This application relates to application Ser. No. 09/557,641 (attorney docket TRIRG-08330US0) filed on Apr. 25, 2000, entitled “Agent Based Purchasing System” and naming Thomas A. Wucherer as inventor, the application being incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
 This application relates to application Ser. No. 09/519,935 (attorney docket TRIRG-08331US0) filed on Mar. 7, 2000, entitled “Integrated Business System for the Design, Execution and Management of Projects” and naming Cherisse M. Nicastro, Thomas A. Wucherer, Todd Nisbet and Anthony A. Marnell II as inventors, the application being incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. This application relates to U.S. Pat. No. ______ (attorney docket TRIRG-08851US00) filed on Oct. 30, 2001, entitled “Intelligent Object Builder” and naming Thomas A. Wucherer, Cherisse M. Nicastro, Anthony A. Marnell II and Anthony A. Marnell III as inventors, the application being incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
 This application relates to application Ser. No. ______ (attorney docket TRIRG-01001US0) filed on Oct. 30, 2001, entitled “Item Specification Object Management System” and naming Cherisse M. Nicastro, Thomas A. Wucherer, Todd Nisbet, Anthony A. Marnell II, and Anthony A. Marnell III as inventors, the application being incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
 This application relates to application Ser. No. ______ (attorney docket TRIRG-01002US0) filed on Oct. 30, 2001, entitled “Business Asset Management System Using Virtual Areas” and naming Cherisse M. Nicastro, Thomas A. Wucherer, Todd Nisbet, Anthony A. Marnell II, Anthony A. Marnell III, and Herman Spencer Jr. as inventors, the application being incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/244,492, entitled “Intelligent CAD Objects Technology”, filed Oct. 30, 2000.
 This application also claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/246,275, entitled “Intelligent CAD Objects”, filed Nov. 6, 2000.
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/244,457, entitled “Item Data Integration System And Method”, filed Oct. 30, 2000.
 This application also claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/246,276, entitled “Item Data Integration System And Method”, filed Nov. 6, 2000.
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/244,493, entitled “Tracking Modules For Specified Objects”, filed Oct. 30, 2000.
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/244,485, entitled “Module For Publishing Reports On Intelligent Object”, filed Oct. 30, 2000.
 A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material to which the claim of copyright protection is made. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by any person of the patent document or the patent disclosure, as it appears in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office file or records, but reserves all other rights whatsoever.
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates to a system for designing, constructing and managing the a physical asset such as a building, property, aircraft, or the like.
 2. Description of the Related Art
 Many industries employ a team of players to design and execute a project. For example, the construction industry employs a team of players to design and construct a building, such as an office building, a hotel/casino, or a manufacturing facility. Typically, the project team includes architects who prepare architectural drawings and specifications of the project according to a developer's direction. The team also includes engineers who are responsible for building systems such as structural, power, heating, cooling, plumbing systems, etc., and interior designers who are responsible for specifications relevant to interior design such as the selection and placement of furniture, paint selection, wall coverings, fixtures, office equipment, etc. The team's contractor implements the designs of the architects, engineers, and interior designers, and is generally responsible for the purchase of materials, electrical systems, mechanical systems, life safety systems, furniture, fixtures, etc., and for the management of any or all subcontractors who implement the design drawings and specifications. Other project participants may include a purchasing agent or purchasing department that is responsible for purchasing items (e.g., furniture, fixtures and equipment, etc.) for integration into the project. Contractors and subcontractors who actually build the project according to the architectural drawings. A project superintendent may manage the participants, such as by approving some or all changes to the project requested by the participants. Additionally, the project owner may participate to ensure that the project meets his or her requirements from initial conception through completion. Finally, project accountants are responsible for payment of goods and services.
 In the past, the design and construction of an asset involved the transfer of a substantial amount of paper between the various team members. For example, the architect may prepare conceptual paper specifications and drawings for a building project. These paper specifications and drawings, in turn, may be provided to one or more additional architectural engineers for modification or approval. The chief architect must provide his paper design specifications and drawings, typically via overnight delivery, to one or more of the collaborating firms. These additional team members typically add components or make modifications to the initial architectural drawings and specifications. Once revisions are completed, the collaborating firms return the revised architectural specification and drawings to the architect so that he may compile a master set of building specifications and drawings. Several different, further revisions may occur between the architect and the other project team engineers before the final set of master architectural specifications and drawings is created.
 The architectural specifications and drawings, once completed, are also provided to interior designers for input with respect to interior design features such as furniture, wall coverings, paint selection, office equipment, etc. In that each item added to a construction project, including furniture, fixtures, and equipment, typically generates more paper specifications, the interior designers additionally generate a substantial amount of paper that must be properly cataloged and distributed to other project team members. At any point during the project, revisions to the original architectural design specifications and drawings may occur which, in turn, may require other revision of the specifications of the interior designers and/or collaborating engineers.
 Ultimately, the interior design specifications along with the architectural and engineering design specifications and/or drawings are provided to a contractor who, in accordance with the specifications and drawings, coordinates subcontractors, purchasing agents, etc., to purchase the raw materials, electrical systems, mechanical systems, life safety systems, building equipment, labor fixtures, etc. and facilitates construction management of the project. Construction management or finance team members are responsible for maintaining the budget of the construction project, and must have current, accurate information relating to costs of materials, fixtures, labor, etc. Additionally, accountants pay project invoices and track the project's accounting commitments. At any point, an owner, architect, engineer, interior designer, or contractor may propose modifications to the project that necessitate further, hurried paper transfer amongst the team members to insure that all are working with the same information.
 Computer implemented systems have streamlined many project processes. In the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, software systems have been developed which aid each team member (specific to each team member's position) in the development of a construction project. For example, computer aided design tools have been developed which enable an architect or interior designer to model an asset and store that model in a database. These computer aided design tools allow more efficient modifications to an existing design than the prior art method of employing drawings in which changes were made by hand. Accounting systems are also available which enable the paperless financial management of a construction project. Additionally, software systems are available to contractors to facilitate the necessary purchases, scheduling and management of a construction project.
 While these existing architecture, engineering and construction software systems aid individual project team members, communication between the various team members remains as inefficient as in the past. In other words, an architect can make revisions to the architectural specifications of a asset by accessing and modifying an existing database model of that asset. The architect has no need to generate a hard-copy of the architectural drawings and manually revise each drawing. However, the architect must still communicate with the interior designer, contractor, finance team members, etc., via the old method of printing out and hastily distributing (usually numerous) architectural drawings. This is especially true when project team members wish to modify item specifications.
 A project typically involves many phases including design and build. These phases often overlap and each is highly dynamic. The design phase usually starts with one or more designers creating conceptual drawings of the project according to a developer's direction. The drawings generally include perimeter lines representing specific areas (e.g., restaurants, rooms, lobbies, offices, etc.) within the project. The drawings may also include graphical representations of items within the specified areas. For example, an architect may create a drawing of a restaurant area of a hotel/casino project. The restaurant drawing may include graphical representations of furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) such as tables, windows, ovens, refrigerators, a backup power generator, etc.
 The initial drawings, once completed, are provided to several other project participants involved in the design and build process. For example, the restaurant drawing example above may be provided to one or more structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and interior designers for their review, modification, and/or supplementation. These project participants may add further graphical representations of items to the initial set of drawings. An interior designer of the project may wish to add graphical representations of additional items such as chairs or art work to a dining room sub-area of the example restaurant drawing above. A structural engineer may also seek to add graphical representations of items to the restaurant drawing such as a platform on which the backup power generator (graphically represented in the drawing) rests. When project participants (e.g., engineers, interior designers, etc.) receive initial drawings of the project, the drawings give very little information about the items graphically represented. Typically, the drawings simply identify the items by title or type (e.g., “a table,” “a window,” “a backup power generator”). The engineers, interior designers, and other project participants further define or specify the characteristics or attributes of items originally contained in the drawings or items added to the drawings.
 The engineers or designers sometimes annotate specification information on the drawings, but usually the engineer or designer creates a separate specification sheet for each item graphically represented on the drawing. For example, an interior designer may create a separate specification sheet for each type of chair graphically represented in the restaurant drawing. Each specification sheet contains descriptive information (size, as size, material and finish, etc.) regarding a type of chair, and may reference other specifications such as fabric. Likewise, an electrical engineer may, for example, create a separate specification sheet for the graphically represented backup power generator describing, for example, the generator's size, power generation capacity, weight, and other attributes.
 In addition to providing specifications for items contained on drawings, there are times when drawings are not created or items are not contained on a drawing which is created, but there are still specifications for items required. For instance, in the above restaurant example is remodeled, specifications for new furnishings may be created without a drawing. Alternately the designer may provide an item schedule which list many like items and their distinguishing characteristics or referenced items.
 Other item specifications may contain different data or sections of information. For instance, portion
 Engineers and designers normally employ software applications for generating specification sheets for project items for which they have responsibility. These software applications generate electronic versions of specification sheets into which engineers or interior designers enter descriptive information. Engineers or designers usually enter a reference to a graphical representation in a drawing into the appropriate specification sheet so that the specification sheet can be associated with an item represented on the drawing. The electronic specification sheets may be organized as flat files, spreadsheets, or word-processing documents.
 Once the engineers or designers finish writing an item specification, the specification is ready to be provided or “published” to other project participants for review, modification, supplementation, and/or approval. The engineer or designer can send the specification as e-mail attachments if the recipient has a computer system with appropriate software applications for accessing the attachments. Alternatively, copies of the specification may be printed and distributed. The author saves one copy as the original specification sheet in electronic version form, hard copy form, or both, for archiving purposes. Except for the graphical reference in the specification sheet, specification sheets are forwarded to other project participants disassociated from their corresponding drawings.
 One or more revisions to each item specification may occur throughout the process. Indeed, revisions to an item specification can occur even after the corresponding item is purchased. In this latter case, the purchased item would normally be located and returned to its manufacturer, and the purchase price may be refunded, in whole or in part.
 Specification revisions may occur for a variety of reasons by a variety of project participants. For example, the project owner, upon receipt of a specification for one of the restaurant chairs, may desire the chair color to be different than originally specified or determine that the chair as originally specified is too expensive. Another interior designer for the project, upon receipt of the same specification for the restaurant chair, may notice that the originally specified fabric did not include fire treatment in accordance with local fire codes. The structural engineer, upon receipt of the specification for the backup power generator, may notice that his platform may not support the weight of the backup generator specified by the electrical engineer. Each reason for revision is communicated to the original author who, in response, revises the specification accordingly. Once revised, the specification is re-distributed to other project participants for further review, modification, supplementation, and/or approval. The author of the original specification sheet has the responsibility for maintaining a history of all revisions to the specification sheet. The author also has the responsibility to ensure that all necessary project participants have the most recent version of the specification sheet.
