Aug 10 2018

Wiseworking: bespoke cloud workflows

Eschewing the ‘one-size-fits-all, but configurable’ approach of some SaaS vendors, WiseWorking has opted to create cloud-based mobile solutions which are partially customised to meet the exact business process needs of its customers.

WiseWorking logoIn August 2014, I met Justin Williams, visiting London from Australia, to talk about Wiseworking, a Melbourne-based customer-focused construction app developer avoiding a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. For various reasons the resulting post never got published, but when Williams returned to London in May 2018, we met up again so that I could catch up on developments.

Back story

Wiseworking was established by Williams (an experienced project manager with 15 years in construction and operations, including seven years at Probuild Construction) in Melbourne in 2011. Like other industry people who have become software developers (the UK’s Aphex founders are recent examples), he was frustrated with the adequacy of existing solutions, particularly on mobile devices (he talked of having a “sausage finger philosophy” that guides his thinking on the efficiency and ease-of-use of the user interface).

He adopted a mobile-first approach to the platform, and then started by quizzing potential customers about business challenges they needed to overcome, rather than asking what functionality they wanted. This led Wiseworking to research, build and test a series of cloud-based applications – initially deployed across six client organisations – to identify the key requirements for various construction and post-construction activities, including quality assurance, quality reporting, progress monitoring and operational health and safety.

Wiseworking used HTML5 approaches to be as device-agnostic as possible, then created a web back-end to support the customer’s reporting, document and data management needs. It is not a single ‘one-size-fits-all’ application; instead, it is more of a consultative approach, building on what generally works out as an 80% fit and then moulding the remaining 20% of the required capability so that the whole application exactly meets the needs of the customer organisation.

Often the requirements start small, but, as a trusted advisor, Wiseworking is often appointed to add further capabilities – sometimes adapting existing Wiseworking functionality, other times adding new bespoke tools (we talked about supporting particular activities such as a user’s ‘Safety Walk’ or a bespoke Site Diary). Williams sees this as a model to grow a consultancy services and technology business, deploying mobile applications to support role-based working in customer organisations. Some of Wiseworking’s accounts started out as modest projects (Au$40,000), but have since more than quadrupled in size as the customer has added further requirements, making it a rewarding sale for the consultant involved.

2018 update

Still growing organically (but considering an investment round “in the next year or so”), WiseWorking is now turning over around Au$2m, growing revenues 100% year-on-year, Williams said. The business has moved to larger offices, appointed an experienced CIO, and now employs eight full-time staff plus a network of contractors across Australia and the Philippines. It has over 20 customers, including two of the top three contractors in Australia, with individual company user bases numbered in the 1000s, plus extensive use down contractors’ supply chains. Williams is now looking to expand WiseWorking’s customer network outside Australia, with south-east Asia, the Middle East and the UK among his first target regions.

WiseWorking productsAs might be expected, Williams sees Oracle’s Aconex as the largest and most mature competitor in Australasia, followed by Procore (post)* and Zutec ( but “Viewpoint less so”), but says WiseWorking’s independence has helped, along with its willingness to really get to know the customer. He summed up the company’s philosophy as “a bespoke approach with a generic mindset” – initial projects may start with, say, defects management tools, but as customer relationships mature, he says WiseWorking expands its reach, applying other areas of its product portfolio such as site diaries or post-construction operation and maintenance solutions. Document management (mainly focused on correspondence and document control), commissioning management and procurement modules have also been developed – “it’s a highly modular approach – we can ‘burst up’ or ‘burst down’ very quickly as our customers’ needs change from month to month.”

Solutions are typically licensed on either a per-project basis (with unlimited users) or via an enterprise license (allowing unlimited users and projects) – approaches which encourage collaboration down the supply chain, Williams said.

While BIM is not (yet) nationally mandated in Australia, Williams is already looking at opportunities to improve the sharing of BIM-related data, getting involved with the “BIM-MEPAUS” standards-setting initiative focused on mechanical, electrical and plumbing services from design through to  operation of a building.

* When I wrote about Procore’s Australian expansion, I mentioned the US business had appointed construction SaaS veteran Milton Walters to lead its APAC marketing. Walters is now CEO at Hammer Technologies (HammerTech)

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/08/wiseworking/

Aug 07 2018

AEC IT and SaaS spend growing?

US research hints at growing investments by construction businesses in ICT, with strong interests in mobile and cloud-based technologies.

Almost since I first encountered what we now describe as cloud-based computing in the construction sector (in 1998), I have been monitoring trends in its adoption and use. In the early 2000s, for example, construction businesses under-invested in IT, and there was widespread reluctance in many construction organisations to let commercial software providers manage their data on their behalf.

