“I put the data on the network drive for you” is not effective collaboration. we can do better.”
The benefit of open collaboration among multiple software platforms is obvious. But to be truly effective, the collaboration must be seamless across products, and easy for users to access and operate—invisible to the end-user, freeing them to spend their time on analysis, discussion and real progress.
Essentially, effective collaboration incorporates:
• Project data that is easily accessible to everyone
• The ability for users to edit data concurrently in real-time
• Project history that tracks and documents all changes
• Data synchronization that facilitates offline work
• Methods for users to communicate the context of their work
The Eclipse Mining data platform provides all of this and more for the modern mining industry.
A Virtual Mine Planning Workspace
Communication technology has improved dramatically in the last decade so that we are now able to contact just about anyone, anywhere, anytime. This has led to a more dispersed workforce and the advent of “virtual” workspaces.
For the mining industry, this shift makes it possible for a growing proportion of mine planning to be performed off-site. Although there is no shortage of communication and project management software available (WebEx/Slack, Asana/ GoogleDocs/etc.), there are gaps in software used for mine planning and design. As the virtual world grows, so too does the need for more collaboration software in mine planning.
Real-World Challenges In a Virtual World
The major challenge to effective mine planning collaboration software is the ability to quickly and easily access data from one place in real-time. In a typical workflow, collaboration often boils down to, “I put the data on the network drive for you.” This often-heard phrase highlights a problem immediately: What is the central location for storing and retrieving the data? What format is it in? Is it the most up-to-date version?
“Is it the most up-to-date version” is another challenge. It is not unusual for multiple people to be working on a project together. Imagine a group working to submit a final report—let’s say it’s a global group in different locations and multiple time zones. How do they know when one person has completed their work? How do they review each other’s work? How do they incorporate everyone’s work into the final version? This scenario plays out day after day with the logistical heavy lifting falling to the users—time that could be spent on thoughtful analysis is instead spent on the delicate maneuvers necessary for this type of project.
Even simple projects can create challenges. Imagine just two people working on the same project. Maybe they are even in the same building at the same time… working on the same project at the same time. Let’s say they are updating a block model. One person is locked out of the model because the other is using the file on the network. To combat this, they both work on a local copy, which works fine until they realize there is no tool to merge their work together. As a work-around, both people export the data to a third party format and recombine manually… except one person makes a mistake and overwrites the changes of the other. There’s got to be a better way!
Real Solutions In The Virtual World
Effective collaboration in mine planning requires a transparent project date. i.e., data must be readily accessible, and changes must be visible and easy to understand. The Eclipse Mining data platform provides a central data hub to which all users can access and contribute. A robust version controls system supports the hub, tracking, and saving all revisions. So, there is never a question of where the latest data is or who has it. Everyone has it. And they can access it and work on it whenever they need to, regardless of where they are, what time it is, or who else might be working on it at the same time. The hub is the one source of truth about a project, empowering users to make informed decisions together.
In the mining industry, the virtual world does not always cut it in the real world. With the Eclipse Mining data platform, users can check out a project, travel to a site with no connection to the server, and continue working. When they reconnect to the server their changes merge automatically with all the other revisions up to that point. If their changes conflict with that of another user, the discrepancy is identified so that conflicts may be reviewed in project history and revised as needed. Simple.
Managing Workflow With Metadata
The Eclipse Mining data platform provides a rich attribution system that allows metadata to be attached to any piece of data in a project, so users can construct and share the context of their data with other users. This feature makes it easy to track and manage the progress of tasks in a project. A user can attribute their work with a “Ready to Review” status and set the “Assignee” as their manager or coworker, who then receives a message along with the updates. A return message with comments or edits facilitates the discussion, and suddenly, effective collaboration is happening within a managed workflow. All behind the scenes, and invisible to the users because it requires no additional effort on their part. Taken together, the Eclipse Mining data platform provides powerful tools that facilitate collaboration:
• Project data is openly available to everyone through the data hub
• The versioning system allows users to edit it cooperatively
• Project history ensures that all changes are documented (transparent)
• Attribution (metadata) allow users to construct and share the context of their data
These remove the burden of sharing and administering data from the user and allow them to spend more time analyzing, discussing, and working on it together.