 Once a specification sheet for an item has been approved by all the necessary project participants, it may be submitted to the project's purchasing agent. The purchasing agent, in turn, may create a purchase order for the item using information from the specification sheet. An example of a purchase order for several items, including the entertainment center of
 The purchasing agent, like the project engineers and interior designers, may employ a computer system executing specialized software for generating a purchase order. Typically, the purchasing agent manually transfers specification sheet information into the purchase order, as shown in
 Coordinating communication of information regarding items in a construction project becomes more complex as the scale of the project increases. Collaboration and the exchange of information, including drawings and item specifications, between design and build participants also increase the complexity of each project. Effective and efficient collaboration is often the single most important key to bringing a project to fruition in a quality, timely and cost effective manner. However, as more fully exemplified above, collaboration and information exchange between participants, is typically a paper-based and chaotic process. Furthermore, it is difficult to determine the history of an item based upon the papers residing at different project participants.
 Managing change throughout the life cycle is also difficult in a paper-based or disparate application-based process. Decisions are not always based on all information available, for instance, an owner may choose not change the color of a fabric if the owner had known that the fabric had already been purchased and that a restocking fee would apply.
 What is needed is an item data integration system that will integrate data from different applications about an item throughout the item's lifecycle. Data from the separate applications should be presented as an integrated whole to users of the item data integration system. An item data integration system that is capable of providing budgeting, design specification, CAD drawings, purchasing, bid processing, receiving, invoicing, location, and maintenance data, or other processes in the item's lifecycle, about an item is desirable.
 Integrated data allows change management throughout the process. For example, designers may wish to be notified if they are deleting an item from a drawing that has already been purchased; Specifiers may wish to be notified if they are exceeding the approved budget for an item; Purchasing Agents may wait to purchase items if they know there is a revision in progress; Maintenance personnel may want to know when preventative maintenance is required or a warrantee for an item is expired; etc. The rules for managing these changes and notifications should be configured by project participants.
 The present invention, roughly described, pertains to a system and method allowing comprehensive management of an asset from design through building and management. Multiple implementations of the method and system are disclosed herein.
 In one aspect the invention is a system for defining and managing an asset which includes a data store for item specification data provided on a host computer coupled to a network. The system includes a data input toolset, a data modification toolset including project management tools; and a teamwork toolset.
 In a further embodiment, the system manages physical assets requiring a plurality of items and components. In this embodiment, the system includes a database storing item specification data, including item attributes, for objects incorporated into or consumed during the creation of the asset. The system further includes at least one data input system receiving specification data into the database, at least one item procurement system, a cost management system, a project management system, and an information collection system. Each system includes a database interface allowing the system to retrieve, use and modify data subject to granted permissions.
 In another aspect, the invention may provide a change management notification to team members notifying them when specific actions occur as defined by user set business rules. Furthermore, The invention may also route system business objects for approval and publishing to project team members and track the history of changes to system business objects.
 In yet another embodiment, the invention may comprise an application server coupled to a network. The application server includes a database storing item specification data, a design toolset, a cost toolset, a procurement toolset, and a project teamwork toolset. The application server may be coupled to a public or private network and provide the application toolsets to client devices to allow users to manipulate data stored on the application server. The applications may be configured to run in an Internet Browser application.
 In a further aspect, the teamwork toolset includes a message center allowing users a centralized location to view documents and items transmitted between parties participating in the management of the asset.
 In yet another embodiment, the invention comprises a method of allowing users to manage an asset comprising the steps of: providing an application server coupled to a network; providing, responsive to a user request, a data input tool to user client device; receiving data from the client and storing it in a database; providing, responsive to a user request, data modification tools including project management tools for modifying the data to the client device; and hosting a collaboration environment on said application server.
 In a still further embodiment, the invention is a system for project management, comprising: an item specification database including component object data; a project management application server including a specification input system, having a virtual area definition tool. The virtual area definition tool defines a virtual area as a spatial representation of an asset which may contain components and items that can be used throughout the lifecycle of the asset. In this embodiment, the system may include a data input tool, an item specification system, a procurement system, a cost management system, and a project management system. In this embodiment, the virtual area definition can be shared by said item specification system, procurement system, cost management system, and project management system.
 The present invention can be accomplished using hardware, software, or a combination of both hardware and software. The software used for the present invention is stored on one or more processor readable storage media including hard disk drives, CD-ROMs, DVDs, optical disks, floppy disks, tape drives, RAM, ROM or other suitable storage devices.
 These and other objects and advantages of the present invention will appear more clearly from the following description in which the preferred embodiment of the invention has been set forth in conjunction with the drawings.
 The invention will be described with respect to the particular embodiments thereof. Other objects, features, and advantages of the invention will become apparent with reference to the specification and drawings in which:
 The system described herein presents a complete design—build—management solution to the tasks involved in overseeing and managing construction, manufacturing, and maintaining assets such as buildings, ships, airplanes and the like. In one aspect, the system an enterprise system, Application Service Providers (ASP) platform, and open architecture system which provides application toolsets that allow multiple participants in projects, automation of bidding and estimating processes, accuracy and efficiency in purchasing, integration with existing applications, and simple but secure access over the Internet or a private network. The system captures and manages information throughout the design, build, and manage phases of the resulting asset.
 In a further unique feature of the invention, all data is available in real-time providing consistent information throughout a project's lifecycle. Even after an asset has been built, an owner or property manager can access the system to derive specific information within a few seconds. This system can be applied to any number of design and build industries, including: Hospitality, Civil and Electrical Infrastructure; Telecom; Commercial, Residential, and Government Buildings; Manufacturing; Aerospace and Nautical applications; and Automobile, Railways, and Public Transportation projects.
 The system provides a single, logical solution to gathering and manipulating information concerning assets. In performing this function, the system provides an efficiency of cost not heretofore known in prior art systems. Design data is stored and manipulated by the system throughout construction/manufacturing and, later, the management process for any type of asset. While the system will be described herein with respect to construction of a building, it will be readily recognized that the system is applicable to any type of asset. The system allows management of the designing and construction from beginning to end, and information is gathered and updated from multiple sources throughout the project. The system is also flexible enough to accommodate many different types of businesses and projects.
 The system provides this solution to users in real time, so that all information modified by users is instantly available to other users in the system, creating even greater efficiency.
 The following terms will be used throughout the specification and are defined as follows:
 Attribute: A quality of characteristic inherent in or ascribed to an item specification.
 Business Object: An article used in the conducting of business, such as a schedule of items, a letter, an email, a purchase order, a request for quotation, and the like.
 CAD: Acronym for “Computer-aided design.” Computer-aided design software is used by architects, engineers, drafters, artists and others to create precision drawings or technical illustrations. CAD software can be used to create two-dimensional (2-D) drawings or three-dimensional (3-D) models.
 Classification: The system of the present invention recognizes classifications as a category or class of item types. The classification tree displays the classes in a hierarchal fashion.
 Company: An organization or group that performs services or provides products within the system. A business. enterprise; a firm. Individual company defaults and standards revolve around a company.
 Company Administrator: The first user for any company. This user is responsible for setting up licensing, company information, company defaults, users, vendors, and so forth.
 Component: The system supports components as a part of an Item Specification. A component is an existing Item Specification associated to another item specification; together, they make up a whole item or an assembly. An Item Specification can have multiple components.
 Document Set: A special type of folder in the Collaboration tool. A document set allows a user to group together any number of files into a common set. The actual files are stored in separate folders organized in whatever manner suits the user. The contents of the document set folder are merely shortcuts, or pointers, to the actual files. Only one copy of any given file needs to be maintained.
 Item Specification: The detail information about objects involved in building the parts and components of something. An example of an item would be a desk; an example of the item specification would be the description of the desk (height, width, depth, color, material, and so forth), its manufacturer(s), costs, delivery options, catalog numbers, and so forth.
 Item Type: A template for creating item specifications for broad categories of items. For example: a user might have an item type of “office furniture ,” this item type forms a template a user would use to create the many item specifications for various desks required.
 Project: A plan or proposal; a scheme or undertaking requiring concerted effort. The system of the present invention allows any plan with more than one task to be considered as a project.
 Project Partners: Project Partners can include suppliers, vendors, contractors, designers, and consultants who have different levels of access to specifications and receive information about, and respond to information on, the Property or Project.
 Property: The base organizational point for the activities of a Company within the present system. The property is the larges hierarchal space in one or more virtual areas. The “Property” label may be customized using the Nomenclature options in Company Defaults.
 Qualification: The Qualification process is the act of ensuring that a company is suitable to perform work or provide materials for a specific project. The system provides the ability to qualify vendors and/or services before bidding and purchasing. Qualification is an information gathering process that can be used for screening purposes.
 Schedule: A schedule is a list of specified items, a reference number, a version number and the item status information. The system provides the ability to generate schedules, either by type or instance, for the entire project or specific virtual areas.
 The foregoing terminology is used herein for convenience in understanding the present invention. It should be understood that the aforementioned definitions are not intended as limiting the scope of the present invention to the particular terms which are defined. Other nomenclature may be used to represent the concepts and substance of the foregoing definitions.
 System Overview
 Each client device may comprise a personal computer, a thin client or any other type of processing device capable of supporting applications described herein, and the system may be accessed by different types of client devices—such devices need not be personal computers but do need to support the applications provided in the applications toolsets. Applications server
 The application toolsets provided in the system include: a Design Toolset
 The Design Toolset allows users of the system to input into the system
 The system will be described herein in the context of its implementation in an Application Service Provider (ASP) model. As used herein, the ASP model includes providing applications from an application server including databases organized by project or property to a client computer. In this context, an ASP is used to refer to an application server providing applications to a client device, as opposed to those applications which are installed in non-volatile memory on the client device. In one embodiment, the application toolsets may be implemented as a set of applications configured to run in another interpretive application, such as in Internet Browser.
 The application server
 In general, a request, such as an HTTP request, from the client device is made to the application server via the network. If the request is for a particular application, the application will be transmitted to the client, loaded and run by the client by presenting a graphical input/output page to a user.