SaaS tipping pointBut, over time, this reluctance has reduced. Web-savvy IT managers and directors in many construction businesses realised that their core business was about undertaking construction projects, not running expensive and constantly expanding IT infrastructures. Moreover, they were able to transfer the risks and responsibilities of securely managing data and applications to outside organisations for whom this was their core business (in some of my industry talks, I use a graphic, right, which suggests the tipping point came around 2012). Simultaneously, some businesses in the traditional construction software sector began to switch from providing feature-heavy, on-premise applications with huge up-front license fees to delivering software that could be accessed remotely via browsers and mobile apps on a pay-as-you-go subscription basis.

AEC SME research

These trends continue to influence construction software buying habits. A research snapshot undertaken in late 2017 in the US by Software Connect looked at the current technology and software uses—as well as future plans of 158 construction industry professionals from small to midsize (SMB) businesses in North America. The key findings published in January 2018 included:

  • Expect drones to be commonplace. 26% of SMB construction professionals are already using or plan to use by 2020.
  • Expect larger tech budgets. 81% of respondents plan to spend more on technology over the coming year compared to last.
  • Project tracking, estimating, and job costing are the most commonly required software functions.
  • Software ease-of-use is king. Cited as the most important factor when purchasing new software, even over software functionality and cost.
  • Construction software buyers are more willing to review cloud-hosted software. 5% more than all other industries.

Research by Gartner in 2012 suggested construction businesses spent, on average, about 1.2% of revenues on IT (making the construction industry one of the lowest spenders of all industries). And several reports on digital transformation (see the Mckinsey Global Institute 2015 and 2016 reports on the US and Europe, for example) show construction lagging just about every other industry sector. So it is gratifying to see signs that some construction businesses are planning to spend more on IT – the Software Connect survey found around a third (32%) of US SME construction businesses planning to spend more on IT.

Increased ICT expenditure

Construction is forecast to be a $14 trillion [c. £11 trillion] global industry by 2025. If the global construction sector raises its ICT spend to the level – c. 2.5% – of many manufacturing sectors (perhaps encouraged by exhortations towards greater standardisation and increased use of offsite manufacture techniques to deliver built assets), then total construction industry spend on ICT might be around $350 billion [c. £270 billion] by 2025.

Of course, not all this spend will relate to construction-specific applications. Many businesses already invest heavily in datacentres, internal hardware and the desktop, laptop, tablets and mobile devices used by their employees. Back-office applications and standard office tools, plus expenditure on telecommunications and IT support, will also eat into ICT budgets. But new ICT investments will also need to be made in training and in integration with legacy systems – the Software Connect survey identified three main obstacles:

  • Insufficient commitment of resources
  • Field-based resistance to large-scale implementation
  • Incompatibility with legacy systems

The survey’s commentary cites 2016 research by the UK’s BRE Academy which identified a digital skills gap in construction (I wrote about this research in March 2016 in relation to a construction skills research project, SkillsPlanner, on which I was then working). And I repeatedly remind conference audiences that the UK BIM programme is just part of a much wider reform initiative which is far more about changing industry cultures, people and processes (90%) than about implementing new technologies (10%).

Cloud-hosted software

Software Connect Mobile useSoftware Connect asked its survey respondents if they’re “open to reviewing cloud/hosted software” and found “construction businesses are especially open to cloud-hosted software (typically 5% more likely than other industries).” Openness was around the 87% mark, while 58% of SMB construction professionals said their business at least “sometimes” relied on mobile or tablet-based applications.

This is a useful update on research undertaken by Capterra in 2015 which showed SaaS tool adoption had grown to almost half, with a “pretty big explosion” anticipated as more people adopted mobile working.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/08/aec-it-and-saas-spend-growing/

Aug 03 2018

Sherlayer CDE – an update

Sherlayer logoJust over three years ago, I noted Belfast, Northern Ireland-based Sherlayer was about to launch as a Software-as-a-Service, browser-based collaboration platform for construction. Their name cropped up again in conversation with another technology vendor this week so I took a fresh look at the Sherlayer website.

Sherlayer is a product developed by Sherwood Systems, a Sage reseller and IT systems provider (it also has an office in Dublin; in September 2015, the company also launched a 3D PDF conversion service, Sher3D, but this appears to be no longer available).

The core offering is a “dynamic drawing, document and audit management” solution for the construction industry, offered as a complete solution (“One product, one price – … no set-up fees, no cancellation fees, switching fees, or complicated modules. Once you agree a price you get the full package”), and claims to be “up to 60% less expensive” than its competitors.

