May 26 2016

Viewpoint 2016 UK customer summit

Viewpoint Construction Software‘s 2016 UK customer summit reconvened at London’s Grange Tower Bridge Hotel again this week, and, with more delegates (c. 150) from more companies (55) than last year, now looks to be outgrowing the venue. For many of those attending the two-day event, it was a first opportunity to hear from Manolis Kotzabasakis – appointed CEO of Viewpoint in August 2015 (post) – and he reiterated many of the subjects I discussed with him earlier this month: industry transformation, overdue consolidation, Viewpoint’s continued growth, etc.

UK developments

EMEA commercial director Steve Spark gave an update on the UK business’s progress, which he said includes the SaaS collaboration platform Viewpoint For Projects (VFP) being used on major infrastructure projects including the Hinkley Point nuclear power station project, HS2 and Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. Sales had grown 22% sales, revenues were up (due to be reported in September) and use of the former 4Projects system and of the mobile platform Field View (formerly Priority1) had both grown massively –  6.5 million documents were published to VFP in a year, a million more than the previous year. Steve also said Viewpoint was winning growing volumes of VFP deals in Australia and the US.

Development resource had also expanded massively since 4Projects was acquired by Viewpoint in February 2013 – from 13 to 35 developers – with the total UK operation now numbering 105 (“and growing”); it was also announced that hard-working former Priority1 CEO Richard Scott is also taking a 12-month sabbatical from the business.

Recent product highlights have included an HTML5 viewer (superceding the old Brava viewer), launch of the VFP BIM Manager, and access to VFP from within Field View. Imminent is launch of an end-user portal, ClearView, and availability of Viewpoint apps via the main Apple, Android and Windows app stores (and I saw an Alpha preview of an iOS version of the previously Android-only Field View tool).

BIM Manager and Viewpoint For Projects

(Update: 12 noon BST) – John Adams, product manager for BIM Manager (also architect and self-confessed “COBie enthusiast”), led a session on integration between BIM and the VFP collaboration platform. Its 4BIM R&D project (which started in 2012) gave it a lead over most of its competitors when it came to developing BIM in the browser and to integrating COBie views into views of the model. He explained COBie data can now be drawn from more sources than just the displayed model.

Viewpoint’s BIM home page brings models, data and requirements together; it has been designed with the needs of information managers in mind, and with Level 2 BIM processes central. BIM model-related tasks can now be managed from the BIM viewer (including use of BCF, BIM Collaboration Format), which captures a view and associated comments and time/date stamps it), and – recognising that teams are now working on combined models – tasks against federations have now also been built in to the tool. BCF, supported by BuildingSMART, has been adopted as Viewpoint’s key component for managing and resolving ‘BIM issues’ via its VFP common data environment, CDE.

John also covered file naming conventions, automated model format  and working units checking; he said Viewpoint has worked extensively with BS1192 ‘standard guru’ Mervyn Richards to ensure its system meets PAS1192:2 and 3 requirements. And much had been learned from deploying the technology and processes on projects for customers including the UK Ministry of Justice and contractor Willmott Dixon (he demonstrated the viewer’s toolset using a model created for a project at Bournemouth University).

(Update: 1500 BST) – I also talked over lunch to John about the ongoing Innovate UK-funded project looking at ‘satellite’ or ‘Tier2Tier’ CDEs (post), due to finish this autumn. He told me the research project has identified different speeds of adoption of COBie within project supply chains, and also some shortcomings in processes currently defined in BIM Execution Plans (BEPs) regarding publication of data to satellite CDEs. Learning from the Tier2Tierproject will be shared by the project’s academic partners following its conclusion.

[Disclosure: I delivered a keynote presentation (fee paid) at the Viewpoint event.] 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/05/viewpoint-2016-uk-customer-summit/

May 19 2016

GamePlan’s aim: ‘lean’ collaboration

Nothing to do with computer gaming, GamePlan is a US start-up exploring both lean construction and BIM-based collaboration.

