an easily visualised and compact overview of where sample letters are needed during the progress of a project that uses a FIDIC contract.
The swimlane charts are currently designed to be viewed with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or Opera on laptops and desktops. However, they are fully functional on tablets using Safari (iPads) and Chrome (Android tablets). Touch mode for browsers on Windows is being looked into for desktops, laptops and Surface Pro tablets, but use with Internet Explorer on Windows RT Surface tablets is unlikely to be available.
In using a swimlane visualisation approach it was decided to:
A main requirement of the sub-division into Procedures was that every sample letter could be logically associated with a Procedure so that the application provides access in a systematic way to every letter.
Swimlanes can obviously be developed with other strategies in mind. It is envisaged that various versions will be developed to focus on particular aspects of contract and risk management.
The main elements on the charts are boxes corresponding to actions. In the case of the Procedure charts, these boxes have the following elements:
There are also graphic flowchart elements for "yes/no" choices, flowchart connector lines and period intervals that specify time limits.
At the present stage, scanning or "brushing" the charts is in a horizontal as opposed to vertical direction as this seems to be the most pleasing.
The upper "Procedures" chart can be magnified in the horizontal direction by using a mouse wheel on the darker area. This sometimes facilitates selecting the links to the sample letters and the contract sub-clauses.
The main types of search tools, each with with links to the relevant action items on the Procedures and Principal Events, are:
At this stage, FIDIC Charts are primarily used by the authors of the sample letters collection to manage the collection. However, a limited number of experts are being asked to comment on the viability of the swimlane approach as a contract management tool.
Anyone seeking access to explore the tool is asked to contact Peter Boswell at firstname.lastname@example.org for a password.
The swimlane application has been shown to work well with encrypted data sources - encrypted Json files in this case. This is an important consideration since being able to work with encrypted files means that a non-generic viewer, individualised for each user5, can be supplied to provide some access control.
To restrict access to the sample letters, the only viable solution is to provide the application as an individualised viewer for each user who then browses the date online.
There are also intermediate solutions where for example, access to everything but the text of the sample letters is available offline (via caching in the browser) and unrestricted, but access to the letters requires an online account and an Internet connection. This is the approach that FIDICcharts has adopted.
Focussing for now on FIDIC contracts (which presently come as a major suite of four contracts - Construction, Plant and Design-Build, EPC/Turnkey, DBO), most authorities include charts in their publications, teaching materials and presentations. However, the charts tend to be limited in scope, unlike our browser-based swimlanes that allow large charts to be browsed by "brushing". Links to publcations that include charts for FIDIC contracts are given in Reference 5.
The main exception is the A4-sized book A new aproach to the International Civil Engineering Contract by Glyn P.Jones published in 1979 that has some 120 pages of charts for a predecessor to the FIDIC Construction Contract, namely the 3rd Edition of the FIDIC Works of Civil Engineering Contract. However, these charts aimed to flowchart the contract as a way to understand the logical structure of the contract. The flowcharts used the standard flowcharting symbols (statement box, question signal, connector signal, stop/start signal) with an annotation signal and a subroutine statement box). Without going into too much detail, our swimlane charts have equivalents as follows:
Annotation signals correspond to guidance. These can easily be included and they are to some extent in the demonstration version. However, the primary focus is on organising the sample letters.
The swimlanes include time periods, an essential feature which is not included in the earlier charts.
As mentioned above, maybe in the future tailored versions will be supplied, for example, with and without pop-ups for guidance annotations.
And once again, it must be stressed that unlike the earlier flowcharts,the swimlane visualisation does not aim to analyse contracts but to provide a tool to organise and structure inter-related information using the techniques detailed in Concepts.
Various developments of the basic demonstration two-chart swimlane that is accessed via the Charts link are being developed as demonstrations. For instance:
The opportunities seem endless.
But before getting carried away it is necessary to ensure that swimlane charting gives a reliable and convenient visualisation of a FIDIC contract, which is a relatively complex document (typically some 120 pages in length) with many inter-relationships between typically some 200 sub-clauses.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that a mobile app can be envisaged that interacts with other versions.
If you are interested in exploring the swimlane charts, please contact Peter Boswell. Peter is the former FIDIC General Manager and is now working as a consultant with Bricad Associates, see peterboswell.com.
Bricad Associates Sàrl, is based in Coppet on the outskirts of Geneva, Switzerland (website).
Bricad groups all its management information and user support platforms under Bricad.online.
Charts will be continually updated while the collection of sample letters is being prepared for publication (the version number is indicated in at the top-right of each chart).
1. Navigating in Complex Process Model Collections: Markus Hipp, 2015 PDF.
2. FIDIC: fidic.org.
4. d3.js: d3js.org
5. Monocle e-book reader: Vertica.