Jul 31 2015

Aconex finishing strongly

Aconex logo 2014Ahead of an official annual results announcement on 25 August, Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS collaboration technology provider Aconex has today reported its cash flows for its fourth quarter ended 30 June 2015 with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). In a supporting statement from CEO Leigh Jasper, the company also highlighted a record volume of new business, enterprise agreements with global contractors, and positive cash flow of Au$4.7 million.

Leigh Jasper“We ended FY15 with strong momentum in ANZ and internationally. Top-line performance in Q4 reached a new quarterly high, driven largely by infrastructure development across all regions. We signed enterprise agreements with Bechtel, John Holland, Lendlease, and other major global contractors, underscoring our strategy of increasing market penetration and expanding our global user network. Cash flow was positive and up significantly from Q3, demonstrating the inherent strength of our subscription-based business model. We’re entering FY16 in a very solid position – strategically, operationally and financially.”

The company is in a communications blackout until FY15 results have been made public.

Update (3 August 2015) – Shares in Aconex jumped almost 12% in ASX trading today (reports Motley Fool).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/aconex-finishing-strongly/

Jul 30 2015

Viewpoint names new CEO

Viewpoint names Manolis Kotzabasakis, formerly CTO at Aspen Technology, as its new CEO

viewpointcs-logoPortland, Oregon, US-based Viewpoint Construction Software, ERP vendor and parent company of the UK-founded 4Projects SaaS construction collaboration business (with its core application shortly to be rebranded as Viewpoint for Projects), has announced its new CEO (see also Oregon Live). He is Manolis Kotzabasakis, formerly chief technology officer at Massachusetts-based Aspen Technology – a provider of software and services for the process industries. He steps into the role vacated by Jay Haladay who announced in April that he was standing down after 25 years running the business and a hands-on role in the 4Projects acquisition in February 2013.

Kotzabasakis, 56, had been with Aspen since 1997 (it has a market value of about $3.75 billion and reported $391.5 million in revenue in 2014). He will move to Portland when he starts his new job, and in a written statement he said:

“I look forward to working closely with the entire team to help drive and support Viewpoint’s strategic initiatives while fostering a corporate culture of innovation and collaboration,”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/viewpoint-names-new-ceo/

Jul 27 2015

e-Builder boosts its BIM

e-Builder-logoe-Builder, the Florida, US-based SaaS construction programme management provider has announced today that it has acquired the assets of Scenario Virtual Project Delivery (VPD), a leader in collaborative Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology for construction. This acquisition (for which the terms were not disclosed) extends e-Builder Enterprise by tightly integrating it with BIM (when I talked to e-Builder in February 2014, co-founder Jon Antevy said BIM was still at an early stage for many of their customers, but interest was growing).

Founded in 2010 as a subsidiary of Florida HQ-ed specialist contractor KHS&S, Scenario VPD developed a SaaS-based BIM integration platform for design, construction and operation of complex projects and structures, launched in 2011. The web-based system used plug-ins to integrate data from Autodesk’s AutoCAD 3D, Revit and Navisworks, to create a single BIM dataset. The goal was to reduce clashes and errors while projects were still at an early virtual stage (something also flagged by Jon Antevy last year). To date, this has been deployed on a range of projects, including one of the top five largest projects in the world with an aggregate project value of over $8 billion.

Ron Antevy, President and CEO of e-Builder said:

“BIM adoption rates are on the rise as facility owners seek new strategies to improve project outcomes and reduce the risk on their projects. This acquisition strengthens our commitment to provide the most complete system to manage capital projects specifically for the facility owner. While many project management and BIM technologies are available for contractors and designers, our combined technology will provide the only integrated system that is designed from the ground up to meet the needs of the building owner throughout the process from planning to construction.”

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/e-builder-boosts-its-bim/

Jul 22 2015

Skysite: a repro take on collaboration

SkysiteLachmi Khemlani’s AECbytes provides a thoughtful review of a new cloud-based document management application for construction from US reprographic business ARC Document Solutions, called Skysite.