GamePlan logoIn devising its product, US-based startup GamePlan (headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware) has consciously tried not to copy existing SaaS construction software providers’ approach to collaboration. While its core platform offers many of the same features, its philosophy has been strongly guided by a commitment to ‘lean construction’ and learning from Last Planner and related approaches. I spoke to GamePlan founder Vishal Porwal earlier this week.

Vishal PorwalAs a marketer, I queried the company name. In a sector where vendors often create names that associate themselves directly with building, construction, projects and sites, why did Vishal choose GamePlan? “It dates back to when I was working at Turner Construction,” he said. “Often, superintendents would start a meeting by asking ‘What’s the game plan?‘ and as we were also working on lean construction workflows using tools like Last Planner, the name kind of stuck.”

Lean and social

Vishal recalls the difficulties of managing Last Planner outputs capture on paper, in Visio, then Excel spreadsheets or MS Project: “We wasted a lot of time on transferring information and confirmation and verification processes – not doing project work or solving problems.” GamePlan was therefore devised to deliver a combination of information exchange, project and contract management, scheduling, communication and collaboration.

GamePlan Time LineIts user interface is also influenced by tools such as Slack and Facebook, providing – like one or two other products – a discussion timeline feed for collaboration as well as more conventional email notifications. And GamePlan have been heavily involved with several US AEC Hackathons, finding them useful in stimulating new thinking and innovation (incidentally, after the inaugural London AEC Hackathon in July 2015 – post another London event is planned for 8-10 July).

Vishal says he has been reading ExtranetEvolution since 2009/10 and credits it with helping him formulate the concept of GamePlan, which launched in 2013.

“I wanted to create a robust cloud-based construction project management solution that could become an affordable, enterprise-ready alternative to the likes of Procore, NewForma and Aconex. Our mission as a company is to make the construction industry safer, more productive, environmentally friendly and more profitable.”

GamePlan Field: PunchListingGamePlan Team is the core project-wide collaboration platform, enabling people from different organizations, working on the same project, to quickly discuss ideas, get feedback, share updates, ask questions and organise work – core features cover groups, tasks, photos, contacts, members, and reports and analytics. As well as browser-based access, users can use GamePlan on iOS mobile devices, and there is also a Chrome extension. GamePlan Team is included for free as part of all other company products: Field, Documents, Contract Management, Time, and Resources, each typically priced from US$50 per month (for 10 users, 10 GB storage and unlimited projects), and with data and workflows shared across the different products.

From 2D to BIM and beyond

GamePlan on iPadClose to US$500m worth of projects have been hosted on GamePlan so far (projects range in size from US$100,000 to over US$60m, with customers across the US, plus others in Mexico, Australia and Qatar). Some small builders have adopted GamePlan for traditional 2D document control and issue management, while others have started to use it for BIM coordination, Vishal said. “Often firms are coordinating model files by sharing Navisworks .NWCs and .DWGs to places like ShareFile and Dropbox, so we offer integration tools that synchronise with these.”

In the longer term, Vishal (who writes a blog about green and lean BIM) expects GamePlan to offer a more sophisticated approach to BIM: “We have been doing some experiments with model visualisation, VR and AI and look forward to extending our product offering to solve AEC problems using the latest and greatest technologies available in the market.” And GamePlan is also planning to start marketing its platform in Europe in the near future, to both widen its customer base and pick up on European countries’ adoption of BIM and development of associated standards.

Going lean

Efforts to promote lean construction have a long history and a close association with efforts, including BIM, to promote collaborative working (I recall attending Constructing Excellence events on the subject in 2007 and 2008, and I returned to the topic in 2010 when I wrote about Advance2000). Of the companies I regularly monitor, only Newforma offers something specific relating to lean construction – in October 2015, it launched Newforma LeanPlanner, powered by LeanKit, to help teams improve production schedule reliability and deliver more predictable project outcomes, but the solution was not (yet) integrated with its core platform.