Pricing-wise, the Sherlayer product is offered via three different licensing approaches – per project, per user (minimum three users, at £14 per user per calendar month, with “bespoke pricing available for 20+ users”) or per company. The latter two models both allow unlimited projects and users. A two-month free trial offer is also available.

BIM CDE

Sherlayer dashboardIn 2015, Sherlayer was described as “BIM Level 2-compliant”; the product features are aimed at managing both BIM and non-BIM projects, and Sherlayer is positioned as a common data environment (CDE) that will help an organisation achieve BIM Level 2. It supports 3D model viewing in the browser, and provides various communication channels including instant messaging, push notifications, screen-sharing and video-conferencing. All data, including conference audio, is securely stored and cannot be deleted, ensuring auditability. Other features include a document upload system that helps ensure BS1192:2007-compliant file naming and numbering, and the ability for users to check files out of the platform to work on them. BIM support apparently also includes approval processes, 3D IFC federated models, and COBie data.

The business appears focused on small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs) – which comprise the bulk of construction industry firms – and, as well as some of the high-end solutions such as Aconex, Asite, Autodesk BIM360, Bentley ProjectWise, GroupBC and Viewpoint For Projects, would therefore appear to be competing with rivals such as BuilderStorm (July 2017 post).

Sherlayer’s website offers some case studies upon request but otherwise provides no details about current customers or projects where the solution is being used, nor metrics on numbers of projects, users, etc.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/08/sherlayer-cde-an-update/

Jul 10 2018

Finalcad expands into civils

French SaaS construction solution developer Finalcad is expanding internationally, and reaching beyond conventional building projects into civil engineering projects.

Finalcad logo 2018French SaaS construction project management solution provider Finalcad has been expanding internationally, its marketing director Aurélien Blaha told me this week. Moreover, almost exactly three years since the business first began to reach outside of its native France market, Finalcad has also expanded the reach of its application beyond a focus on conventional buildings to cover linear civil engineering projects – in particular, roads and rail schemes.

International growth

Aurélien Blaha“We now have a roughly 50:50 split between Europe and southeast Asia,” Blaha said. Singapore was the French company’s first overseas office, and now has 15-20 people, and the company has just opened a Japan office in Tokyo. “We are dealing with the international arms of several major contractors, predominantly based in Japan, Korea and China [examples include Shimizu, Fujita, Takenaka and Kajima], and they are very open to new technologies to help them monitor their projects across the region. Asia is growing very fast for us.” In June 2018, the company opened a hosting facility in Tokyo to serve its southeast Asian customers; it also has hosting facilities in the US and in Frankfurt, Germany.

In mainland Europe, France and the UK remain strong markets for the firm, which identified the digital transformation opportunities arising from BIM adoption in the UK in 2016, when it then exhibited at the Ecobuild show in London. “Other strong markets for us include Belgium, Switzerland, and – in particular – Spain, where we have opened an office in Madrid. We already had some projects in Spanish-speaking Latin America, and are now seeing strong interest in Spain itself. The market there is quite dynamic.”

Civil engineering expansion

Finalcad has also expanded beyond its original focus on buildings to cover infrastructure projects, and in particular to provide progress monitoring tools and workflows to infrastructure project teams. This covers both new-build assets and refurbishment of existing assets – “around 80% of Finalcad usage on roads, for example, relates to small capital value projects relating to existing roads; some of our users refer to Finalcad as a ‘WhatsApp for Roads’,” says Blaha. The company recently announced deals with French infrastructure group RATP, the roadworks business unit of Eiffage Group, and the Trans-Sumatra Toll Road mega-project of Indonesian contractor PT PP.

Finalcad on tabletRail projects are another area where Finalcad is being deployed – again to cover both new works and repairs to existing track and stations. Using the Finalcad Live mobile app (available on iOS and Android) on GPS-enabled mobile devices, users can capture details including geolocation data. French state-owned public transport operator RATP (which also operates some transport routes in London) is a customer in this sector.

The energy sector, including nuclear, is another area where Finalcad customers are expanding use of the platform, though the business hasn’t yet developed toolsets to support some types of linear or distributed energy infrastructure (for example, power distribution grids or offshore wind farms). And in south America, Finalcad also has some natural resources clients, including a mining customer operating in Peru.

From field to enterprise

This expansion into support for infrastructure is partly a reflection of the demand by customers for field-based tools, says Blaha.

“Many of our customers are general contractors, and 85% of their users want information in the field. They also want to collaborate with their subcontractors, and most of these are highly mobile small-to-medium-sized businesses. It makes sense for them to have information readily available on a mobile platform.”