 The system is configured to have a “Home Page” and “Project Page” for each user. Representations of exemplary pages are shown in
 In general, design data is created in the database by the design toolset applications, but such data can be further supplemented and/or modified by nearly all other components of the system. An object linking application links design drawings (created in a CAD system or specification builder) to specification data that describes the “real world” object. The result is an “intelligent object.” When actions (budgeting, purchasing, delivering, maintenance scheduling) occur to that object, by any system user, the “intelligence” of the object is updated with this information.
 In accordance with the invention, the system includes the ability to track multiple projects within each property with each project including item specification data related to that project. In a unique feature the specifications may also be purchased across projects within a property. This accommodates the separation of the physical asset from the unique but related business perspectives of individual project partner. Once a project partner has created their own project within a property they can maintain business objects with all available toolsets. In addition each project partner may then be presented with a different project page based on the partners perspective relative to that asset.
 An example of the data which may be used in the system of the present invention is set forth in co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______ filed ______ entitled INTELLIGENT OBJECT BUILDER (TRIG8851) by Thomas A. Wucherer, M. Cherisse Nicastro, Anthony A. Marnell II and Anthony A. Marnell III (hereby fully incorporated by reference herein).
 The data may be stored in a database in any of a number of object, relational or distributed database structures. In one embodiment, the data is organized in a series of name value pairs and relationship tables accessible via XML or SQL. In another embodiment, the data is provided in a relational database with each object represented by a single row of generic columns of attribute data, along with an attribute definition row. In yet another embodiment, the data is organized into object classes and subclasses in an object database.
 In accordance with the invention, the Application server may be supplied by a System Administrator. The Administrator may host the applications databases, and provide assistance to users of the system at all levels in using the application. In this embodiment, the system administrator enables the application server for internet access such that the client computers may be positioned at remote sites, such as the physical location of each of the members of the design team, purchasers, contractors and the like, allowing all users to communicate data to the application server via a secure protocol. The administrator may offer access to the application server, store data and customer service as a service for which the System Administrator collects a fee. Types of fees charged by the System Administrator are described herein.
 In understanding the comprehensiveness of the system of the present invention, it is helpful to understand how conventional data flows in a project.
 Upon awarding contract
 The stages of the lifecycle depicted in
 As shown in
 Item data are described herein as objects of an object-oriented framework, although the scope of the invention includes other organizations of item data. For those unfamiliar with object-oriented frameworks, a brief summary is presented here. The building block of an object-oriented framework is an object. An object is defined through its state and behavior. The state of an object is set forth via attributes of the object, which are included as data fields in the object. The behavior of the object is set forth by methods of the object. Each object is an instance of a class, which provides a template for the object. A class defines zero or more data fields to store attributes of an object and zero or more methods.
 Each data field contains attribute information defining a portion of the state of an object. Objects that are instances of the same class have the same data fields, but the particular attribute values contained within the data fields may vary from object to object. Each data field can contain information that is direct, such as an integer value, or indirect, such as a reference or pointer to another object.
 Design System Toolset
 The Design system tools include a CAD intelligence plug-in, specification tool and a schedule tool. Each of these tools provide project designers with the ability to enter data into the system in a manner which the designer would be normally accustomed to.
 CAD Intelligence Plug-in
 The CAD Intelligence plug-in adds functionality to AutoCAD or MicroStation/J or other computer aided design software. It can connect to the application server database, select item specifications, assign those specifications to drawn items in the CAD drawing, assign the drawing to a virtual area in the project and upload the “intelligent objects” in the drawing to the database. The CAD Intelligence plug-in is available for download to a local PC from a designated home Page. Once installed, the plug-in automatically updates itself as necessary when the System Administrator updates the functionality or design of the plug-in.
 The CAD Intelligence plug-in adds a menu and/or toolbar to an existing CAD application. Its main function is to connect drawing objects with detailed specifications associated to the project. The architect or engineer can also create new specifications while drawing. From within CAD Intelligence, a user can: login to the system database, add data fields to the cells/elements in a drawing (making them “intelligent”), associate drawing elements to an area, associate drawing elements to an item specification in the database, edit and view the attributes of intelligent elements, associate a mark in the drawing to an item specification, generate marks for the entire drawing and upload intelligent elements from a CAD drawing to the database. The CAD intelligence plug-in such as that described in co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______ filed ______ entitled INTELLIGENT OBJECT BUILDER by Nicastro, Wucherer, Nisbet, Marnell II, Marnell III (hereby fully incorporated by reference herein) is suitable for use in the present system.
 Item Specification Tool
 The Item Specification Tool is an independent application for creating intelligent objects without using a CAD system. The Specification Tool is fully described in co-pending application Ser. No. ______. Item Types are templates for creating item specifications for broad categories of items. The use of Item Types enables a user to display all the item types for a selected classification. The system recognizes classifications as a category or class of disciplines and trades. The classification tree displays disciplines and trades in a hierarchal fashion. Classifications are used to organize item types and control access to them. This function allows a user to open and display all details of a selected item type. The manager also allows a user to copy the attributes of a selected item type to create a new item type with the ability to edit the existing attributes. This process also provides the ability to delete an existing item type that has not yet been used to define an item specification. A user may create a new item type for a selected classification by accessing the Item Type Wizard.
 While each of the specifications
 Spec field
 New Spec button
 Status area field
 In the example of
 The user has selected an existing specification so that fields are shown in the Attributes tab
 An Item Type Wizard may be provided to define the general properties of the item type, including the type of attributes and components that will need to be specified in the item specification. Attributes are characteristics of the item type that are necessary to define the item specification. Components link item(s) required for the assembly or completion of a particular item specification. The system supports components as a part of an item specification. A component is an existing item specification associated to a new item specification that makeup a whole item.
 For example, a door may require hardware, such as hinges, for completion. The hinge item type is a component of the door item type. Existing item types can be located through a search feature and added as components. This tool allows the user to create rules for the item type that define how a waste factor is calculated for the item, which CAD mark is associated with the item type, whether component cost should be calculated as an associated cost or rolled up into the cost of the original item, and so forth. The preferences defined apply to all item specifications that are created with this item type.
 Additional functions which may be added to the item type include but are not limited to the following: definition of reporting preferences including the selection of layout per attribute and specification data type; definition of a purchasing plug-in's ability to modify the requirements of a specification; etc.
 Item Specification Manager
 Item Specifications contain detail information about objects within a physical space. An example of an item would be a desk; the item specification for the desk would include descriptions of its height, width, depth, color, material, manufacturer(s), costs, delivery options, catalog numbers, and so forth. Item Specifications are a central feature of system
 The Item Specification Manager enables a user to display all the item specifications for a selected classification and item type. A general outline of the functions of the Item Specification Manager are shown in
 Item Specification Wizard
 The Item Specification Wizard enables a user to assign general properties to the item specification, such as: item specification number, name, physical classification, and item type. After a user has created the item specification, the user can define other general properties such as the base cost and budget code. A user may also define which users for this property can view the item.
 Additional functions which may be added to the item costs page include but are not limited to the following: definition billing data from the specifier to their customer; designed quantities for areas to be used in conjunction with the multiplier to assist in defining a specified quantity and cost for an area; etc.
 The Item Specification Wizard allows a user to define specific attributes and associate available components relating to the item specification. Components link item(s) required for the assembly or completion of a particular item specification. This tool also enables a user to provide a vendor with written notes about the item specification, such as delivery requirements, special instructions, vendor terms or any other information that needs to be communicated to the vendor. This feature also enables a user to preview the item specification information and prepare a report for printing. This Item Specification Wizard also provides the ability to calculate the total estimated cost, including component items, automatically. Costs are used for budgeting, bidding, and purchasing items. A history of the item specification is tracked by system
 Additional functions which may be added to the item specification include but are not limited to the following: definition of critical time frames for completing tasks relating to the item specifications; documentation of warranty and maintenance requirements of an item; link of an item to a real-time building automation system's status of that item; etc.
 Schedule Tool
 A Schedule is a list of specified items, a reference number, a version number and the item status information. System
 Item Spec Schedule Builder
 A schedule builder tool is provided to allow users to create two different types of item specification schedules (a list in tabular form). The Schedule Builder tool enables a user to schedule each instance in which the item specification occurs throughout the entire project and allows a user to define an instance schedule report. The Schedule Builder tool also enables a user to create reports based on item specifications and virtual area. It reports the quantities of item specifications in this project and allows a user to define an item schedule report.
 Additional functions which may be added to the item schedule tool include but are not limited to the following: item schedule editor which allows project participant to edit specification in a the schedule grid; links to publishing tool including selection of a publications purpose which may defines whether or not the items are ready for purchase; exporting of schedule to other interfaces such as a CAD tool; etc.
 Item Spec Schedule Report Tool
 A Schedule Report tool is provided to allow a user to run existing instance or item schedules for a specific virtual area or the entire property. These reports display on screen, an output of computer
 Publish Tool
 A publishing tool allows the item specification to be published and allows the system to track any and all changes by renumbering each published version of an item specification. Publishing an official version of the items specification provides one form of version control. In one embodiment, the system prevents users from altering any information for that item specification without creating a new revision. Revisions are particular form or variation of an earlier or original item. System
 Additional functions which may be added to the publish tool include but are not limited to the following: selection of a publications purpose which may define whether or not the items are ready for purchase; routing of the publication for approval; selection of specific project participants to publish the items to; etc.
 Cost Management Tool Set
 The Cost Management Tools offer a comprehensive electronic process to monitor, manage and control cost from a central location, track and forecast all estimates, costs, commitments, revenue, transactional events, and associated project information from the design to the construction and management of the resulting asset.
 Estimate Tool
 The Estimate Tool enables a user to create a detailed budget estimate for a project. A user can import a classification list, virtual area structure, or specification book as the basis of the estimate. This tool imports transaction information and data structure into the Budget Tool to create a budget for the project. An estimate can be imported into the budget as the baseline, or preliminary budget. The individual items imported become rows in the estimate table. Each estimate has a unique name and description, and is assigned a unique ID number by the system. This advantage allows a user to quickly track and identify each estimate and transfer the values into the budget in a logical format. All calculations and data manipulations occur locally and are not shared until a user chooses to save the data to the database
 Additional functions which may be added to the estimate include but are not limited to the following: consolidation of sub-bid responses for submittal of an overall bid response; enterprise cost planning across multiple projects; etc.