Vishal is forward-looking in his approach, keen to embrace new ideas and the latest thinking on BIM, as well as more established, yet still relatively progressive, approaches such as lean construction. We talked quite a bit about the UK BIM programme and UK vendor common data environments (CDEs), and with some of his customers already working 80% to 100% in BIM, it is clear that he sees BIM as key to GamePlan’s future, er, game plan.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/05/gameplans-aim-lean-collaboration/

May 05 2016

BIM meets Wiki at DesigningBuildings

Construction’s own wiki, DesigningBuildings has launched a free online guide to BIM Level 2 compliance.

On 4 April 2016, Level 2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) became mandatory on centrally-procured UK public projects, with far-reaching implications for those involved. Clients, consultants, contractors and suppliers are all required to understand the finer details of the Level 2 process. But the 2016 NBS BIM Survey found 42% of respondents were just aware of BIM and 28% were not very, or not at all confident in BIM.

DesigningBuildingsnew guide, created by Designing Buildings Wiki (an industry-specific wiki launched in 2012 – read my pwcom post and my February 2013 post) and construction consultancy PCSG, takes users step-by-step through the Level 2 workflows, from the basics of storing project information to preparing employer’s information requirements. And as a wiki, it is – like Wikipedia – “open access”, meaning anyone in the industry can edit and improve the guide to reflect their experiences of using BIM in practice. It is aligned to Level 2 standard PAS 1192-2 and the 2013 RIBA plan of work.

Designing Buildings Wiki chairman David Trench CBE said:

“We don’t all have to know how to operate BIM software, but everyone needs to understand the information workflows, collaborative practices and terminology that Level 2 has introduced. We’ve translated the jargon into plain English and explained the processes in a way that will feel familiar, rather than intimidating, to encourage the industry to embrace this change.”

Adrian Burgess, technical director at PCSG said:

“It’s all about collaboration. What we have created is a starting point. We’re now calling on the industry to add to and improve the guide and its supporting articles to help create a truly comprehensive resource.”

The step-by-step BIM guide is available to use, edit and improve free of charge. It is supported by more than 100 linked articles about BIM. To improve the guide, just click ‘Edit this article’ at the top of the page you want to change. To add more supporting articles, just register and click ‘Create an article’.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/05/bim-meets-wiki-at-designingbuildings/

May 04 2016

Viewpoint restructured and growing

Viewpoint CEO Manolis Kotzabasakis says construction needs to change, and believes his company is well-placed to lead industry adoption of SaaS-based ‘field to back office information on the go’.

Viewpoint logo 2016Following Aconex’s recent acquisition of SaaS construction collaboration rival Conject, there was – as usual – some debate about the implications of the deal for other vendors in the space. Some commenters (example) suggested that Aconex competitors such as Portland, Oregon, US-based Viewpoint would now struggle, and hinted at redundancies in Viewpoint’s UK operation, management changes and poor business performance.

Such views were robustly rejected when I spoke last week to Manolis Kotzabasakis – who succeeded Jay Haladay as CEO of Viewpoint in August 2015 (post) – and other senior Viewpoint executives.

Transformation and IT consolidation

Manolis Kotzabasakis, Viewpoint CEOManolis, who started out as a chemical engineer working in the UK (he studied at Manchester University and was CEO of Northwich-based Linnhoff March in my home county of Cheshire for a time), was recruited to Viewpoint from Aspen Technologies where he rose quickly through the ranks from a marketing role to chief technology office. During his time there he was involved in over 20 acquisitions and saw at first hand how technology could transform business processes in traditional industries (in this case, in the process manufacturing sector).

He told me he had been excited about the potential to help construction businesses experience the same kind of transformation – “construction is one of the last major verticals needing to change” – and not just large corporations but SMEs too. He had also witnessed how the process plant industry’s IT sector had gone through a spate of M&A activity, and felt the AEC sector was already starting to see a similar rationalisation to a more select group of major players.

Viewpoint management changes

Appointed in March 2014, EMEA MD Alun Baker has now left the business following changes intended to create a functional, rather than regional, reporting structure across the Viewpoint group, Manolis said.