Finalcad’s business model was initially solely based on per-project licensing – “This encourages adoption and use of the application down the supply chain,” – and the company now has over 200,000 direct users of the solution, with another 800,000 included in email distribution of reports and notifications from the platform. However, as adoption has extended across multiple projects, customers are now able to purchase the solution via enterprise agreements (Eiffage is a recent example).

Blaha says enterprise adoption has also grown in parallel with digital transformation of the whole design-to-construction process. “Digital maturity has evolved,” he says. “Users initially wanted to collaborate on design information – now they want to see how design information is being applied in the field, and gather as-built data. We are also having more conversations with senior executives about how they can reuse data across their businesses too.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/07/finalcad-expands-into-civils/

Jul 02 2018

Concord and T-Con

In June 2017, US-based Concord Project Technologies launched its cloud-based collaboration platform T-CON aimed at EPCs and owners in the energy and petrochemical markets.

Concord logoI was recently asked about a collaboration business called Concord, and had to confess I had not heard of them. My contact referred me to Concord Project Technologies, a Palo Alto, California, US-based business that was founded by Olfa Hamdi in early 2017. According to its website it specialises in project information integration implementation of advanced work packaging (AWP) for construction projects. Its core platform, T-CON, is described as “a powerful, cloud-based, API-friendly Digital Platform purpose-built for complex capital projects,” and its target market appears to be owners and engineering, procurement and construction contractors (EPCs) working in the energy and petrochemical sectors.

Originally from Tunisia, Hamdi studied in France (at the Ecole Centrale de Lille) and then did a construction engineering and project management masters at the University of Texas in Austin, graduating in 2013. During this masters, she wrote a thesis on Advanced Work Packaging, and in 2013, she founded the Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) Institute to further define a disciplined approach to capital project management. In 2014, she met ‘agile IT’ specialist Khalil Aissaoui (now Concord Project Technologies’ CTO). After identifying strong overlaps between construction and software project management, Hamdi asked Aissaoui to help her create a platform for construction project delivery. 

In the meantime, in 2015, Hamdi assembled a team of experienced capital projects experts, technologists, data scientists, and researchers. They reviewed software programs currently used by capital project managers (including for collaboration, data management, engineering, and analytics), compared these to solutions in the information technology space, and looked at application of agile concepts and methods in various industries. They perceived there was a technology gap in the capital projects market and started to develop T-CON using  a global team of developers located in Tunisia, France, Brazil, Bulgaria and India.

T-CON

According to the company’s website, T-CON (launched in June 2017) is a cloud-based platform that supports collaboration between stakeholders involved in capital project supply chains, “from project initiation and planning through field execution, to decommissioning and start-up and ultimately project closure.” It enables AWP techniques, and supports the creation, development and assurance of “non-engineering semantic information created to support the design and field implementation work defined in the various work packages.”

The platform is described as “people-centered,” facilitating seamless flows of information using innovative algorithms, big data, and artificial intelligence to create connections between essential project components and key people, even when they speak different technical languages and subscribe to different contracting backgrounds. The company claims: “No more interoperability issues. No more communication silos.”

However, the technology is seemingly not deployed off-the-shelf:

“The T-CON™ team has developed an integrated roadmap for digital transformation and cloud migration, purpose-built for your capital project organization and supporting more communication and collaboration between your IT and project teams.” 

Concord says it helps established capital projects organisations “build their cloud migration protocols for in-house project delivery capabilities by designing and implementing their transition to the Capital Projects Cloud using a proprietary operating system supporting a custom-built knowledge architecture and powered by a big-data infrastructure.” (phew!)

While the company clearly has some core technological capabilities – T-CON, an ‘integrated Collaboration Standard’ (iCS), and a real-time field productivity and safety monitoring system (TRT) – each implementation is bespoke to the customer organisation, with Concord forming an ‘Entreprise Transformation & Innovation Alliance (ETIA)’ to manage the process.

Advanced work packaging

For me, mention of AWP immediately summons Bentley Systems to mind. At successive annual Year in Infrastructure conferences, it has promoted its advanced work packaging capabilities, delivered primarlily through its ConstructSim work package server and planner products and through its ProjectWise design integration and worksite products. I also recall some discussion of AWP in presentations from Fiatech at COMIT events that I’ve attended – and some of the same people have been involved in conversations about “lean construction” and detailed work planning and interface management (see my recent posts on VisiLean and Aphex, for example).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/07/concord-and-t-con/

Jun 20 2018

Bentley goes 4D, buys Synchro

Bentley has acquired Synchro to add 4D BIM capabilties to its product portfolio, ‘broadening’ its ProjectWise offerings.