 Budget Tool
 The Budget Tool provides the ability to track and display all cost related transactions within the system
 The Budget Tool allows a user to customize the budget by hiding or viewing columns as needed, as well as sorting by any column heading. The display follows a familiar rows and columns format, similar to that of a spreadsheet. One advantage of this tool is the ability to generate totals and subtotals for budget entries automatically, based upon a user-defined budget structure. The tool allows the appropriate users to access any value and display the detailed history for that transaction. The Budget report may be printed to a local or network printer and allows a user to export to common file formats. This tool allows a user to lock the budget to prevent further changes to the original. After locking the budget, transactions apply to the corresponding revised columns only.
 Additional functions which may be added to the budget include but are not limited to the following: enterprise-wide budget control and spending constraints across multiple projects; etc.
 Contract Tool
 A contract is a legal agreement between the buyer and the vendor defining a scope of work. A contract may contain billing, terms, items, cost, shipping, terms and conditions, notes, and payment information. The contract tool can generate a contract as a standalone process or can be initiated automatically from the Bid processes; the Bid process feeds into Contracts. The Contract tool may automate a collection of the boilerplate legal text and other variables, such as name of the buyer, the name of the vendor, the items to be built or delivered, the terms of the contract, the costs of the items, the conditions of payment, and so forth, into a single electronic document.
 Change Orders to contracts are also legal agreements between the buyer and the vendor detailing the change to a scope of work. Change events leading to change orders such as revisions to item specifications, requests for information, etc. may be consolidated to create a change order to a contract.
 Application for Payment Tool
 The Application For Payment Tool generates payment request documentation. The contract's schedule of values provides the line item details of the application for payment, ensuring consistent data entry. The user can link and include change orders for timely billing and payment processing. It links application requests to the Budget Tool for accurate cost and revenue management and reporting.
 Invoice Tool
 The Invoice Tool generates and submits an online invoice to initiate the payment process and notify users of current requests. The tool set provides tracking and management capabilities. The purchase order provides the line item detail for the invoice, ensuring consistent data entry. The user can link and include change orders for timely billing and payment processing. This tool also links invoices to the Budget Tool for accurate cost and revenue management and reporting.
 Procurement Toolset
 The system Procurement Solution offers a complete and centralized electronic process to organize, send, receive and analyze procurement documents and processes. Users in the supply chain can define procurement needs, review and award bids, issue and track contracts and purchase orders, and track the procured goods and services utilizing real-time project information all through one system
 Bidding Tool
 A bid is a formal request sent to vendors requesting that they review the project requirements and submit responses indicating how much they would charge to work on the project or supply materials. The Bidding Tool is composed of the following functions: Qualifications (including the Qualification Request Wizard, the Qualification Response Wizard, and the Qualification Review Wizard), Bids (including the Bid Package Wizard, the Bid Response Wizard, and the Bid Review Wizard), and Request for Quote (including the RFQS Request Wizard, the RFQ Response Wizard, and the RFQ Review Wizard).
 A detailed description of the Bidding and RFQ tools is provided below. As will be understood from these descriptions, the Qualification toolset—Request, Response and Review—operates in a similar manner.
 Additional functions which may be added to the bidding and RFQ tools include but are not limited to the following: consolidation of sub-bid responses linked via an estimate for submittal of an overall bid response; enterprise-wide bidding consolidating procurement across multiple projects; etc.
 The Qualification process is the act of ensuring that a company is suitable to perform work or provide materials for your project. The system of the present invention provides the ability to qualify vendors and/or services before bidding and purchasing. Qualification is an information gathering process that can be used for screening purposes. Before sending out bids, a user can qualify vendors to ensure they have the credentials required to perform the work in the bidding process, saving both time and money y. Credentials are evidence or testimonials concerning right to credit, confidence, or authority. When a user sends out the bid, one of the options is to send the bid only to pre-qualified vendors.
 Qualification Request Wizard
 A Qualification Request is a request that is sent to prospective bidders to determine their qualifications prior to entering the bid process. The Qualification Request Wizard allows a user to create and issue qualification requests to prospective vendors. This wizard allows a user to indicate the type of credentials a user wants the vendors to provide for this qualification as well as create a user's own questions for vendors to answer, including attached reference documents, if desired. A unique advantage to this process allows a user to select which vendors will receive the qualification request from either the customized company vendor list or the entire database of available vendors. Optionally, the list of vendors can be published, so that each vendor sees who else was included in this qualification, or this information may remain private. Once the Qualification Request is complete it may be published with the attachments, questions, and comments. Vendors have the option of accepting the qualification request and providing the requested information, or declining the request within the designated time frame.
 Qualification Response Wizard
 A Qualification Response Wizard allows vendors to provide a response to the credentials, requirements and questions contained in the qualification. The Qualification Response Wizard displays a summary of the credentials and requirements the vendor must supply and any questions the vendor has to answer. This process then allows the vendor to send the completed qualification response back to the original requestor electronically.
 Qualification Review Wizard
 A Qualification Review Wizard allows the originator of the request to review and compare the qualification responses, and select the qualified vendors. This step in the process displays the qualification request description, vendor list, requirements the vendors are required to match and questions the vendors are required to answer. One advantage to this process is the unique ability to allow the originator of the request to view the credentials and the answers to questions for all bidders as a side-by-side comparison. This process allows the originator to then identify selected vendors as being qualified, based on the comparison.
 Bid Package Wizard
 The Bid Package Wizard is a step by step process that assists in the creation of a bid request. Often bidders source materials or request bids from sub-contractors to create their response to a particular bid request. The Bid Package Wizard has a feature to import items from another bid request, which one can then edit and incorporate into their bid requests. This is a shortcut way of entering the sub-bid items without having to re-enter them manually.
 Each bid can have attached drawings, specification documents, item specifications (from the Item Specification Tool), and file attachments. Some advantages to using the Bid Package Wizard include the ability to provide bidders with special instructions, schedule meetings for bidders to attend, and import a list of existing item specifications or manually create a bill of materials forth bid package. A benefit to using this wizard is the ability to create one or more alternative options for the bid; each alternate has its own set of drawings, specifications, item lists and attachments.
 An advantage that saves time and effort is the ability to select bidders manually, or automatically include previously qualified vendors from a Qualification Request. A company can choose to publish its vendor list to allow bidders to know who else has received the bid package.
 When the bid is issued to prospective bidders, it contains the issue date, due date, and anticipated award date. This process even allows changes to be made to an issued bid by creating an addendum in the Bid Review Wizard. An addendum is document describing an addition, change, correction, or modification to contract documents. An addendum is issued by a the author of the bid package during the bidding period or prior to the award of contract, and is the primary method of informing bidders of modifications to the work during the bidding process. Addenda become part of the contract documents.
 The bidders can either decline to participate or they can accept. If they accept, they review the materials attached to the bid and prepare a response.
 Bid Response Wizard
 A bid is a complete and duly signed proposal to perform work (or a designated portion thereof) for a stipulated sum. A bid is submitted in accordance with the bidding documents. The Bid Response Wizard is the mechanism through which bidders respond to the bid package. This wizard parallels the Bid Package Wizard. Any information specified in the Bid Package Wizard can be viewed by the bidder in the Response Wizard.
 The bidder can view drawings, specification documents, attachments, and item specifications, as well as any alternates. The list of bidders is not available unless the company has chosen to publish the vendor list.
 The Bid Response Wizard allows the bidders to enter a response for each breakdown on the bid package and review the addenda for each bid. The review includes descriptions, drawings, specifications, items list, attachments, alternates and cost from any previous addenda and the original bid.
 This wizard allows the bidders to generate requests for information (RFI) messages. These are messages to various users that request some type of information a vendor feels is necessary in order to respond to the bid. This feature also displays any RFIs that need to be answered.
 Bid Review Wizard
 The Bid Review Wizard allows a user to review bid responses, including the description, drawings, specifications, item list and attachments from the Bid Response Wizard.
 This review process allows a user to issue an addendum to make changes to the original bid package. An addendum can specify the same attributes as the original bid: for example, drawings, specifications, item lists, attachments, cost forms and so forth.
 Just as the bidders may issue an RFI, the same ability is provided to the reviewer in order to respond to the bidder or gather more information.
 The advantage to using this wizard is the ability to view the bidders' responses side-by-side to facilitate comparisons and award the bid from the comparison screen. This review can be used to compare the Quantity, Unit Cost, Units, Labor Rate, Hours, or Lump sum breakdowns between vendors for any specific bid/RFQ item.
 Request for Quotation
 Request for Quotation (RFQ) is a simplified Bid Package. A similar process of issuing the request, communicating with bidders, and reviewing responses is followed. For RFQs, a user has the option of simply awarding the RFQ, or awarding and automatically generating a purchase order.
 Purchasing Tools
 The Purchasing Tools provide a complete means for requesting, responding to, and reviewing purchase orders which integrates with the Procurement Tools. A user can track and management purchases electronically with project partners and vendors who are part of the system, as well as those who are not a part of the system.
 Additional functions which may be added to the purchasing tools include but are not limited to the following: consolidation of requisitions into purchase orders to the appropriate vendor(s); enterprise-wide procurement across multiple projects; etc.
 Purchase Order Request
 The Purchasing Tool electronically creates, issues, receives and tracks the history of purchase orders (POs). Some system processes, such as Requests for Quote, can automatically generate purchase orders upon issue. The Purchasing Tool directly relates to the Shipping and Receiving functions of the Order Fulfillment Tool.
 Detailed item specifications and other project related information found within system
 The Purchase Order Tool allows a user to select a vendor from the company's vendors list or locate a vendor in the system and indicate the Bill To and Ship To addresses for the company. A user can also identify a contact person at the vendor company to approve the order.
 This process also allows a user to select stored “prefabricated” notes or comments. This saves time by not insisting that a user type a new note for every purchase order. A user can select the access level for each note; a private note can only be viewed by its creator, a company note can be viewed by anyone in the company with access to the purchase order process, and public notes are available to anyone with access to the purchase order.
 The history of the purchase order displays any change orders created and the notification log, which tracks and identifies anyone who has created, changed, or modified this purchase order.
 This tool provides the ability to generate Requests For Information (RFI). The request, as well as “carbon copies”, can be sent to one or more users.
 One of the greatest advantages is the ability to include user definable standard legal terms and conditions that are available to the vendor when they review the purchase order.
 This process then allows a user to issue the purchase order to the vendor electronically if the vendor is a licensed member of the system
 Purchase Order Response
 Once the licensed vendor receives the purchase order request notification, they have the opportunity to review the request in detail before committing to approving or declining the request.
 The purchase order displays in a preview format providing the opportunity to print the purchase order or save the file in common format.