“Viewpoint, as a company, has been very successful given its scale, but needed to change. We had various individuals – like Jay – looking to retire or move in a new direction. Moving from regional reporting to functional reporting is the right structure for Viewpoint. Most of the significant changes have been in the US; Alun’s departure was the only significant change in the UK – he had also felt it would be better if he moved.”

Steve Spark, commercial director for EMEA and global SVP Sales, now leads the UK operation, while taking responsibility for collaboration and Field View sales in the US and in Australasia. He said headcount in Viewpoint’s EMEA region (largely comprising the former 4Projects business) grew 27% from 2014 to 2015 (some of this increase can be attributed to the December 2014 acquisition of Mobile Computing Solutions); more recently, at the end of March 2016, total headcount was up 10% from March 2015.

“We are very excited about the pick-up so far, and believe there are some big opportunities for us in the US,” said Manolis.

Acquisitions being eyed

He also said Viewpoint had been winning some collaboration deals in Australia despite Aconex’s supposed domination of its domestic market. He felt Aconex’s Conject deal was the latest sign of consolidation in the AEC software market, and said Viewpoint is looking at potential acquisitions, continuing:

“Our vision is to bring together the field with the back office. I have been excited to talk to some of our major US customers and find they share this vision. They feel integration is vital, and want our combination of collaborative tools and BIM. They want information on the go – whether on the project site or in a hotel room. Some are not ready yet for the cloud; some want it today.

“It is slightly different with ERP, so we may progress with public/private or ‘hybrid’ cloud provision of back office ERP. This is currently mainly a US challenge; we are not providing ERP in the EMEA region yet, so here we are following an integration strategy, helping our customers connect Viewpoint collaboration to back office ERP from COINS and other leading vendors. The API becomes very important to us.”

Viewpoint For Projects successes

EMEA CFO Chris Baty said the UK-based collaboration product had seen growth accelerate in 2015, with the acceleration continuing in 2016. Steve Spark underlined the company’s success in securing corporate deals:

Steve Spark“Looking at 1,840 deals reported by Construction Enquirer, worth around £25 billion, we are working with 95% of the top 20 contractors, and 50% of these solely use ViewPoint For Projects for all their projects. Looking at our Field View customers, 20% of these are on enterprise deals, with 20% using both products.

“We are also seeing growing interest below the Tier 1 contractors: subcontractors down the supply chain are becoming increasingly interested in using Viewpoint for collaboration – BIM has been a strong catalyst for this – and we now have a sales team dedicated to working with specialist contractors.”

Summary view

Manolis summed up the conversation:

“We now have the right people in place and we have got the basics right. Growth is accelerating and profitability is very impressive across the business, and we are encouraged by the EMEA growth, with UK growth particularly impressive. New SaaS bookings are up 50%, which will translate to later revenues – all a strong testament to Steve and his team.”

Commentary

The post-Aconex/Conject comments seemed mainly to reflect the views of bullish Aconex advocates and/or mischievous competitors. The SaaS collaboration sector is also small and incestuous, with a lot of movement between the different firms, so it is inevitable that individuals with axes to grind will sometimes take the opportunity to suggest changes are hampering, rather than helping, a rival business.

Viewpoint is a sound business with ambitions to expand use of cloud-hosted BIM-driven collaboration in its core north American market while simultaneously capitalising upon its UK business’s strong footprint to grow brand awareness and eventually sales of its ERP platform in new markets. From his time at AspenTech, Manolis Kotzabasakis has strong experience in building and extending the reach of an international software business, and Viewpoint’s strategy is strongly supported by Bain Capital who made a US$230 investment in the company two years ago. Viewpoint remains an ambitious and well-backed player in the construction software space, with a strong BIM product and wider and scalable SaaS strategy, and so well placed to capitalise upon the growing adoption of such technologies by both construction businesses and asset owners.

The tripling of Aconex’s share price since its December 2014 IPO has helped draw attention to the construction software space and there have been several large investments in the sector (in the last two years, US-based Procore, for example, raised $15m in June 2014, $30m in April 2015 and another $50m in December 2015), and Aconex’s Conject deal and capital-raising shows continued appetite among investors. However, some investors are also urging caution, particularly in relation to M&A activity – mentioned by Manolis.

