SharePoint Honored by Gartner

SharePoint Honored by Gartner

“SharePoint delivers content services as the foundational content platform for Office 365, with capabilities for creating, sharing, protecting, and reusing information. Going far beyond merely storing documents, SharePoint hosts digital content like pages, videos, images, designs, 3D, medical scans, and markup as well as traditional documents. SharePoint embodies ease of use with ease of management—on any device, for any user, at any location.
“These innovations, along with customers’ transition to the cloud and the growing imperative for secure content collaboration and sharing, are driving growth across Microsoft 365, SharePoint, and OneDrive. More than 300,000 organizations now have SharePoint and OneDrive in Office 365, including 85 percent of the Fortune 500. Active users grew over 90 percent, and data stored in SharePoint Online grew over 250 percent in the last year alone.
“Gartner has recognized Microsoft as a Leader in the Content Services Platform Magic Quadrant for 2017. In addition to being positioned as one of only three Leaders, Microsoft is placed highest for Ability to Execute.”

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Share Live Construction Updates Using a Webcam

Share Live Construction Updates Using a Webcam

In October of 2016, VICC | Venco Imtiaz Construction Co. selected VPO as their construction project management software to manage the construction phase of the World Bank Group’s Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. We launched VPO so that the project team could start collaborating by sharing contract drawings, managing reviews of RFIs and Submittals, and uploading progress data.  

Traditionally our clients upload photos and videos to VPO to keep the project team informed of construction progress. For this project, VICC has installed a CCTV Webcam located at the job site, with multiple cameras that allow their team to see live video and interact with the camera through zooming and panning capabilities. They can also record a video feed of live action.

The project manager of the World Bank Group asked us to incorporate the CCTV Webcam directly into VPO so that the project team could view the job site while logged into VPO, where they are managing other project data. We offer VPO on SharePoint Online through Office 365 and discovered we could add a Page Viewer Web Part to our SharePoint site to display the browser software provided by the manufacturer for viewing the Webcam on the page. Our setup even includes the controls for interacting with the live video feed—such as selecting the camera, zooming in, and panning the job site. 

Team members can also access the Webcam from their mobile devices, using an app called iPOLIS mobile. Go ahead and view a sample video of the footage captured at the job site, with the ability to zoom in, zoom out and pan the job site. We suggest watching in full screen mode.

What’s so great is that although many of their team members work on the job site, a lot of the people working on the project work in the United States; but with this Webcam feature in VPO, they have an easy-to-access live video feed. It is exciting for us too, because we would never be able to see this client’s project in person otherwise, but this way, it feels like we can.

If you would like to find out what type of system VICC used for this project, visit the manufacturer’s Website. 

The World Bank Group, the Owner of the project, is one of the world’s largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries. Its five institutions share a commitment to reducing poverty, increasing shared prosperity, and promoting sustainable development.

VICC | Venco Imtiaz Construction Co., the General Contractor on the project, is a multinational corporation operating in the Middle East, South Asia, and North America specializing in Engineering Services, Turnkey Construction Solutions, Infrastructure Development and K-Span Pre-Engineered Buildings.

Meet Solution Specialist Kelly Rickli

Meet Solution Specialist Kelly Rickli

Having built a design career in architecture and transportation, LEED-accredited professional Kelly Rickli brings to our team a wealth of knowledge and experience in listening, analyzing, and thinking creatively to understand and solve problems.

As does every member of the Simplex team, Kelly works from her home office—which in her case means that she telecommutes from Detroit, Michigan. Immediately before joining us, she was the Michigan representative of a research group from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, conducting a naturalistic driving study of heavy vehicles. Concurrently she worked on an automated vehicle study in partnership with General Motors.

Earlier in her career, as an NCIDQ-certified interior designer Kelly worked with Spectrum Design, P.C., an architectural and engineering firm specializing in educational facilities—meeting responsibilities from programming and planning to construction administration—on award-winning projects including schools, a regional airport, a county jail, two museums, and several corporate renovations. And all the while, she was developing her project-management skills on several small projects at Virginia Tech.

We benefit from Kelly’s additional experience as a freelancer for small businesses, delivering not only graphic design services, but also marketing materials, brand development, and even Web site design —all skills and talents that she leverages daily in service of our VPO clients. In fact, several years ago, when Kelly was an intern at Simplex, she helped us rebrand our company and created our new company logos.  And later, our VPO logos. VPO

 From buildings to applications, she believes firmly that good design is necessary. While they are distinct media, architecture and the virtual world are both constructed environments, and the process of design remains the same. It’s crucial to get the structure right, but equally important that every visual detail supports the product.