 The history of the purchase order is available to the vendor to ensure they are reviewing the most recent version, in the event that a change order may have been issued.
 The vendor also has the option of issuing an Request for Information (RFI) to the buyer, ensuring open and accurate communication between both parties.
 Once the vendor has determined to accept or decline the purchase order request, the system provides the ability to attach comments regarding the decision about the purchase order.
 This information is sent to the buyer with an e-mail that confirms the acceptance or decline of the purchase order request.
 Purchase Order Review
 Upon vendor approval, the Purchase Order Tool automatically updates the budget with the committed costs. The vendor sends notification informing the buyer of the acceptance of the purchase order request.
 The review process allows a user to preview the response from the buyer, which includes the printable version, any requests for information and an updated history of events for that purchase order. In addition to all of these capabilities, a user may also change any information on this purchase order and re-issue the order. This change creates a new tracked and numbered version of the purchase order and notifies the vendor automatically.
 Order Fulfillment Tool
 The Order Fulfillment tool allows users to track shipping and receiving of items electronically via an Internet based interface, or via email, or via the Teamwork Toolset.
 Additional functions which may be added to the order fulfillment tool include but are not limited to the following: staging and routing of items required for the project; expediting of items required for the project; inventory control and work orders; etc.
 A user can use this function to notify the buyer, via e-mail to the company contact's message center, of the items which is being shipped.
 This process requires an approved purchase order that contains the items which are being prepared to ship. The Shipping Tool provides the flexibility of shipping all of the items at once or sending a partial shipment with comments to the buyer.
 This process also tracks the status of purchase order items. The history log is a tracking mechanism for the shipments completed for this purchase order. The item number (item specification number), the quantity that has been shipped, and the date that shipment was recorded, appear in the history log.
 The receiving tool enables a user to electronically flag the date of the received items. This tool also allows a user to notify the vendor that the items were received at the job location. A user may use this process to access the tracking history of the items once they have been received as well as authorizing payment.
 Additional functions relating to asset management which may be incorporated into the system include but are not limited to the following: bar coding of items; tracking of maintenance, replacement, and/or retirement of items including planned and actual occurrences of such events; tracking of aging and/or depreciation schedules of items; tracking of inventory and allocation of items; tracking work orders and/or requisitions for repair, replacement, and/or acquisition of items; forecasting of replacement or repair costs; forecasting of contract renewal requirements and costs; assignment of cost for use of items; and the like.
 Additional functions relating to business partner management which may be incorporated into the system include but are not limited to the following: tracking of distributors, suppliers, and/or manufacturers (i.e., supply chain) of items; tracking of item assembly and components through the supply chain; links to inventory availability from supply chain; links to customer items and purchasing including revenue and/or inventory requirement forecasting; and the like.
 Project Teamwork Tools
 The Project Teamwork Tools offer users a complete electronic process to manage and control asset and lifecycle cost from a central point. Intelligent documentation begins in design as noted above and is compiled throughout the asset creation process. This provides a complete, integrated, referenced and searchable project record.
 All specifications, drawings, documents, and costs are generated and maintained within the database ensuring that all project history and legacy data is readily available. This unique combination of tools provides an online management solution and a new dimension in continuity and efficiency for designers, builders and owners.
 Collaboration Tool
 The Collaboration Tool allows the members of a project team to coordinate their activities and share information. This module allows file sharing, messaging, comments, and discussions for each project.
 A flowchart of the general processes available in the collaboration tool is shown in
 The collaboration tool is generally access from a toolbar link
 Files that are uploaded into the Collaboration Tool are accessible from several other parts of the system. The files uploaded here can be used as attachments on bids and RFQs, as pictures for item specifications and so forth. One file or multiple files can be uploaded at one time.
 One unique feature of the Collaboration Tool is the ability to create document sets
 Another unique feature is the available history and status
 The greatest advantage to this tool is the ability to share information with only specific users. The Collaboration Tree allows a user to assign access and permissions to a “Share Group”
 A Share Group
 Users can perform share group searches
 The collaboration page
 An online discussion forum
 Additional functions which may be added to the collaboration fulfillment tools include but are not limited to the following: document logs tracking revisions and publication of documents; document type tracking and attribute assignment; document links to virtual areas; etc.
 Request for Information (RFI) Tool
 A standalone, Request for Information tool is a more extensive version of the functionality available within the Bid, RFQ, and Purchase Order Tools. This is a focused tool that allows a user to create a message requesting information. The added functionality allows a user to title the RFI, request a date for a response, indicate the cost or time impact of the requestor the project and attach any files to the request. This tool also allows a user to search for and track the history of all RFIs. A graphic depiction of the collaboration process is shown in
 Additional functions which may be added to the RFI tool include but are not limited to the following: routing and approval of RFIs and their responses; linking of RFIs to change events; etc.
 Meeting Minutes Tool
 The Meeting Minutes Tool allows a user to manage, schedule, record and share meeting information. A Meeting Minutes Manager allows a user to create meetings, organize them by type, create and edit meeting minutes and schedule future meetings.
 A Meeting Minutes Wizard is provided to allow a user to determine how the meeting information will be carried forward to future meetings or what previous meeting information will be included in the current meeting minutes. Once the type of the meeting is selected and the user has determined which information will carry forward into the meeting minutes, the user may set up the meeting(date, time and location), create an agenda and invite attendees to the meeting.
 The meeting agenda is interactive and allows users to flag agenda items as they are addressed. The system automatically transfers any agenda items that are not addressed to the next scheduled meeting. This process serves as a reminder to cover items that may not have been covered in previous meetings and assists in organizing and completing tasks. This tool also allows a user to import information from one meeting to another in the case of recurring items or topic continuation from meeting to meeting. This feature prevents the user from re-defining any repeating information between meetings.
 This tool can also be used to take meeting minutes, share the information and address action items. Action items function similar to the agenda items, but allow a user to assign individuals and completion dates to tasks. A user may create a distribution list for meeting information. Any changes to upcoming meetings, meeting minutes, attachments, or action items maybe distributed to the members involved in the meeting.
 Additional functions may be added to the project management tools of which, include, but are not limited to, submittals for items; tasks and calendar items linked to business objects in the system; as-builts for items; and the like.
 Administrative Toolset
 The following functions are used in the system
 User Licenses allows a user to use the functionality suites of the system
 The Company Administrator agrees to the system terms of service and specifies licenses for their company employees.
 The Company Administrator is the first user for any company and is responsible for setting up licensing, company information, company defaults, subsequent users, vendors, and so forth. The Company Administrator does not have access toady projects or “work”; this is solely an administrative role. The licenses specified in User Licenses correspond to the Design, Cost Management, Procurement, and Manage Solutions.
 A User Profile is a collection of information specifically relating to a user. This information is mainly used for contact purposes. The user profile contains information such as: Company Name, Full Name, Nickname, Employee Number, Department, Primary Function (Role), Manager's Name, Assistant's Name, Primary E-Mail, Primary Address, Business, Fax, Cell Phone Numbers and so forth. When a user accesses the system for the first time, they need to create a user profiles well as change their user name and password. Over time, any changes to name, telephone, address, position, company, and so forth, will need to be maintained using this process.
 This profile information is used in the company contact processes as well as the user search process. This process assists other users in locating contact information.
 Company Wizard
 A Company (Setup) Wizard is provided to allow a user to create a profile for an entire company. This function also allows a user to setup specific information regarding business processes. A company is an organization, group, business enterprise or firm that performs services or provides products within the system.
 This company information is stored in the database and if Company Administrator so chooses, general information will be available to other companies within system
 The benefit to having a company visible to other companies in the system is the ability to generate new business for the displaying company.
 Any profile information for a company will remain private and can only be used to qualify that company for bids or RFQs (Requests for Quote) if the company chooses to be involved in those processes.
 The information that a user may define to create a company profile includes the company logo, departments, employees, branch offices or alternate addresses, company contacts and the roles they assume for contact, as well as various professional licensing, bonding, and other qualification information.
 One additional feature of this wizard is the notification function. This function notifies a user if a company has already been entered into the system.
 A contractor is a person or company that agrees to furnish materials or perform services at a specified price, especially for construction work. When a contractor joins the system
 A company administrator can set up a number of different types of addresses, such as Headquarters, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Remit To, Job Site and more. If a billing address is set up here, purchase orders created for the company will automatically refer to that billing address. The headquarters address will display as the default address every time the company name appears in search results.
 The benefit of the employee list is that a user only need to include this information once, as opposed to every time the user needs to associate employees with a new project. Creating contact information in the Company Wizard saves the effort of entering the information repeatedly and reduces the risk of data entry errors. A user may set up employees with relationships to indicate which of the company's employees may have special responsibilities. For example, if all purchase orders for a company within the system were to be e-mailed to Ellen Smith, you would create a relationship between purchase orders and Ellen Smith.
 The Company Wizard provides the ability to record company credentials, such as licenses, minority business qualifications, bond and insurance information, and some other general credentials. This information is used to compare the company's qualifications against bid parameters when someone is searching for qualified vendors or sub-contractors.
 Prefabricated Notes are blocks of standardized text for use in various situations within the system. For example, if a company always places a reminder about billing terms on purchase orders, the appropriate text of this reminder can be stored in the system and used as needed. Storing text in this fashion saves the time and trouble of typing the information repeatedly and reduces the possibility of errors.
 The system also includes a set of Project Defaults. Project defaults are similar to company defaults, but they apply only to the specific project for which they are defined. Project defaults override company defaults. Defaults can be set at the project level for project related functions, including the following: Meeting Minute Types, Item Specifications, Purchasing, Bids, Requests for Quotes, and Budget Codes, as well as other areas of the system.
 In addition, general company defaults can be customized at the project level. For example, currency and time zone may be modified.
 A set of Company Defaults is also provided. The Company Defaults process allows customization of the functionality of the system of the present invention in order to meet the needs of a company and how a company conducts business. General information may be defined by the user. For example, currency, time zone, and nomenclature may be customized throughout the system. Nomenclature is a way of organizing categories of work for each company. The default major category is a “property”, and the default sub-category is a “project”. This default nomenclature may be changed to any terms that suit a company's needs.
 Disciplines (Plumbing, Electrical, Architectural, and so forth) are used in later processes to categorize files, item types, item specifications, and to grant or restrict access to information. A set of default disciplines is provided, but may be customized. Disciplines may be added, edited, or deleted to suit a company's needs. The disciplines created or edited in this process become defaults for any future projects created by that company.