Research by Deutsche Bank analysts (reported in the Australian Financial Review), for example, suggested M&A can be both a driver of earnings but also a potential risk due to possible overpaying for assets and integrating purchases; it said Aconex’s growth strategy “involves opportunistic assessment of acquisitions which presents pricing and integration risk.” And such risks can also be particularly acute in the notoriously cyclical construction sector; as we saw with the Global Financial Crisis, an industry downturn can quickly impact the revenues of businesses reliant upon a steady stream of project starts.

[Disclosure: Unrelated to this blog post, I will be speaking at the Viewpoint UK user conference later this month.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/05/viewpoint-restructured-and-growing/

May 03 2016

Buildcloud: architect-led collaboration

Web-based Buildcloud aims to help architectural teams working on high-end projects to improve communications with their (high end) clients and contractors.

Buildcloud logoThe latest entrant to the UK mobile-oriented construction collaboration market is Buildcloud, developed by a West Yorkshire-based startup, whose team includes an architect (Edward Park, formerly of Cartwright Pickard and Aedas, now a director of Leeds-based ParkDesigned) alongside others from web-design and branding backgrounds.

Product manager Cat Barrett told me Buildcloud is aimed at architects but also the general construction industry. Like most tools in this space it comprises a web browser-accessed application and a mobile app (currently just iPhone – “no android yet but we will look into that soon”). Marketing to date has been limited to a single page advert in the RIBA magazine, “but people are already signing up to the free trial, interestingly from all over the world”.

Buildcloud project newsfeedAs you might expect for an application “designed by architects – for architects” (reminiscent of the now-defunct Woobius – April 2009 post – and the Avollio platform I looked at in August 2014), Buildcloud has a clean and modern design, and aims to smooth client management and communication. It is particularly targeted at architects dealing with “high end clients” who, Buildcloud says, “can be demanding and difficult to work with” and “want to be involved in everything, yet have time for nothing.”

The design team, for their part, are provided with a master drawing register – ensuring “you never build from out of date plans again, old drawings are automatically superseded and change notifications sent” (seemingly targeting a market reliant on 2D deliverables, not using BIM). The application also features a “revolutionary site notes editor” allowing “creation of site notes in seconds; add photos, create lists, assign actions and issue as a branded PDF all from the app” (maybe not that ‘revolutionary’ – many of these capabilities are built in to several other apps used for site diaries, snagging, etc).

For those not using the app constantly, a daily email digest is sent automatically showing all of a user’s project updates, while a Facebook-ish project newsfeed lets the client, designers and contractors communicate in real-time. The app also tracks project costs: “just record your contract tender cost and track changes as contract variations.”

While there is a free starter option (one client, one designer, one contractor – clearly aimed at modest-sized projects), the professional package is priced a £12 per user per calendar month, with unlimited projects, and – tantalisingly – a free tender. At this stage, Buildcloud simply says its tendering feature is “launching soon”. Having seen other online construction project tendering platforms (eg: RICS, DarleyeTender, Asktobi) launch and then struggle and even be discontinued, it will be interesting to see how this one fares (see also my April 2014 post on NexTenders).

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/05/buildcloud-architect-led-collaboration/

May 02 2016

A US construction IT snapshot

In July 2015, Capterra asked 100 US construction managers about their software purchasing decisions, though it’s a survey that poses as many questions as it asks.

Capterra logoThe latest Capterra snapshot of US construction managers’ purchase and use of construction management software shows the average annual spend per business to be around US$2,700, with almost a third spending more than they expected, and rarely reaping any great improvements in supply chain communications.

SaaS and mobility

Capterra midrange web adoptionI spoke to the report’s author, Rachel Burger (who also compiled a previous report sponsored by Procore). She told me the survey indicated SaaS tool adoption had grown to almost half: 47% of the surveyed users said they were using web-based tools, but she expected “a pretty big explosion” in cloud adoption as more people were adopting mobile working.