As a designer, Kelly has been on the user end of RFIs and submittals and tracking changes among all parties, so she fully understands our clients’ pains, and appreciates all that VPO can do to ease and even eliminate those struggles. She knows firsthand how limiting the sheer amount of paper, having all information accessible from the field, and streamlining correspondence, can free up our clients for more efficient and effective management. Working in the AEC industry made her adept at coordination among many parties—from client to engineers, to builders.

What Kelly enjoys most about working with Simplex and our customers is developing new skills and creating customer-specific solutions. She feels particularly excited whenever she can figure out a novel solution to a unique issue. And using her graphic-design background to blend clients’ branding into our application to create a seamless and customized experience also brings her satisfaction and pride.

Kelly hopes to continue mastering engagement in all aspects of the VPO experience, from building sites to collaborating on projects with clients to create even more solutions for their teams. We are thrilled she is part of ours.

Add Kelly Rickli to your address book and connect with her on LinkedIn


International Women’s Day Celebrating Laura Nee

International Women’s Day Celebrating Laura Nee

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Here is our call to action:

Today we celebrate our President and CEO, Laura Nee, and her achievements. She has made strides in a traditionally male-dominated industry, and empowered many women whom she has employed to solve complex and technical business issues for our customers—setting a strong example for girls and women everywhere, including her nine-year-old daughter, Ava.

Having begun her career as a software developer and business analyst, Laura had always had an interest in business-process reengineering, helping companies improve their bottom line through automation. By the time she was 26 years old her father was ready to retire, and sell the company he’d founded in 1984, The Simplex Group, Inc. She was an enterprising young adult who wanted to run her own business, so when the opportunity to acquire and mold Simplex arose, she jumped at it.

At the time, Simplex was a value-added reseller for a project-management software company now owned by Oracle, Primavera Systems. Primavera is known in the engineering and construction industry for their flagship planning and scheduling products. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Simplex worked with local organizations like Westinghouse, Bayer Corporation, and Highmark, while expanding into western New York to service companies like Eastman Kodak, Rochester Gas & Electric, and Cornell University. Simplex also had contracts with organizations involved in construction like Mascaro, Dick Corporation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sargent Electric, and many others from traditionally male-dominated industries.

Laura saw the need to merge her software-development experience with her project-management expertise.

“We need to build our own project-management system, but not the way a typical software vendor does. We need to develop it with the customer, not for the customer.” In working with off-the-shelf products like Primavera, Laura had learned that people rarely used most of the functionality available within the application.
Taking that innovative approach to technology has made Laura and her organization successful. In 2008, her team launched VPO, a construction project-management system. After working with client after client, we eventually created a set of Best Practices for the construction industry.VPO
“We didn’t build an off-the-shelf system with features that we thought people would need; we built a system around processes that we knew they definitely needed.”
Laura continues, “We worked on neat projects like the North Shore Connector Light Rail Expansion Project—a light rail system built underwater. We worked with one of the world’s largest energy companies, CONSOL Energy, to manage an $800M capital-improvement program updating their conveyor systems across their mines. One of our most successful projects is for Yale University’s Office of Facilities. We developed a bid-management system that supports over 1,200 contractors who upload their bids electronically, securely.”

Laura and her team continue to work with more and more companies to deploy and evolve VPO. Right now we’re working with the University of Pittsburgh’s Facilities Management division to roll out an enterprise-wide program-management system managing their capital projects. We’re building a custom version of VPO for a construction-management firm out of Southern California, Simplus Management, to help them manage projects for their clients in an innovative way like Orange County, and the City of Long Beach. Laura’s team also recently deployed VPO for an international contractor, Venco Imtiaz Construction Company, who is building the headquarters for The World Bank in Afghanistan.

At Simplex, we honor Laura Nee on International Woman’s Day, 2017, and we thank her for being our leader. Her vision and know-how have benefited not only our clients and each other, but also our families. As are so many other women, we’re the main caregivers for our loved ones. And in addition to eliminating unnecessary overhead costs, operating from our homes for a business owner who empowers us to “work smart” gives each Simplex team member a flexible environment in which to meet our responsibilities to our company and customers, and to our families—as well as to ourselves as individuals.

#IDW2017 #BeBoldForChange #SheMeansBusiness #InternationalWomensDay

Can you use Microsoft Office 365 for Construction Project Management?

Can you use Microsoft Office 365 for Construction Project Management?

Does your organization use Microsoft Office 365? First, let’s clarify what Office 365 is. Some people think of Office 365 as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook apps. Some people recognize the name because it came with the PC they just bought. Some companies use Office 365 because their IT professional told them to move to Microsoft’s hosted email platform.