Reprographic resistance

Over the years, a number of reprographic houses and printing/plotting hardware providers have sought to cushion themselves from the impact of the shift from paper-based documentation to electronic sharing of information in construction. For example:

  • over a decade ago, several of the UK collaboration vendors offered print services that allowed drawings stored online to be printed by some of the construction industry’s leading repro houses (Hobs, for example)
  • in 2006, Océ aimed to put reprographers at the heart of the construction project team’s IT strategy on the premise that “paper is essential”; later (and now owned by Canon), in 2012, it launched a simple web-based technical document product called Eneo (now apparently discontinued).
  • HP, renowned for its large format printer and plotter products, launched its own cloud-based drawing management solution, ePrint & Share, in October 2010
  • from 2010, UK-based vendor Asite worked with various reprographics businesses, notably through the ReproMAX network, as it sought to establish a foothold in the US

Skysite

The Skysite system mainly targets the construction phase, and is largely focused on sharing PDFs, which immediately puts it a disadvantage compared to most of the more mature collaboration platforms and emerging platforms such as AutodeskA360 (post). These both cover the whole project life-cycle and offer wide support for a range of file formats. Files that are not in the PDF format cannot currently be opened in the Skysite viewer (common CAD formats are not supported), but need other applications on the user’s machine. Skysite mobile apps are available for Android and iOS devices, and there is a Windows Sync app too; these allow mobile users to access projects and documents created earlier from a computer, and support PDF annotation and markup. And, of course, there is a link to the ARC reprographics service should printed output be needed.

Not paper-less (yet), but certainly less paper

As a relative newcomer to the US construction market, Skysite’s website says little about its current customer base, but presumably it will be marketing itself to existing ARC customers. However, I suspect a good number of these may already be using more established and more comprehensively-featured SaaS construction platforms; Lachmi lists several alternatives: “Autodesk A360, Newforma Project Center, Aconex, Bentley ProjectWise, Asite, and others”. OK, Skysite may be relatively inexpensive (a 20-user plan, for example, has a US$245 start fee, and is then US$200/month), but its CAD-less, PDF-only functional drawbacks may deter some, or they may opt for simple generic cloud storage solutions such as Dropbox

But it’s not just the competitive landscape that poses a challenge to Skysite and ARC (and others from the AEC reprographics field). The AEC industry has been moving, albeit somewhat glacially, away from paper since the late 20th century. The emergence of SaaS collaboration platforms around the turn of the century was one key development; growing adoption of mobile devices (particularly tablets) has been another; and the shift from CAD towards building information modelling, BIM, will continue the trend. Even emulating document-based processes is becoming outdated as the construction sector and its clients starts to develop new structures, systems and behaviours based on sharing models and data right across the project life-cycle.

Businesses such as ARC may thrive while some in the AEC sector resist the inexorable move towards BIM, but as the ‘Late adopters’ and ‘laggards’ eventually make the change, adopting common data environments, reprographics-type business models based on hard-copy and electronic document or drawing sharing will quickly become outdated.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/skysite-a-repro-take-on-collaboration/

Jul 21 2015

Extranet Evolution glitch: apologies

Apologies to anyone affected by a sudden flurry of apparent new Extranet Evolution blog posts yesterday – they were, in fact, as recipients quickly remarked, reposts of old blog posts.

I was doing some extensive blog ‘spring-cleaning’, including dealing with a host of broken links (one of the the consequences of having maintained a blog for 10 years and accumulated nearly 1,600 blog posts, some of them transferred from a different blogging platform). I tried a bulk process, but accidentally deleted around 25 blog posts. In returning these to the live site, a WordPress plugin republished updates to some of my social media channels – hence, some followers received a few “blasts from the past”.

I have now deleted all the updates, slapped myself soundly and promised not to do it again.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/extranet-evolution-glitch-apologies/

Jul 17 2015

New look Newforma

Newforma’s transition from on-premise PIM software provider to being also a developer of SaaS and mobile applications looks set to continue.

Newforma-logoNewforma logo 2015Newforma has been busy reviewing its business, its customers’ and end-users’ needs and the markets in which it operates (I’ve had a couple of conversations with its marketing team along the way), and the New Hampshire, US-based project information management software provider has just launched a new website (with versions for each of its main regions), a new logo, and some new messages.

Newforma ind-team-enterprise image

CEO Ian Howell has written a blog post (The new Newfoma: evolving by intention) in which he talks about “a new chapter in our evolving Newforma story”. He says project information management – and information in particular – remains a driver, but there is now more data, and it’s more distributed, making collaboration ever more important. He continues

Ian Howell, Newforma CEOBut perhaps the most complicating factor influencing collaboration and project information management has been the now-widespread use of apps on smartphones and tablets. They create more places for information to hide or be lost, more ways to collaborate, and higher expectations of how software should work.

To keep up with evolving technologies, methods of collaboration, and project information needs, Newforma has offered new products for the cloud and on mobile devices. Our new look is one way of showing the world we’re rededicating ourselves meeting our customers ever-changing business needs.