 In one embodiment, the system may include a number of pre-defined attributes. In
 The roles and permissions may be defined, as well as security access for each role throughout the system. The system supplies a list of default roles. The default roles may be added, edited or deleted as necessary to suit a company's needs. The company can then set the permissions and access to disciplines for each role. The main benefit of this process (associating roles to permissions to discipline access) is the ability to provide users with the information they need and restrict users from information from which the company determines they should be restricted. A discipline is a broad area of operation with a project. A set of default disciplines is provided with the application, but the user can add as many as necessary to suit the needs of their project. Disciplines a reused to group item specifications. Users can be assigned permission to a role to perform tasks within specific disciplines.
 The Company Defaults process allows the company to set up the default numbering scheme for relevant processes, including: Item Specs, Purchase Orders, Bids and RFQ packages, and Budget Codes An additional utility is the Project Association Tool. Employees in a company may work on multiple projects at once. The Project Association process may be used to assign employees to specific projects, or remove users from the project.
 Property Creation Tool
 Yet another utility is the Property Create Tool. This tool is used to create a new property and its default project. Property is something tangible or intangible to which its owner has legal title. A property is considered the largest hierarchal space in a virtual area. Property is the generic terminology for a design/build entity; depending on the nomenclature defined in Company Defaults, this term can be changed to “Asset”, or a user-defined term or phrase.
 This process only creates the property and project and associates them to each other. The setup tool is then used to set up detailed information for the property and project.
 Vendor Reference Tool
 Another administrative tool is the Vendor Reference Tool. The Vendor Reference List allows a company administrator to maintain a list of two different types of vendors. Vendors who have joined as members of system
 This process enables a user to send an invitation to a specific contact at a vendor company to join the system
 There are two types of contact lists available. The first list displays a list of vendor contacts. These contacts are employees of the vendor which a user company may use to contact and conduct business with this vendor. If this is a licensed vendor these contacts were defined by this vendor. If this is a non-licensed vendor, the user must maintain these contacts. The second contact list allows a user to associate contacts from the user's company to each vendor. A company may have specific employees that handle business with certain vendors. These contacts are maintained by the company regardless of the type of vendor.
 Once a property is created, the Project Create Tool allows a user to create a new project for the existing property. A Project is a sub-category of work below the Property. The system allows a user to have an infinite number of projects and subprojects created for the property. This process differs from the Property Create process because a new property is not created.
 Terminology Customization
 In a further unique feature of the present invention, while the term “Project” is the default terminology for a design/build project; depending on the nomenclature defined in Company Defaults, this term can be changed to “Asset”, or a user-defined term or phrase. This can be performed by the company administrator to allow users familiar with the particular company's default terminology ease of use in the system. Moreover, each screen can be further “skinned” with a custom set-up for a particular user. In a basic fashion, this can involve simply placing the colors and logo of the company on all screens. Further enhancements can comprise reordering columns and page setups to accommodate users.
 Access Control—Project Admin
 The user that creates the project becomes the default “Project Administrator,” regardless of the name entered for the Project Manager. The Project Administrator is the only person allowed initial access into the Collaboration Tree for this project. The Project Administrator must create a share group and assign other project users access to the Collaboration Tree.
 Project Setup Tool
 Once the project is created, a Project Setup Tool is used to add all relevant data to the project. A flowchart of the project set up process is shown in
 As in other processes, a user may either accept the company contact list or create an additional contact list specifically for this project. The list of project contacts acts as a directory of the people other than employees and vendors associated with the project.
 Certain steps in a Project Setup are required: filling in project information
 The first step in the project setup process is adding project information at step
 Next, optionally, contracts may be added via a contact page
 The user is next required to set up a virtual area
 Next, optionally, disciplines may be set up at
 Next, classifications may be added at
 The user is next required to set up roles at
 Project Partners may next be set up at step
 The user is next required to set up users
 A final required step is the setup of the purchasing approval chain
 The user may then proceed to a vendor setup, if desired, or return to the project page.
 Virtual Area
 As shown in
 The virtual area hierarchy can extend down many levels, depending upon a user's needs. For simple jobs, there may only be one or a few virtual areas. For large commercial construction projects, there may be hundreds or even thousands of nested virtual areas. The virtual area tree can be expanded and collapsed as needed to view specific levels of the project. New virtual areas can be added with a mouse click.
 As shown in
 As illustrated in
 Additional functions pertaining to workflow in the system include but are not limited to the following: sequential and/or parallel routing, tiered, linear, parallel, and/or data driven approval, and based on users, groups, and/or roles including delegation and permission to deviate for each type of business object; selection of workflow for a project with defaults for each company; workflow control including date limitations and/or exception requirements; task lists and responsible parties according to work flow; required fields and/or permitted per workflow step; deviation and/or exception handling per instance of a business object; and the like.
 Utility Toolset
 The following tools are available in all the aforementioned tool sets.
 Reports: Throughout the system processes generate printable reports. These reports display in each applicable process for preview. A command bar at the top of each display page allows a user to navigate through the pages of the report, download the report to the user's computer's local drive, or refresh the report to view any recent changes.
 An export function may be supported to allow users the ability to export the displayed report in several different formats; this includes Adobe PDF or Portable Document Format.
 Report Manager
 In addition to the ability to access these reports in their respective processes, a user may also create, run, and define reports within a Report Manager Tool. This tool allows a user to access one area for all of the available reports within the system.
 A user may also navigate through the pages of the report, download the report to the user's computer's local drive, or refresh the report to view any recent changes within the manager.
 Search Tools
 Search Tools provide list of searches is available from a search menu and is limited by roles, permissions, and licenses. A user may not see all of the items available on this menu, nor be able to access all of the searches. Each search has optional filter mechanisms to limit the number of results returned by the search.
 A Bid Search allows a user to locate and access previously created bids. This search also allows a user to delete unpublished bids/RFQs.
 A Documents Search allows a user to locate and attach files that have been previously uploaded to the system using the Collaboration Tool.
 An Estimate Search allows a user to locate and access previously created estimates.
 An Item Specs with Virtual Area Search allows a user to search for Item Specifications associated with a virtual area.
 An Item Spec Search allows a user to locate item specifications relating to a project. This search returns only those item specifications which the user has permission to view.
 An Item Type Search allows a user to locate and view existing item types, including descriptions and classifications.
 A Property Item Spec Search allows a user to locate and view the virtual area association, occurrences, and total quantity of the item specification. This search provides the option to only select specific areas in which the item specification occurs.
 A Property Spec Book Search allows a user to view published item specification books.
 A Purchase Orders Search allows a user to search and display purchase orders (PO).
 A Qualification Search allows a user to locate and display qualifications.
 A RFQ Search allows a user to locate and access requests for quotation. This search also allows the user to delete unpublished RFQs.
 A Users Search allows a user to locate and contact users in the system.
 A Vendor Search allows a user to search for vendors and contacts. The Vendor Search allows for complex search criteria beyond the vendor name.
 A Request for Information Search allows a user to locate existing requests for information.
 A Virtual Area Specification List is used to view the items along with their associated specifications and counts within a given virtual area.
 Optionally, the list can be filtered using criteria such as classification and discipline. An Item Spec List can be sorted by item number or item name. From this list, a user can see the quantity of a given item specification for each stage in a project. A Virtual Area Specification List can generate an Item Cost Report or export information in a variety of formats, including Excel, Rich Text Format (RTF), Comma Separated Values (CAVE), HTML and XML.
 An Item Spec Filter is also provided, since virtual areas might include any number of subsidiary virtual areas and any number of item specifications.
 Announcements are a type of electronic bulletin board where a user can post messages for others to see. There are two different sets of announcements in the system: company announcements and project announcements.
 Announcements include the text of the announcement and its priority. It may also include a picture and one or more Internet URL links.
 Message Center
 A message center is an e-mail system for sending and receiving messages electronically over a computer network, as between personal computers or through the Internet. This Message Tool is similar to many other messaging or e-mail functions. A major difference in the system messaging tool is the ability to communicate within the system as well as with external addresses. An exemplary screenshot of a message center screen is shown in
 Other unique features include the ability to require responses from recipients, create action item messages and RFI messages.
 Just as in any other messaging tool, a user may create, view, send, reply and attach files to messages. There is also an address book function available that a user may create individual users as well as groups of users for mail distribution.
 System Operation
 The interaction of the purchasing system and the life of data in the system may be understood with reference to
 The example of an item specification used herein is an office chair, which is defined by attributes associated with that chair, such as the design, size, color, manufacturer and occasionally the cost. Item specifications can have components or attributes that further define the item specification.
 The fabric can be a component of the chair, but it is also a separate item spec. When creating item specs, the attributes need to be defined along with any components that need to be associated with that item spec. Components may be included in the CAD drawing, or can be specified independently.
 The lifecycle of an item specification begins with the drawing being uploaded to the system with the components previously defined. The defined item specification and its components can be defined and associated using the CAD Intelligence plug in. The item specification can then flow through the rest of the lifecycle processes. The flowchart below provides a high level description of the lifecycle of the item spec.
 The first step in the Item Spec Lifecycle can be to upload the drawing containing the item specification and its components to a virtual area (physical space) through the CAD Intelligence Interface at
 Next, at
 Next, at step
 After accessing the item number the Item Spec Wizard allows the item to be specified or revised. Any information that was defined for this item specification using the CAD Intelligence Interface or the Item Specification Tool displays in the Item Spec Wizard.
 The Item Spec Wizard process flow is shown in
 One option of the general properties page allows the user to assign a budget code to the item specification to track the cost and status of the item specification via a Budget Code Search page and search for the existing budget code for that item.
 Once the system has returned the appropriate budget code it may be assigned to the item spec by user action. This action returns the user to the Item Spec Wizard—General Properties page. An example of this page is shown in
 On attributes page
 Searches for users
 Because the drawing listed the fabric as a component this information displays on the Components page. This process allows you to add more than one component that may have been previously specified but not included on the drawing.
 If the user determines another fabric component needs to be added to the chair, the Items Search page
 After the component(s) have been searched, selected and accepted the Item Spec Wizard displays the newly added component(s) and allows the user to edit, remove or save the information (
 Next vendor notes
 The user may locate and select prefabricated notes for this process. The company creating the item specification defines these notes in another process. The user may also type and format the notes to the vendor.
 Next user notes
 The cost definition
 Once this information is defined, the system transfers, tracks, and calculates the appropriate cost of each item and its component(s). This process allows the user to choose whether to calculate the cost of the component as one rolled up cost
 Typically, if the item and the component are purchased together, such as the chair being sold with its component fabric already installed, then the component should be calculated as a rolled up cost. If the item and its component are purchased separately, such as when the fabric is not being installed on the chair by the vendor, then the item costs should be calculated as separate items.