Office 365 is a Cloud-based business platform managed by Microsoft for hosted email, file sharing, online meetings, calendaring, and more. But what does this mean for you, and how does it help improve your business? For the past 30 years, we’ve worked with customers from various industries and business types—but they all share a common theme: project management.

We want to help you learn about the tools and features that are available from Microsoft, and show you how you can use them to improve your business. There are a lot of companies that have moved, or are planning to move, to Microsoft’s Cloud platform. But so many of those companies only know about a tiny sliver of Office 365’s capabilities.

Let’s look at the apps that are available with a standard subscription of Office 365. There are traditional apps for email like Mail, Calendar, and People. There are apps for online versions of Microsoft Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. And there are so many more apps that are valuable—but only if you know what they are and how to use them.

We work with customers daily on leveraging these tools as project management tools. We can help you learn about the apps and features that relate to project management, and the value that they can bring to your business. If you’re using Office 365 today, then you may have access to these tools without even knowing it!

SharePoint App

SharePoint is an enterprise content management system typically used to develop a company’s corporate intranet or secure employee website. People don’t know where to start with SharePoint, and often the team members who help set up Office 365 are network specialists, not business analysts. It can be very intimidating to try and figure out where to start with SharePoint because, by default, SharePoint is installed as a blank site without any content.


When we work with clients to set up and configure SharePoint, we establish templates of content that can be reused within the company. For example, our customers in the engineering and construction industries use our construction project management app, VPO, as a starting point to manage bidding, design reviews, RFIs, Submittals, Change Orders, and other features. By using our template, you can get your next project off the ground quickly without the need to wait for IT to develop a project management system for you. We also use templates to help businesses set up sites for departments like accounting and marketing.  


SharePoint is a powerful tool for managing business workflows. A workflow is a process of submitting information for review and approval. There are different types of workflows—serial and dynamic. A serial workflow sends an approval to multiple parties, and each party must approve in a specific order. A dynamic workflow allows an individual to pick whom to send the approval to, and the assignment can change at any time, as needed.

A typical workflow in the construction industry is a Request for Information (RFI), and we use a dynamic workflow setup. In VPO, we have a standard form that collects information that a Contractor would submit to an Architect for clarification. The Contractor can ask the question digitally, and an email notification is automatically sent to the Architect, notifying him or her of the Contractor’s question. The Architect can reply with the answer, and another email is then sent back automatically to the Contractor. Alternatively, they could send it on to the Owner to get their input. We call the ownership of the workflow, the Ball-In-Court.

This way, you always know who is holding on to the document for approval. You also have a list of RFIs that are visible to anyone within the project, providing transparency and an audit trail of anyone who has touched the RFI.


SharePoint can be used to create any workflow in a company. For instance, you can set up a workflow to allow employees to submit a timesheet for review and approval to their Manager, or an expense report and purchase requisition. The trick is to create the form that collects the information, and then train your team members on the process.

File Sharing

Office 365 is a powerful tool for managing company documents in the Cloud. With Office 365, there are two apps dedicated to file sharing; SharePoint and OneDrive. SharePoint should be used to store, and share, company-related documents. OneDrive should be used to store your own documents that aren’t yet ready for sharing. Think of it this way: if you’re going to save a document that you’re drafting, but you’re not yet ready to share it with coworkers, then you typically save it to your Documents folder on your PC. However, this location is not necessarily being backed up, so if your PC crashes, then you’ll have lost your documents. If, instead, you save that type of document to OneDrive, then it will be saved both on your PC and online, in the Microsoft Cloud where it’s being backed up.

If you’re working on a sales proposal—a company document—then you should save the document in SharePoint, in the Sales department site. You can work collaboratively with others on the document, and using the Cloud ensures that it’s being backed up. You can sync SharePoint documents with your local device so that you can edit them locally, but they are being synced online and backed up in the Microsoft Cloud.

There are many advantages to storing your documents in the Microsoft Cloud, in SharePoint and OneDrive.

  • You can access the documents from anywhere; no VPN connection needed.
  • You can sync documents, work offline, and then automatically re-sync online.
  • Version history is turned on by default, capturing an instance of every document changed by any user.

  • Searching for documents is fast and intuitive; you can use keywords to search not only the title of the document but also the contents of a document.  

Task Management

In dealing with customers in the engineering and construction industry for decades, we’ve learned well that their business success relies heavily on critical-path schedules that can be used for long-term forecasting. Some businesses don’t need such a robust planning tool; they need a simple project management tool for communicating goals and deadlines to coworkers, and for getting periodic feedback on the status of those goals.