Ian says the new Newforma is marked by three emphases:

  • We’ll provide more apps to make individuals more productive as they quickly and easily capture and consume project information away from their desks.
  • We’ll expand our use of the cloud to enable project teams to share and collaborate for more timely, informed decisions.
  • We’ll enrich our enterprise software’s ability to connect disparate sources of information for the purpose of optimizing organizational performance, analyzing data, and managing information for greater compliance, transparency, and accountability.

My view

For a business where some senior managers were once deeply dismissive of Software-as-a-Service (in 2006 Bob Batcheler described extranets as ‘digital landfills’, while Ian Howell said the ASP experience – ie: Software-as-a-Service – had “no positive traction in AEC”) the business has clearly come a long way. It has, indeed, had to adapt to the growing positive traction of cloud-based AEC applications and customer and end-user demand for mobile access to data, and I have written regularly about its progress from its launch as an on-premise software provider to one offering conventional, SaaS and mobile applications.

Newforma acquired a small US SaaS construction collaboration vendor and finally embraced the cloud in August 2012; at the same time it bought an app developer to help it expand into mobile tools, and began to look at building information modelling as the UK market in particular pushed forward with BIM adoption (BIM, SaaS and mobile driving Newforma developments, October 2012). By 2014, it was actively expanding its mobile and cloud functionality, later (October 2014) acquiring SmartUse.

The market is continuing to evolve and Newforma is clearly keen to continue to evolve too. BIM is likely to have a continued big impact, particularly as projects make the transition from design and construction and into operation and maintenance mode, and I expect there will be an emerging demand for technology providers to take on long-term data management roles for owner-operators. Technology businesses like Newforma which have largely to date marketed themselves to AEC consultancy and contracting firms to support relatively short-term project delivery may need to evolve into businesses geared up to support industry clients’ long-term built asset data needs.

(By the way, one ExtranetEvolution.com reader reminded me that sometimes a brand overhaul can be a precursor to a new investor push. Almost exactly a year ago, for example, Aconex rebranded and the following day the Australian newspapers began to talk about a possible IPO. Not sure that will happen here, but you never know….)

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/new-look-newforma/

Jul 16 2015

4Projects facing Au$9m reseller claim

4Projects by Viewpoint - blueThe UK-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor 4Projects, now owned by Viewpoint, is was being sued in the Australian courts by Melbourne-based Project Collaboration, once the exclusive reseller of the 4Projects platform in Australasia.

According to a statement of claim filed in the County Court of Victoria,* Project Collaboration Pty Ltd is was suing 4Projects Ltd for breach of contract, claiming almost Au$9m (around £4.4m or US$6.7m) in damages. A hearing date has had been set for next Monday, 20 July 2015.

Court action backstory

projectCollaboration.com.au-logoIn February 2012 4Projects appointed Project Collaboration as an agent to sell licences and provide first line account management and support services to third party clients in Australia for use of 4Projects’ software (27 August 2012 post). This agreement was subsequently amended in June 2013, applying for a further four years commencing 1 July 2013, with an option to renew for two further years.

In between these two agreements, in February 2013, 4Projects was acquired by Viewpoint, which had an Australian office, headed by Scott Haladay, selling ERP software in the region. This wasn’t initially seen as any impediment to Project Collaboration; indeed, just before the variation agreement was signed in June 2013, both sides appeared very positive about the relationship – see ProjectCollaboration growing 4Projects in Australia.

But on 1 April 2014, Project Collaboration received a letter from Viewpoint seeking to terminate the agreement. Almost simultaneously their access to the 4Projects system was shut down, effectively preventing them from providing first line support or demonstrating the application. Project Collaboration rejected the termination (Viewpoint was not a party to the agreement) and sought to regain access to the 4Projects platform, but on 16 April, 4Projects responded by claiming a material breach of the contract and repeated their intention to terminate the contract. (Around that time, when I asked 4Projects about the state of the relationship, on 22 April 2014, I was told it was “in transition” and that 4Projects would be sold as Viewpoint for Collaboration in Australasia by a directly employed sales team.) The court records show Project Collaboration filed a writ for damages on 6 May 2014.

Project Collaboration disputes the breach of contract claim and states it has been deprived of an opportunity to earn profits performing the agreement for the balance of the initial term and for the optional further term of the agreement, and has thereby suffered loss. It argues that 4Projects was not entitled to take its actions, or was “recklessly indifferent as to whether it was entitled to do so”; it claims “the conduct of 4P constituted wilful misconduct in the performance of its obligations under the agreement” and is seeking “Indemnity for its loss and damage suffered by reason of 4P’s wilful misconduct”. A figure of Au$$8,991,378 was mentioned in the initial statement of claim.