I asked Rachel if there was any correlation between company turnover and adoption. She responded with this graph, saying:

“One interesting thing is that Installed options seem to be preferred on the revenue extremes (less than $5M and more than $250M) and cloud options are preferred in the middle ranges ($5M to < $250M). That’s unusual – not sure why that might be.”

One explanation could be that smaller businesses are still sticking with traditional on-premise software (the sample included a large number of small business employees – hence the low annual expenditure), while the largest corporations have budgets and in-house expertise allowing them to invest in enterprise tools, perhaps self-hosting web tools too. The space between is the ‘sweet spot’ being exploited by SaaS businesses: companies aware of the limitations of installed software, but unable and/or unwilling to invest in high-end ERP, etc.

Inertia

capterra software longevityShifts from previous years were slight – though I suspect this has much to do with the installed base of legacy systems, and the traditional habits and views of older construction managers (many of which had previously relied on spreadsheets, generic project management tools (eg: MS Project) and manual methods. It was instructive to see how highly the surveyed managers rated the tools they had used the longest (right). The report observes:

“… because construction is an aging industry, it is notoriously slow to pick up on new technology…. Managers like to stick with what works, making them slow to change over their construction software.

Utility

Capterra software features graphThe survey asked about what mattered most to construction managers in selecting software (right). Functionality, ease of use, price, its wider popularity, implementation and training, vendor reputation and support were all mentioned. The survey is mute on whether being web-based might sway a buyer’s decision, and (relating to another question) if users switched to a different solution because it was (or wasn’t) web-based. It might also have been useful to consider if the time taken to implement solutions varied between on-premise and online systems.

Time sheets, job scheduling, estimating management, job costing, and document management features were the most valued capabilities delivered by construction management software, said Capterra.

Limitations

For wider or detailed insights about the SaaS construction collaboration space, the survey’s value is limited, and it throws up almost as many questions as it seeks to answer.

For a start, the survey’s definition of construction management is very broad – covering project management, financial job tracking, forecasting, change-order management, document management, collaboration, and estimating (and presumably excluding generic office software, design authoring, etc). It is mainly focused on users employed by contracting organisations engaged in general contracting, residential and non-residential construction, with few civil engineering forms, and no representation among buyers in, say, construction project management consultancies or expert client organisations. The small sample size (100) and US focus limits its wider applicability, and – as I outlined – I think there were also some missed opportunities to extend/clarify some of the questions.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/05/a-us-construction-it-snapshot/

Apr 29 2016

Infrakit: where BIM meets geospatial

Infrakit is particularly aimed at digital collaboration on infrastructure projects, with strong BIM and geospatial integrations.

Infrakit logoKeeping an eye and ear open for new SaaS construction software startups, I was pleased to hear from Helsinki, Finland-based startup Infrakit, particularly as it has strong relevance to the civil engineering sector, and also because of its focus on geospatial working and on open standards.

Founded in 2010, the now 13-strong company says it was born as the result of research on construction automation conducted at the University of Oulu. Like many other projects, this identified that progress and completion of infrastructure projects was frequently slowed by inefficient and clumsy communication flows, so the team created a platform for the digital flow of designs and as-built information throughout all projects, aiming to eliminate many of the delays and errors caused by lack of communication. Its ambition is to “become the global industry standard in handling open digital design data and in quality management reporting”.

Infrakit features include centralised project document management. It says:

“Using digital designs in open formats enables unhindered information flow between the project owner, designers, contractors and consultants — thus decreasing the amount of errors and total project costs. With Infrakit Construction Collaboration Cloud the project owner can follow project progress in real time and get quality assurance reports as they are completed to ensure quality standards are met.”

Geospatial working

These are familiar selling points, but there is also a strong real-time geospatial element to how the Infrakit platform works (last November, I noted the AGI Foresight 2020 report calling for wider use of ‘location intelligence’). In an email, I was told Infrakit also helps land surveyors by integrating GNSS [Global Navigation Satellite System] equipment with its cloud tools – the worksite’s CAD software, machinery, GPS equipment and people, through all project phases, are all managed on the one platform.