SharePoint allows you to manage a set of tasks that may belong to a project, a business initiative, or a department. You create the task list as you would in an Excel spreadsheet—which is what many people do. However, it’s not easy to see tasks in an Excel spreadsheet. You have to open a document to see the tasks, and only one person at a time can edit the task document. When creating a SharePoint task list, you create each task, provide a title, a longer description, a start date, an end date, and whom it’s assigned to. It can be as simple as that. Optionally, you can automatically send an email alert to the individual assigned any task. There’s no real logic between the tasks; each one can be completed independently of others, keeping it simple to set up. And you can have multiple users editing tasks at the same time. You can also add tasks to a timeline so that others can see a graphical view of the tasks.

You can indent tasks to create summary tasks, and any tasks that are late will automatically change to the color red. It’s simple to manage, easy to understand, and transparent for everyone in your organization.

We’ve even developed an app called My Tasks, that’s a personal view of tasks assigned to you from all task lists. A great way to keep on top of your assignments across any task list.

Project Online App

Many people don’t realize that Microsoft offers a Project Portfolio Management (PPM) system in Office 365. A PPM system allows you to manage your company’s projects in a single database. With a PPM system, you can see your company’s projects in one view. It’s great for team members in management, because they need a bird’s eye view of projects’ status. This way they can see if a project has an issue, and drill down into the detail of the project plan.

In Office 365, you can subscribe to Project Online, and it will provide the enterprise project infrastructure you need to manage your projects. You don’t have to purchase expensive perpetual licenses; you can simply subscribe and pay a monthly fee depending on the type of functionality needed. You can even bundle the desktop version Microsoft Project into your subscription. The advantage is that there’s nothing to install in your organization; Microsoft manages the infrastructure in the Cloud for you, and you’re always using the latest versions of the software.

With Project Online in Office 365, you can manage your projects using a web browser, without having any software installed on your desktop. You have anywhere access to the project data.

If you prefer to use a desktop version of Microsoft Project, you can check out the project from Project Online, modify it, and then check the project back in and publish it to all other users.

With Project Online, you can define templates that include a standard Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), tasks with durations and logic, and assigned resources, so that when you need to create a new project, you’re not starting with a blank page. You can build intelligence into your project templates, and use them as a starting point, and the solution will build consistencies into your company’s project plans no matter who is developing them.

Skype for Business App

A few years ago, Microsoft purchased Skype, a video conferencing leader, and now Microsoft offers Skype for Business as an application within Office 365 as a subscription-based tool. It’s included with other apps as a bundle. Not everybody realizes how powerful and useful Skype can be for project management.

First, Skype can be used to host and join web meetings. The pricing model of Skype makes it more reasonable to give to every employee within your office access to host a meeting, rather than a select few like you would with GoToMeeting. This allows for people to connect with team members no matter where they’re working from.

Skype can also be used as a video feed to share live information from anywhere. Our customers running construction projects use it in the field. The Project Manager and Field Superintendent can use the Skype mobile app on their smartphone or tablet, and show a live video feed of a problem at the job site to someone sitting in an office.

Watch this video from Microsoft to see Skype for Business in action.

With Skype for Business, you simply get answers to questions done more quickly.

Shared Mailbox

Today there are so many email messages that go back and forth on a project. It’s difficult to track down correspondence, and once you do, it’s hard to be confident that you’re reading the latest thread in the conversation or opening the latest attachment. In Office 365, we have a feature called a Shared Mailbox that allows you to set up an email address that’s unique for your project. When sending an email message to your project team, you can simply Cc the project email address, and the correspondence is automatically collected in the project’s mailbox. You can also forward to that address any email related to the project. You can assign team members to the mailbox who can see the project mailbox in Outlook, next to their own mailbox. You can search for any correspondence just like you can with your Outlook inbox.


Office 365 is a great project management tool for any organization. Leverage your investment in Office 365 by taking advantage of more apps today.

Subscribe to our VPO YouTube Channel

Subscribe to our VPO YouTube Channel

VPO Training on YouTubeWe’re excited to announce the launch of our VPO Construction Project Management Software Channel on YouTube. This channel will allow us to share valuable resources for companies interested in or using VPO.

Check out our training videos covering subjects like:

RFI Management: Learn how to add and approve Requests for Information in VPO.
Submittal Management Mobile: Learn how to add and approve Submittal items on your project in the VPO mobile app.
Overview of VPO: Learn about the capabilities of VPO. This lesson is an introduction to VPO. You will learn about the contents on the Home Page of a project and how to navigate in VPO. It will show you how to work with logs like RFIs and Submittals, and shows you how to work with document libraries like Drawings. Also, it reviews the Print and Search functionality within VPO.

Subscribe to our Channel today!

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