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FIDICcharts (horizontal version)
Charts :: Information :: Features :: Concepts :: Visualisation :: Screen
 

NOTE

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.


Background

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

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.


Swimlane charts

A swimlane chart is a visual aid used in process flow diagrams, or flowcharts, that visually distinguishes task sharing and responsibilities for sub-processes. Swim lanes may be arranged either horizontally or vertically. Interactive swimlanes3 have been implemented as web applications using the powerful d3.js4 JavaScript library. These applications can run either offline within a user's browser or online by browsing to a web site.

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.


Browsers

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.


The Contract

In using a swimlane visualisation approach it was decided to:

  • break the contract up into its main Procedures (e..g, Procedures for site access, dispute resolution, etc.);
  • display the various Procedure charts above a chart of the Principal Events of a contract as described in the introduction to the FIDIC contracts;
  • have swimlanes in each of the Procedure and Principal Events charts corresponding to the actions taken by the Employer, the Contractor and the Engineer;
  • allow the user to scan each chart so that a sequence of actions and events can be followed;
  • allow the user to load different Procedure charts by clinking a link in the Principal Events chart, a dropdown menu or a search box;
  • ensure that whenever the user is taken to a position in a Procedure Chart the corresponding position in the Principal Events chart is loaded, and vice versa.

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.


Features

The main elements on the charts are boxes corresponding to actions. In the case of the Procedure charts, these boxes have the following elements:

  • title;
  • pop-up link (click a sub-clause number) giving the relevant text of the corresponding sub-clause in the contract (this link in fact opens a FIDICbot chat window to give the clause text, where FIDICbot's full search functionality can be accessed in a web browser or vai messenging platforms at FIDICbot);
  • pop-up link (click a letter number) giving the text to the approporiate sample letter (if any);
  • pop-up link (click a grey circle) giving useful subsiduary information;
  • a link (click a numbered green circle) to a Procedure chart if the actions that follow are displayed on another chart.

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.


Searching

The main types of search tools, each with with links to the relevant action items on the Procedures and Principal Events, are:

  • search in the texts of the sample letters and contract sub-clauses;
  • dropdown lists of Procedures, Principal Events and Sample Letters.

Access

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 peter@peterboswell.com for a password.


Rights Management

Interactive, offline, in-browser JavaScript-based applications have an enormous potential. However, since they are in-browser, by definition, even with the very latest obfuscation techniques, the source material, in the present case primarily the sample letters, is available to anyone with enough patience and skill to decode the application.

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.


Contracts charting

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:

  • statement box (main box containing the links to pop-ups);
  • subroutine box (pop-up for associated useful information);
  • question signal ("yes/no" box);
  • connector signal (connector lines);

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.


Developments

Various developments of the basic demonstration two-chart swimlane that is accessed via the Charts link are being developed as demonstrations. For instance:

  • side-by-side Procedures Charts with a standard Principal Events chart allowing, for instance:
    • comparison of two contracts (e.g., Construction and Plant);
    • comparison of different editions of the same contract (e.g., the latest - 1999 - 1st Edition of the Construction Contract with the recently published 2nd Edition);
    • modelling risk scenarios;
    • claims management;
    • critical path analysis.
  • ability to annotate charts as a tool to manage a contract (e.g., keep track of letters sent).

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.


Proviso

The developers realize that the application is at the demonstration stage. The JavaScript code clearly needs refinement and optimisation, although the main elements are already fully workable. The application is touch-friendly for mobiles, but not fully responsive (i.e., it is unsuitable for phones and small tablets, although workable). In fact it is doubtful that the application should be fully responsive since it is likely that at the first stage it will mainly target desktops, laptops and tablets.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting that a mobile app can be envisaged that interacts with other versions.


Information

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).


References

1. Navigating in Complex Process Model Collections: Markus Hipp, 2015 PDF.

2. FIDIC: fidic.org.

3. d3.js based swimlane visualisations: Bunkat 2012; Bunkat 2012; Bunkat 2012; Protembla, 2012; Rengel, 2013.

4. d3.js: d3js.org

5. Monocle e-book reader: Vertica.

6. FIDIC contract charts: Malconlaw; Malconlaw; Introduction to FIDIC 1999 works contracts; Totterdill, FIDIC User's Guide; Bunni PDF. PDF; Jaeger PDF; FIDIC DBO Contract PDF.