During construction the designs in Infrakit are supplemented with as-built measurements. Measured points can be combined with design surfaces and the system automatically displays differences as color-coded icons on the map. Possible changes to designs can be updated directly to Infrakit so they are immediately available to all relevant parties and appropriate procedures can be initiated without any delay. A perfect database containing initial data, design files and as-built measurements is formed during the project. Utilization of this information continues during maintenance phase.

The Infrakit toolset incorporates both desktop browser and mobile applications:

  • The web version adopts a map interface, whereby users can view and manage BIM models, as-built information and photos. As-builts, photos and machine control system management all have their own dedicated toolkits; users can also open work machine performance, efficiency and usage history in calendar views, view BIMs, and view real-time as-built points gathered from the field equipment.
  • The Android tablet application incorporates the user’s position into terrain models on a map display, and allows specific models or designs to be viewed over the background map. Cross-sections showing all design surfaces and related as-built points, including tolerance information, can also be viewed. The app integrates with GNSS products from Topcon, Javad, Trimble and Leica, or any GNSS device supporting Bluetooth (read Infrakit blog post).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/04/infrakit-where-bim-meets-geospatial/

Apr 26 2016

Journal whets Southern African IT appetites

A new southern African construction IT journal and Africa’s first construction IT summit show there is a growing appetite for new construction tools and techniques in the region.

CS&IT coverI have written occasionally about construction software vendors’ activities in southern Africa, but a factor in expansion into that region, particularly for Software-as-a-Service vendors, has been internet connectivity. As a result, it has lagged behind other parts of the developing world in adopting and using cloud-based technologies, but there have been some encouraging signs in recent years.

Some European SaaS construction software businesses have opened offices in South Africa, including Denmark’s Docia (April 2012 post; Docia has since, in 2014, been acquired by RIB) and London-based Asite (October 2014 post). Other businesses also picked up work with South Africa-based customers, including iSite (post), but otherwise the region has remained relatively untouched by other SaaS vendors – even by Aconex, which has historically spread its net very widely, including into north Africa.

However, the region is thirsty for information about the latest IT trends, including SaaS and BIM, and to meet this demand, publishing company Hypenica has launched Construction Software & IT: A Journal for Digital Construction Solutions, which is edited by Vaughan Harris (in the past associated with RIB, CCS/4Projects and Asite). The journal is closely associated with the Cape Town-based BIM Institute, which is also organising the region’s first Construction IT Summit and Expo, in Johannesburg on 11 May 2016 (with Asite and RIB not surprisingly among the participating companies). If they wish visitors can also spend time in the parallel African Construction and Totally Concrete Expos.

Vaughan Harris writes:

Vaughan Harris“As Africa’s construction industry continues to evolve, there have been significant technological improvements, but BIM is still very much a new acronym to the industry.

The recent establishment of the South African BIM Institute, in May 2015, will play a pivotal role in supporting and promoting the BIM process for Africa, with CanBIM (Canadian BIM Council) and the AEC (UK) assisting in regulating all BIM protocols and BIM education for Africa. The BIM Institute has also been established to promote the development of information technology solutions and processes within the construction industry.

It is imperative that local construction companies take a strategic long-term view of their business, so they can invest in improved technology and affordable software solutions if BIM is to play a role in Africa’s sustainable development process. Companies also need to consider how to invest in information technology processes that are helping to shape and improve sustainable development.

Leveraging technology will be imperative – not just to make construction projects more efficient but also helps to reduce printing costs, reduce duplication and human error and show improved accountability and transparency.”

Disclosure: I have written commentary pieces for the Construction Software & IT journal.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/04/journal-whets-southern-african-it-appetites/

Apr 26 2016

Go-Cam founder responds

Go-cam logoLast month, I wrote a blog post about the Go-Cam video snagging app. After giving it a quick test on my Samsung Galaxy S6 Android smartphone, I identified various issues with the service – to which the founder of Go-Cam, Tod Yeadon, has responded:

Tod Yeadon, Founder of Go-CamPreventing disputes with Go-Cam Video Reporting

As the founder of Go-Cam I was grateful for Paul’s feedback, hearing about user’s experiences (whether good or bad) will notify us of the problems we don’t always pick up on.