 Another available feature of this page is the association of the item specification to the virtual area. The user may specify the quantity of item specifications for each virtual area. The user may access the virtual area page (
 If the quantity of this item specification is increased or decreased, the system recalculates the costs and displays the appropriate amount.
 Any calculated costs can then be transferred into the budget
 Next, a user can display the history of the Item Spec at
 After the item specification has been published, any changes then become an official revision and are tracked and available for display. This page will be revisited later in this document to show the history of an item specification after the publication.
 The next step in the Item Spec Wizard is defining preferences
 The user does have the option of specifying whether they would prefer the quantity of item specifications calculated by the quantity displayed in the drawing multiplied by the designated virtual area multiplier (usually 1) minus the quantity of item specifications purchased.
 The other information that may be defined in this step of the process is the waste factor. The waste factor is the quantity of the item specification that should be included in the cost, quoting, bidding and purchasing processes due to a certain amount of loss that may occur during the assemble or installation of the item specification.
 For example, if the user orders a chair with fabric as the component, the user may need to calculate a specific or percentage of that fabric that will go to waste when assembling the chair. In this case it was calculated that 10% of this item specification will go to waste and should be calculated into the cost and quantity of the item specification.
 The Spec Wizard also provides a report view
 Finally, an attachments process
 This process allows you to either search the system for previously uploaded images and documents or to attach files from the user's local drive (personal computer or local network). This page also allows users to upload images or documents from their local drive to attach to the item specification. Once the files have been attached to the item specification, the specifying step is complete. The Item Spec List shows that the item specification has not only been drawn but is also specified in the system.
 Returning to
 If the item specification has components associated, then the components need to be published as well. To locate the item specifications that have a status of “Work In Progress” the user may use an accompanying search tool. Publishing of more than one item specification creates a specification book for the project. A specification book is a counted list of all published specifications.
 The publishing process requires a publishing date, which defaults to the current date, and a publishing number, which allows users to locate all of the item specifications published at this time and is used for tracking purposes.
 If the user determines that some of the item specifications selected for this publication are not ready, they may be removed from the publishing process before the user publishes.
 A confirmation message displays, confirming the item specifications have been successfully published and the specification book is created.
 After the item specifications have been published, they may be revised to change the attributes or define further details for the item. This status is referred to as a revision. Revisions are tracked to ensure the most recent version of the item is used and allows the ability to revert to a previous version, if applicable.
 Once the item specifications have been published, the specification book may be accessed and viewed from a report viewer page.
 Returning to
 The RFQ request activity is initiated with the RFQ Package Wizard. This is a set of programmatically connected pages, which: create the RFQ data structure in the computer system; indicate the date the quote is due from the quoting vendors; select which vendors to which it will be sent; define the item specifications to be quoted; and allow attachments to be associated with the RFQ. These documents provide information to the quoting vendors about the item specifications they will be pricing.
 The RFQ process is comprised of a Request, Review and Response. A request is initiated by a company user responsible for procurement, while review and responses may be completed by vendors and contractors. FIGS.
 As shown in
 The RFQ Description page
 The RFQ Description page
 The RFQ Items List is used to attach a list of item specifications to the RFQ package. Item specifications are typically the list of materials you require in the project, along with the criteria for which specific items will suit the project requirements. For example: instead of simply indicating a need for chairs, the user might specify a particular type of chair, from a specific manufacturer, made of a specific type of material, and so forth. The item specification outlines all of these requirements and the quantity of the item required. The Item Specifications within a virtual area
 The RFQ Attachments step
 The RFQ Cost Form page
 Next, the user selects Vendors to indicate which vendors will receive the RFQ package at
 The user may flag whether the vendor list will be published. If the list is published, each vendor will know which vendors received the RFQ. If not, the vendors will not know what other vendors also were solicited to quote and will be unaware of their competition.
 Finally, RFQ “issue invitation” page allows the user to issue the RFQ package to the prospective vendors. Before doing so, the issue date, the date responses are due, and anticipated award date are indicated in this step.
 The ability to access a report from the RFQ Package Wizard is available in this process. The report function may be used on the RFQ Issue Invitation page since all the information for the RFQ has been entered and the RFQ package would be considered complete at this point. The report can be printed or saved to an Adobe Acrobat PDF file formation for future use. A confirmation displays to inform the user that the RFQ Package Request has been issued and published to the indicated vendors.
 The RFQ response activity is initiated when the RFQ package is issued. When the RFQ package is issued, the selected quoting vendors receive a message the next time they log into the system. This message contains a hypertext link to the RFQ Response Wizard.
 Once the link is selected, the description page
 If the vendor decides to decline the RFQ invitation, there are no further steps necessary within the RFQ Response Wizard. A message returns to the RFQ package originator indicating this and the vendor is no longer considered for the RFQ.
 If the vendor decides to accept the RFQ invitation and participate, they will use the rest of the RFQ Response Wizard to review the RFQ requirements and form their response.
 The RFQ Response Items List
 Next, an RFQ Response Attachments page
 A RFQ response cost form
 Up to this point, all the pages in the RFQ Response Wizard have basically been “view-only” pages. The RFQ Response Cost Form is a page where the quoting vendor actually enters their proposed cost for each item of the RFQ package. For each of the breakdown categories of each item, the vendor types in their response in the Qty, Units, Unit Cost, Labor Rate, Hours, and Lump Sum columns.
 An optional request for information generator
 This page lists all requests for information relating to the RFQ. The vendor can create new messages
 Finally, RFQ Response Issue page
 A RFQ Confirmation may be displayed to notify the user that the RFQ Package Response has been published.
 The process for reviewing an RFQ once received by the originating user is shown in
 The RFQ Package Review Wizard can be accessed from a link
 When a vendor issues their response to the RFQ, a message comes back to the originator of the RFQ package. This message contains a link in it that can be used to see the vendor's response.
 A RFQ Package Review Wizard Summary
 An RFI
 A RFQ Package Review Cost Analysis page
 This page shows a table of the vendors who have provided responses. The table lists the breakdown items in the first column and information from each of the vendors in the subsequent columns.
 The individual breakdown of each item can be viewed in more detail by selecting a hyperlink of the item name
 To award the RFQ, the user finishes reviewing the vendors' responses, decides on which vendor to accept, then clicks the checkbox under the selected vendor. Or, the user can split the award and select individual items from different vendors. Then, they award the RFQ to the selected vendor(s).
 The Award Preview Screen page
 When the RFQ is awarded, the award confirmation
 The vendor(s) awarded the RFQ receives a message
 After the RFQ is awarded to one or more vendors, the information from the original RFQ request and the vendors' responses feed into the Purchase Order process. The last tab on the RFQ Review Wizard is “Purchase Order”; this page is the same as the first page of the Purchase Order module.
 Returning to
 The Bid process shown in FIGS.
 The bid request activity is initiated with a Bid Package Wizard shown in
 The Bid Request begins with a bid report
 The Bid Description page
 The Bid Description page
 A Special Bid Instructions page
 A Meeting Information page
 Next, a Bid Drawings page
 The fact that the drawings can be attached to the request and sent to all the bidders at once simplifies the bid process and reduces mailing costs.
 A Bid Specifications page
 The fact that the specifications can be attached to the request and sent to all the bidders at once simplifies the bid process and reduces mailing costs.
 Next, a Bid Item List
 For example: instead of indicating a need for chairs, the user might specify a particular type of chair, from a specific manufacturer, made of a specific type of material, etc. The item spec outlines all of these requirements and the quantity of the item required. The item list can be generated from Items specifications using a virtual area search
 Next, a Bid Attachments page
 A Bid Alternates page
 This page is only used when there are alternate requirements. This page is optional—a bid package does not have to have alternates defined.
 An alternate might be indicated when the project design is not finalized and the user wishes to consider two or more designs. They define one design with the base bid and the other design(s) with bid alternates. The bidding vendors can then provide their bids for each of the alternates as well as the base bid.
 A Bid Cost Form
 The user may import the item specifications from the Items List or manually add blank lines and fill in the item information. The information for each item is arranged in a set of rows and columns, similar to a spreadsheet.
 A separate, Choose Breakdown Type page (not shown in
 Selecting Vendors is accomplished using Invite Vendors page
 Finally, the user issues a Bid Issue Invitation
 Once the Bid Invitation goes out, a bid response activity is initiated. The Bid Response is shown in
 A Bid Response Description page
 If the vendor decides to decline the bid invitation
 If the vendor accepts the bid invitation
 A Response to Bid Drawings page
 Next, a Bid Response Specifications page
 A Bid Response Items List page
 Each item specification listed may be viewed in detail by selecting the item Name hyperlink. The detailed specifications for each item then displays.
 A Bid Response Attachments page
 A Bid Response Alternates page
 For each of the possible alternates, the bidding vendor can review the drawings, specifications, bill of materials, and attachments by accessing the links to view or download each.
 Next, a Bid Response Cost Form
 For each of the breakdown categories of each item, the vendor types in their response in the Qty, Units, Unit Cost, Labor Rate, Hours, and Lump Sum columns.
 Next, a Bid Response Review Addenda page
 If an addendum has been issued for a bid, this page allows the vendor to see the previous versions of the bid for reference purposes.
 Each bid can have one or more addenda. Addenda are listed sequentially here by Change number. The initial bid is always listed as Change number 0 (zero). To view a previous version of the bid, the vendor accesses the desired Change number.
 Like the RFQ process, in the course of responding to a bid, the vendor may have questions. Use the Bid Response RFI (Request for Information) page
 This page lists all requests for information relating to the bid. The vendor can create new messages, view existing messages, and reply to existing messages. The Request for Information page works like standard e-mail applications. To create a new message, the user may “Generate New RFI” from this page.
 A Bid Response Issue page
 A Bid Confirmation page displays confirming a Bid Package Response has been published.
 Like the RFQ process, the final step of the Bid Process is selecting and awarding a bid—characterized by a Bid Review process.
 The bid review activity is initiated with the Bid Package Review Wizard. Shown in
 The Bid Package Review Wizard can be accessed from a link
 When a vendor issues their response to the bid, a message comes back to the originator of the bid package. This message contains a link in it that can be used to see the vendor's response. If the bid is a sealed bid, the bid cannot be reviewed until after the date and time indicated as the Bid Due Date and Time on the original Bid Request Wizard Issue Invitation page.