Some 14 months after the first court filing, it appears from the publicly available court filing records that initial efforts at mediation came to nothing, and efforts by 4Projects to limit the proceeding to the question of liability were refused. As is common in civil disputes, 4Projects has also made a counterclaim against Project Collaboration. The latter’s team has now moved on to other businesses, but I asked 4Projects for comment. They said (not unexpectedly in light of the ongoing proceedings):

I’m afraid we won’t be able to talk to you about this at this point.  The matter is “live” and as such it would be inappropriate of us (or in our view any party) to pass any comment at this time.

Update (17 July 2015, 10.45am BST) – It appears that an out-of court settlement has been agreed. According to the court filing records, Monday’s hearing has been cancelled, and the case’s filing details were updated, stating:

1. The Proceeding (including the Counterclaim) be dismissed with no order as to costs with the right of reinstatement reserved to the Plaintiff
2. Reserve costs.

* The statement of claim is available to visitors to the court upon payment of a small fee; a copy was sent to me by a follower of this blog.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/4projects-facing-au9m-claim/

Jul 15 2015

Aconex acquires Worksite

Acquiring a SaaS project cost management platform gives Aconex a potential leadership position when customers want both cloud collaboration and project cost control.

Aconex logo 2014Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS collaboration technology provider Aconex has announced an agreement to acquire Worksite, provider of a SaaS project cost management solution, for approximately Au$6.5m, (c £3.1m or US$4.8m) from ARES Project Management LLC.

ARES and Worksite

Worksite logoCalifornia-based ARES is well-known in the US project management world as a provider of on-premise cost management, field management and estimating software. It began developing a complementary application, Worksite, in 2012, and this cloud-based integrated project cost controls platform was finally launched in November 2014. The Worksite business is led by CEO Mike Jackson, President of ARES from 2009 to 2013, after which he focused full-time on developing this cloud offering.

Integrating Worksite into Aconex

Under the terms of the acquisition agreement, Aconex will purchase the intellectual property and assets of Worksite for an initial cash payment of A$3.0 million at close, and up to A$3.5 million in cash and Aconex shares in FY17, subject to certain performance conditions for the business.

Worksite screengrabsAconex says it plans to integrate Worksite’s solution with its project-wide collaboration platform to offer customers unified cost management across the project lifecycle, including earned value management, budgeting, cost performance, and forecasting. The acquisition supports the company’s strategy of expanding its product functionality and global presence, while accelerating its entry into the collaborative cost management market.

The integration of cost management with project-wide collaboration enables participants both within and across organisations to collaborate around a secure, centralised view of project budget and costs.  Asset owners, contractors, programme managers and project teams can tightly coordinate cost management to reduce risk and improve efficiency in payments, change management, claims, audit compliance, performance reporting, and other core processes.

Aconex plans to increase research and development costs for the integration of Worksite and the build-out of its integrated cost management solution. As a result, the acquisition is expected to be moderately dilutive to earnings and profit for the next 24 months, but Aconex does not expect this to impact its current public forecast of FY15 and CY15 financial results (see Aconex boosts investor hopes).

Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper said:

Leigh Jasper“Connecting cost management to the Aconex platform will bridge internal cost systems and external collaboration, providing a single source of truth for better financial visibility and control. Participants project-wide will be able to track budgets, contracts, claims and payments, and cost and schedule changes – both actual and potential. All of this information will be connected to collaborative processes managed on Aconex, offering new insights into the current and forecasted status of the project. Project cost information can now flow seamlessly from the collaboration platform into internal enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. The acquisition of Worksite will further increase the value that we deliver to our customers, broadening the Aconex product portfolio and accelerating the growth of our global user network.”

My view

The Worksite deal is only Aconex’s second acquisition, following the June 2012 deal to buy the Adelaide, Australia-based Grazer smart manuals business in June 2012. It is also Aconex’s first international acquisition and the first since its December 2014 IPO; since then, its shares have prospered, despite the weak Australian dollar, trading at over Au$3.40 earlier this month (post); a week later (9 July) they peaked at Au£3.76. Today, at market close, they were valued at Au$3.28.

Two competitors in particular will be nervous about this latest Aconex move.

First, Anglo/German SaaS infrastructure lifecycle management provider Conject was for a long time able to differentiate itself from competitors by offering project cost control functionality developed out of a close working relationship with UK-based Bovis LendLease during the early 2000s. Only yesterday, the Woking-based business announced the release of new commercial management capabilities strengthening its EVM capabilities.