It was disappointing that Paul had a bad experience, however, all this feedback reminded us that (like all new releases) everything was not going to be without it’s problems from the get go. In response to Paul’s review, I have chosen to provide some feedback on Paul’s experience, the app’s teething problems and most importantly – point out the things which might have been forgotten.

The review was based on using the app on an Android device, we have got Apple devices working consistently now however, some Android devices (& browsers on viewing the report pages) are sometimes buggy, as is the case here.

The Android tests I have carried-out have worked fine, other than when the Report page is viewed in Safari which is struggling with video playback. I expect to see issues such as this appearing from time to time, there is such a wide variety of Android devices and browsers / O.S.’s, unfortunately we cannot test them all and tech bloggers generally understand this, particularly with first releases.

What we can do however, is ensure that all these problems are reported to our developers and I am positive that they will keep myself and the users updated on any disruption.

That said, Paul definitely seems to recognise the benefits of video reporting and implies that the app is a good idea, so if we can overcome tech shortcomings we can see that there is a positive message here.

The only other negative was a suggestion that the construction industry would not pay for the coms needed to use the app (in the absence of a good network connection) but that is not necessary as we have the “Unsent Report” where Reports are recorded and sent at a later time in the absence of an adequate network.

It’s interesting to note that 80% of our downloads are on iTunes, so it’s unfortunate that the particular Android set-up Paul was using is not one we have tested. There is definitely room for improvement and we will invite Paul to have another go at testing it once we have corrected the problems on our side. Until then, all feedback is good for first releases, so try out the app for yourself and let us know what you think.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/04/go-cam-founder-responds/

Apr 25 2016

Bridgit closes $1.7m seed funding round

Bridgit logoBridgit, the Ontario, Canada-based construction project management technology startup, has closed a US$1.7 million seed round led by Hyde Park Venture Partners with participation from Vanedge Capital.

The business, which I first wrote about in August 2014, plans to use the funding to hire new engineers and salespeople and acquire more US customers for its mobile applications.

Mallorie Brodie, CEO and co-founder of Bridgit says:

“The construction industry has been slow to adopt to new technology, but as we talk to residential and commercial builders, it’s clear they are hungry for technology that lowers cost, simplifies processes and make it easier to get their jobs done. We’re excited to partner with Hyde Park and Vanedge so we can put Bridgit’s solutions into the hands of more people who need them.”

Mallorie BrodieBridgit was founded in 2012 by Brodie, right, and Lauren Lake. Both founders’ families are in the construction industry, and the women suspected it was ripe for innovation. The pair proved the validity of their concept by talking to workers about their challenges and frustrations. Contractors kept track of to-do lists on sticky notes and scribbles on plans nailed to the wall. More organized contractors kept spreadsheets of different tasks and notes, and then emailed or phoned in requests to the appropriate subcontractors.

With Bridgit, commercial and residential builders can use a mobile app to assign and track different tasks. If one piece of work is not completed correctly, the contractor can snap a photo and send it along with relevant notes directly to the subcontractors to make sure it is fixed without holding up other work. Bridgit helps track each task and deadline to hold workers accountable for completing tasks correctly and on time. To date, Bridgit says its application has been used by more than 100 contractors and has consistently achieved double-digit month-over-month revenue growth.

Greg Barnes, principal of Hyde Park Venture Partners, says:

“We believe that this type of innovation is sorely needed in the construction industry and that Bridgit has the ideal team to deliver it. We can’t wait to see Mallorie, Lauren and their growing corps of experts build upon their solid foundation in the U.S. market.

V. Paul Lee, managing director of Vanedge Capital, says:

”Bridgit exemplifies a strong startup company with a young and effective management team that is taking the latest developments in technology and bringing it to traditional industries to dramatically improve their efficiency and work process. The cost savings to the construction industry will be significant.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/04/bridgit-closes-1-7m-seed-funding-round/

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