 A Bid Package Review Wizard Summary page summarizes the information in the bid package.
 Next, any Response Review Addenda pages may be reviewed. Although not shown in
 A page is used to issue changes (addenda) to the original bid package. To issue an addendum, the user enters a type of change description and then adds the addenda to the bid. The same process is used to create the bid addenda as was used to create the initial bid. When the bid addenda is issued, this page redisplays with the addenda listed as a change. Each subsequent addendum is assigned a separate change number. The vendors listed on the bid will receive a message telling them that the addendum has been issued. This message has “Bid Addendum” as the subject.
 Next, Bid Review RFI is allowed using an RFI page
 Next, a Bid Package Review Cost Analysis
 A Bid Package Review Comments page
 This page shows a table of the vendors who have provided responses. The table lists the breakdown items in the first column and information from each of the vendors in the subsequent columns. The individual breakdown of each item specification can be viewed in more detail by clicking on the item name hyperlink. This window shows the breakdown values for each of the bidders for side-by-side comparison.
 To review the detail of each item, the user may access the price link under a specific bidder. The Bid Analysis Item Detail window displays for the selected item specification.
 To award the bid, the user completes the reviewing process and determines which vendor to accept. When the user awards the bid to the selected vendor(s), the Award Preview Screen
 The vendor(s) awarded the bid receive a notification in their message center
 Referring again to
 A purchase order process flow is shown in
 A Line Items page
 After the item specifications are selected and accepted, the Line Items page calculates the cost and allows the user to define the details of each item specification, if necessary.
 A Line Item Details page
 Once the Line Items Details page is accessed, the user may define any details that are specific to this item specification. This includes any associations to virtual areas, the quantity ordered, tax, shipping and adding any attachments for the vendor individually related to only the item specification.
 This process allows a user to save the details of each item specification and return to the Line Items page or add the next new item specification to the purchase order and define the details.
 An Attachments page
 Once the files are selected and accepted, the files display on the Attachments page exactly as they will appear to the vendor. The file name is a link to a viewer for the vendor to view the attached files.
 A Notes to Vendor page
 A “Legalese” page
 A User Notes page
 The last step in the purchase order process is issuing the purchase order. Depending upon the user's approval and purchasing authority, the purchase order is either issued to the next user with a higher level of purchasing authority or directly to the vendor.
 This example will assume the user had the purchasing authority and the purchase order is issued to the vendor. The purchase order displays in a report format for the user to review the information sent to the vendor.
 A Purchase Order Review page
 A History page
 Once issued, the vendor has the ability to approve the Purchase Order, as part of the item specification lifecycle performed by the vendor. The vendor receives the purchase order request through the Messaging tool in the system. When the vendor accesses their message center, the notification message for the purchase order displays. This notification displays a link for the vendor to access their version of the purchase order for review and acceptance.
 This process is similar to many of the aforementioned processes and again comprises a set of programmable linked pages, hereinafter described. A purchase orders Approval Preview page allows the vendor to view and print the purchase order request. This process allows the vendor to review the entire purchase order request to determine whether they should approve or decline the order. In this case, the vendor approves the order after reviewing the entire purchase order.
 A Purchase Order History page allows the vendor to view the history of the purchase order to ensure they have the most recent order for approval. This history also provides the contact name of the user that created the purchase order, in the event the vendor may have any questions. Once the vendor approves or declines the purchase order, this action and status is also logged in the history. This function prevents the vendor from approving or declining the order more than once and improves the efficiency of the process. The History page is view only. The vendor cannot alter any information on this page.
 A Purchase Order Buyer Attachments page allows the vendor to access the attachments process allowing them to download or view any attachments to the purchase order. These attachments may contain specifications, requirements, images, etc.
 Again, a Purchase Order RFI process is provided to allow the vendor to contact other users within the system to request information or communicate directly to the buyer.
 The vendor accesses the User Search page to locate a user within the system database to whom to send the RFI. The vendor may also select users to send a carbon copy of this message. The vendor may search for users with any, or all of the following: first name, last name, e-mail address, phone number or company.
 Once the users have been selected the vendor may add a subject to the message and then type or paste text into the body of the message, as in the example below. When the message is completed, the vendor sends the message to all of the users selected.
 A history of any RFIs sent from the vendor is captured, as well as any responses received from the buyer. After the history of the RFI is captured, the vendor may view the details of that RFI through the RFI # link.
 The RFI number link displays a details page for each RFI selected. This details page is displayed below.
 When the vendor has completed reviewing all of the purchase order information and has received responses to their RFIs, (if applicable) then the vendor may accept the purchase order.
 All of these steps are optional. The vendor may accept or decline the purchase order at any point in this process.
 Next, the vendor must approve the Purchase Order. Again, as the process is similar to those illustrated above, it will be described below. To accept the purchase order the vendor must access a Purchase Orders Approval page allows the vendor to accept or decline the purchase order.
 An Accepted Purchase Order Note page allows comment insertion by a vendor. After the purchase order has been accepted, the Approval Note page displays. This step allows the vendor to comment or add notes to the notification of approval to the buyer. These notes appear in the message center for the buyer with the notification of the status of the purchase order.
 The buyer then receives a notification in the message center regarding the status of the purchase order. In this case the purchase order has been approved and the buyer may review it for any necessary changes or answer any RFIs sent from the vendor. Generally, this is performed via the system Message Center. The buyer may review the status of the purchase order in the message center. Typically the message received appear as an email message including the purchase order number, vendor's name, amount and the status of the order. This information may be used to search for the purchase order for review.
 If the buyer would like to review the purchase order for the item specifications, the next step in this process is to search for the purchase order. A Purchase Order Search page allows the buyer to search for purchase orders with any or all of the information provided within the notification message. The purchase order may be accessed through the PO Number link.
 A Purchase Order Print Preview process is also provided. The buyer may create a change order for the purchase order at this time. A change order is a revision to the original purchase order. The buyer may determine that additional information or new item specifications should be added to the order or changes need to be made to existing information. This decision results in a change order. The system allows the buyer to access the change order process from this page.
 A Purchase Order History page may be displayed in reviewing the purchase order. The history displays the status changes that have occurred to this order since its creation. This step also allows the buyer to access the change order process. The example below displays the status of the purchase order, showing a decline as well as an acceptance.
 A Purchase Order User Notes page allows the buyer to review any user notes from this process. A user can access the details of existing user notes through the Read Note link.
 Also provided is a Purchase Order RFI page allowing the buyer to contact other users within the system to request information or communicate directly to the vendor. The buyer accesses the User Search page to locate a user within the system database to whom to send the RFI. The buyer may also select users to send a carbon copy of this message. The buyer may search for users with any, or all of the following: first name, last name, e-mail address, phone number or company. Once the users have been selected the buyer may add a subject to the message and then type or paste text into the body of the message, as in the example below. When the message is completed, the buyer sends the message to all of the users selected.
 Again, the history of any RFIs sent from the vendor and any responses received from the buyer is captured and displayed. After the history of the RFI is captured, the buyer may view the details of that RFI through the RFI number link. The RFI number Link displays a details page for each RFI selected. This details page is displayed below.
 All of these steps are optional. The buyer may determine to create a change order or end the review of the purchase order at any point in this process.
 A Virtual Area—Item Spec List page displays the purchased status for the item specifications when this process is completed.
 After the vendor fulfills the purchase order
 The purchase order is located automatically unless there is more than one order from the same buyer. If there is more than one order, the user has the option of selecting from just the orders from that buyer. If there is only one purchase order from that buyer, then the order is displayed automatically.
 A Shipping Information Search page
 A Shipment History Log page shows shipping history status. Once the purchase order is selected, the item specifications for that order display individually, allowing the vendor to send a partial or complete shipment. The item Name link allows the vendor to view a shipment log for that item. The Shipment History Log tracks the quantity of the items shipped and the date they were shipped to the buyer. This is essential information if the vendor has sent only a partial shipment.
 Once the vendor has completed the shipping form, the system confirms that the shipment notification was successful.
 Once shipped, a Buyer's Notification is sent. The buyer receives a message in their message center notifying them that the item specifications on the purchase order have been shipped with the date and quantity of items included. The buyer may also verify the item specifications have been shipped by displaying the Item Spec List. The shipped status displays for the quantity of items shipped.
 A further process is provided for sending the Receiving Notification. After the vendor ships the item specifications to the buyer, the buyer may make create a notification of receipt when the item specifications are received. This process occurs only after the item specifications are received at the buyer's designated destination.
 The buyer may access the receiving tool from the project page. This process is very similar to the shipping notification process. The buyer must locate the purchase order with the shipped items before processing the receiving notification.
 If more than one purchase order has been accepted the Receiving Information Search page displays allowing the buyer to select the purchase order with the items received.
 A Receiving History Log is also provided. Then the buyer may indicate how many of each item were received or if the entire shipment was received. If a partial shipment was received or if the buyer would like to view the history of each item specification, the item specification Name is a link to the Receiving History Log. This log displays the quantity of items recorded as received and the date.
 The system confirms the receiving notification has been sent and the items have been tracked.
 The item specification list now reflects that the item specifications have been received at their destination and the item specification lifecycle is complete.
 Finally, the vendor receives the notification of the item specifications received, via the message center. An example of the receipt notification is shown below.
 Industrial Applicability
 The system of the present invention provides a unique, comprehensive project management system. In one embodiment, the system includes an enterprise system, Application Service Providers (ASP) platform, and open architecture provides business-efficient toolsets that: allows multiple companies worldwide to participate in projects, automates and streamlines bidding and estimating processes, increases the accuracy and efficiency of purchasing, facilitates integration with existing applications, provides simple but secure access over the Internet, and eliminates duplicate data entries. The system captures and manages information throughout the design, build, and manage phases of the resulting asset. In a further unique feature of the invention, all data is available in real-time and precise information throughout a project's lifecycle. Even after an asset has been built, an owner or property manager can access the system to derive specific information within a few seconds. This system can be applied to any number of design and build industries, including: Civil and Electrical Infrastructure; Telecom; Commercial, Residential, and Government Buildings; Manufacturing; Aerospace and Nautical applications; and Automobile, Railways, and Public Transportation projects.
 The foregoing detailed description of the invention has been presented for purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed. Many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching. The described embodiments were chosen in order to best explain the principles of the invention and its practical application to thereby enable others skilled in the art to best utilize the invention in various embodiments and with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. It is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the claims appended hereto.