Second, US-based Viewpoint has long been a player in the construction ERP market, and it became an active competitor to Aconex following its acquisition of UK-based SaaS construction collaboration vendor 4Projects in February 2013. Two months ago, in May 2015, its UK user conference heard about the group’s plans to add financial capabilities to its SaaS applications. The expected timescale for this integration of capabilities is also similar to that envisaged for Aconex’s assimilation of Worksite

Of course, both the above collaboration businesses – Conject and 4Projects – are predominantly UK-based with strong regional operations across Europe. Aconex has been investing heavily in its US operation, and I would expect its first efforts will be to incorporate the Worksite functionality into its core platform for use by its US customers and end-users. After that, it will presumably look to internationalise the solution so that it can be applied in other economies. If this sequence is correct, US vendor e-Builder, which also offers financial tools including EVM (post), may also soon feel some competitive pressure.

The same might also be true of Bentley Systems who acquired EADOC in March 2015 to complement its ProjectWise application and to add some project cost management capabilities to its product portfolio. When I talked to Eric Law about that deal in April, he said he was surprised that EADOC was “still unique in being the only US product to combine document collaboration and project cost control functionality”. That distinction is clearly about to disappear.

Update (15 July 2015: 22.30pm) – The deal has also attracted interest from other tech bloggers; for example, US-based PLM specialist Monica Schnitger has written about the acquisition.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/aconex-acquires-worksite/

Jul 15 2015

Think Project! launches BIM toolset

Thinkproject-logoMunich, Germany-based SaaS construction collaboration provider think project! has launched what it describes (see news release) as “a comprehensive solution package for BIM collaboration, focusing on project- wide coordination and communication processes.”

I talked to the company extensively in late 2014 about its BIM strategy and saw some of the work in progress (post); I also met CEO Thomas Bachmaier in London more recently and we talked further about BIM and the collaboration market.

The company has spent several further months developing three new modules for managing digital building information models in a centralised, version-safe manner, combining different partial models and project documents as well as for reviewing all 3D models easily via a standard web browser:

  • BIM ImageBIM Exchange allows even large-scale building information models to be organised in the central project documentation in a version-safe manner. Digital models are managed transparently and workflows for distributing, revising and approving these models are supported and documented.
  • BIM Coordination offers options for combining digital building models from different project participants (partial models) and linking them with associated 3D markers, comments and other project documents such as plans.
  • BIM Review allows 3D building models from all project participants to be visualised, checked and used directly in their internet browsers.

Sven-Eric Schapke, business development manager BIM at think project!, says:

Sven-Eric Schapke“Over the past few months, we have been working intensively on the final design of our solution for BIM Collaboration. We are delighted to have now created a comprehensive package that allows BIM to be implemented project-wide. It was especially important to us that clients and contractors retain authority over information concerning their model data, optimise their processes through BIM Collaboration and can get the most out of BIM.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/think-project-launches-bim-toolset/

Jul 15 2015

Conject strengthens EVM capabilities

Conject the ILM groupConject enhances commercial management solution, enable dynamic financial forecasts for projects.

Anglo-German SaaS construction collaboration technology provider – now positioning itself as an infrastructure lifecycle management (ILM) group – Conject has launched new financial management capabilities in its applications for commercial teams and asset owners.

Director Nick Sansome says:

Customers who use the existing cost management and EVM [Earned Value Management] capabilities in the Conject platform improve the visibility and control over their expenditure and improve the financial outcome of projects. The new enhancements provide the capability to forecast not only costs, but critically the work performed over time, and compare these to budget expectations.

As BIW, Conject invested in developing a strong project cost control module, and this has helped differentiate the business from rival collaboration vendors (it began marketing its EVM capabilities more recently in late 2013). However, there have been recent signals from AEC SaaS competitors such as 4Projects (post) that they plan to add financial capabilities to their applications (US vendor e-Builder also offers EVM – February 2014 post).

conjectCDE logoNonetheless, Conject believes it is currently unique amongst collaboration software vendors in providing customers with financial management capabilities integrated into its Common Data Environment platform (March 2015 post), enabling in-depth financial reporting and EVM across projects and programmes (cost is often described as the fifth dimension, 5D, of building information modelling). The platform supplements back office ERP [Enterprise resource planning] systems by providing day-to-day supply chain cost control and EVM features that ERP does not provide.

Its new capabilities dynamically forecast the “Earned Value” of the work completed until the end of a project.  This is valuable to asset owners and commercial teams – they can now control project costs, and calculate detailed budget comparisons at various points throughout the project.

The new functionality is the headline item in Conject’s July 2015 release. Other capabilities include extending integration with MS Outlook accounts on mobile devices. Team members who do not have system logins can now send and receive files (documents, drawings and models) and process transactions from their email inboxes.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/conject-strengthens-evm-capabilities/

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