Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
ACD5™: Contracting Moves to the Cloud
The launch of the AIA’s new online contract documents service gives architects and contractors more tools to select and revise documents anywhere, anytime
Visit the AIA Contract Documents website.
By Sara Fernández Cendón
This week the AIA launched a major new evolution of its industry-standard AIA Contract Documents®—and for the first time ever it is completely web-based. This migration from PC-based software to the cloud by itself offers a whole new level of flexibility and convenience to users, but the online services provided by the new ACD5 have been extensively enhanced in other ways to clarify choices and facilitate collaboration. New and improved features include:
Scott Smith, assistant manager of purchasing at Barona Resort & Casino, in Lakeside, Calif., an early tester of ACD5 who uses the software to work with contractors, subcontractors, and consultants. “It is difficult to improve on a product that is already as user-friendly and intuitive as ACD has always been, but I think AIA has come up with significant improvements in ACD5,” he says. “Moving to an online-based product is itself a tremendous leap forward, and a welcome one considering that most of us spend so much of our time in that environment already.”
“With ACD5, if you have an Internet connection and a browser, you can access our full capabilities,” says Deborah DeBernard, AIA, Vice President and General Manager of Contract Documents at the AIA.
Selecting the best tool for the task
Many ACD5 improvements are focused on giving customers more tools to select the best possible document for their project. With more than 180 documents and forms, the selection of AIA contract documents is large. “Most architects are probably using and reusing the same documents,” says DeBernard. “Maybe the document they are using is the best one for their purpose, but there may be other valuable options.”
Through a quick questionnaire, the “Help Me Select an AIA Template” tool helps users identify the documents that are most appropriate. Once users have narrowed down their choices to the most likely candidates, the “Side-by-Side Comparison” tool allows them to compare key characteristics of up to three documents before purchase. At a glance, users can see differences in purpose, termination, parties, dispute resolution, and warranties.
Another ACD5 beta tester, Cristi Cummings, a contracts specialist with Lambert Architecture + Interiors in Winston-Salem, N.C., says the template-selecting tool will not only help customers ensure they’re using the right agreement, it will also help them explain their choice of document to others who may be familiar with (and prefer) only one type of agreement.
Cummings also found ACD5’s custom-template library, another new feature, particularly helpful. The library allows users to save and reuse the documents they need the most. Once a standard template has been customized to fit specific requirements, the customized template may be saved and automatically used as the basis for other drafts. Likewise, commonly used clauses may be stored in a clause library and easily dropped into draft agreements. “We have several standard clauses, and having them all in the clause library, instead of copying them from our MS Word document, will facilitate preparation of the agreements,” she says.
The previous desktop software relied on users sharing documents via email, with each collaborator drafting separate responses or making handwritten comments on a proposed document. ACD5 offers users a more integrated collaboration process. Now a user can dictate which and how many reviewers get an invitation to review, and how long each reviewer has to complete the task. Further, reviewers don’t need to have a subscription to the online service; the review and editing tools they’ll need are already embedded in the shared document. And, as with the previous software, the ACD5’s “Variance Checker” tool keeps a record of where standard documents have been revised, so at the end of the process all parties know how documents have been altered.
“The ability to get input from a group of reviewers in a way that allows them each to respond at their convenience with specific individual comments is going to be a great boon to efficiency and time management,” says Smith.
With ACD5, every customer—from purchasers of a single document to someone who owns an unlimited license—will be able to purchase documents one-at-a-time and edit nearly every word in an agreement. This kind of flexibility, called “AIA Documents-on-Demand® Plus,” makes it easier for customers to buy a single fully customizable document and treat the cost as a reimbursable project expense.
By simply being web-based and avoiding desktop-bound software, customers with ACD5 will be able to get updates to contracts and forms instantly with little effort on their part. “Now we can put new features, benefits, and contracts into the hands of our customers instantaneously,” says DeBernard.
Learning and logistics
AIA Contract Documents is making the transition from the software version to the online service as easy as possible. It has developed a migration tool, or “document mover,” which will automatically pull existing documents from the desktop software into the ACD5 platform.
To help customers become familiar with the new service, ACD5 features help tools (videos and cues) embedded throughout. Mark Wilkin, Director of AIA Contract Documents Marketing and Education, says the AIA will also offer training videos, user guides, and webinars. Support will continue to be available by phone and email.
For anyone looking for a test run before committing to a purchase, the help tools and training environment will be accessible without a subscription. The desktop software will be phased out eventually, but DeBernard says the shortest period an existing customer will have to make the transition will be a full year. Annual renewals for the software will be accepted by current software customers for only the next six to nine months, at which point the AIA will stop selling the software version altogether.