Synchro logoThe US’s Bentley Systems has today (20 June 2018) announced the acquisition of 40-strong UK-based 4D BIM pioneer Synchro Software (for an undisclosed amount). The deal, according to Bentley, “broadens Bentley’s ProjectWise construction offerings.”

Bentley logo 2017Bentley’s portfolio already included ConstructSim, a 4D construction modelling application used in project delivery of industrial plants. Synchro takes the 4D capability wider. Synchro has been deployed to support construction planning, scheduling, and project management strategies across a wider variety of projects, with clients including London’s Crossrail. According to Bentley, Synchro “incorporates other construction variables (human, materials, equipment, falseworks, and space) for safe, reliable, and predictable project delivery performance.” End users will be able to compare construction strategy alternatives—even in early stages of design and bid processes—and to evaluate the feasibility and efficiency of different scenarios.

Bentley says it will incorporate Synchro’s 4D construction modelling through the ProjectWise CDE (it refers to a ‘connected data environment’, rather than the more widely – at least in the UK – common data environment; in October 2017, ProjectWise appeared past the tipping point in its transition from on-premise to being the cloud-based centre of an ‘ecosystem’ of cloud services). As a result, it claims infrastructure project delivery will benefit from “unprecedented digital workflow advancements”. Steve Jolley, Bentley’s VP for construction, says: “for infrastructure projects, integrating Synchro’s 4D construction modelling completes the reach of our ProjectWise CDE.

Crossrail’s Malcolm Taylor says:

“Using 4D models to plan helped speed up the project teams’ understanding of what we needed to do and when. They could also tease out conflicts that were not normally apparent from regular Gantt charts and drawings. Using the 4D model for construction progress also manages payment expectations as it allows teams to readily agree on what’s completed and accepted—as well as producing an excellent as-built record for the future maintainer.”

Bentley Systems’ CEO Greg Bentley describes Synchro as “leading the adoption of 4D construction modelling” for significant projects worldwide. He says extending digital workflows and superseding disconnected planning and scheduling will offer “enormous and immediate” benefits.

My reaction

TomDengenis - CEO of SynchroI have followed Synchro’s development from the mid 2000s, when CEO Tom Dengenis, right, left SaaS construction collaboration technology developer Asite to lead Synchro as it grew and raised funds in 2007. I met Dengenis at another software vendor’s event in 2017, and earlier this month I noted Synchro’s tie-up with Denmark’s GenieBelt (I am not sure how that will survive the Bentley deal).

The deal will immediately excite industry watchers who welcomed the acquisition (announced in December 2017, completed three months ago, in March 2018) of SaaS collaboration technology vendor Aconex by Oracle, provider of the Primavera scheduling toolset and Textura construction payment management platform. We now have at least two major AEC software vendors with strong 4D capabilities alongside design authoring, while Trimble (after its April 2018 deal to buy Viewpoint) and RIB also seek to play in the 5D cost control space.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/06/bentley-goes-4d-buys-synchro/

Jun 20 2018

Asite revenues up 18% in 2017

UK construction collaboration SaaS developer Asite increased its revenues 18% in the year to 30 June 2017, according to its latest report and accounts. 

Asite logo 2012London, UK-based construction collaboration Software-as-a-Service developer Asite increased its revenues 18% in the year to 30 June 2017. According to its latest report and accounts, the group received £7.150m in revenues (up from 2016‘s £6.047m) – at today’s rates, that’s around US$9.42m or €8.16m.

The 18% revenue growth lags behind the 31% growth reported by Aconex in August 2017 (both globally and in its UK operation, though this was boosted by contributions from Aconex Services, the former Conject UK business – post). At its May 2018 customer summit, UK rival Viewpoint claimed that its 2017 EMEA revenues were up 21%.

collaboration vendors revenues to 2017

In 2016, Asite shouted about a 31% jump in profitability. The figure fell 26% in 2017 to £0.733m – around US$0.970m or €0.84m – down from 2016’s £0.993m, and a first dip in Asite profitability since 2010 during the last recession. According to the report, the decrease was due to investments in Asite personnel across all regions to support future growth plans. The company has opened a new office in Hong Kong, and it also highlighted the March 2018 launch of its New Dawn release of Adoddle.

The sophisticated but intensely competitive UK market still accounts for 76.5% of Asite’s global revenues (down from 78% the previous year). Revenues were up in every other region, with North America (at £0.541m) now second biggest in revenue terms, just head of the company’s Australasian operation (£0.522m). Asite’s European operation generated £0.324m.

At the year-end, Asite’s total headcount was 242, up from 227 in 2016. The mainly India-based technical team is now 205-strong. The remainder are made up of professional services (15), sales and account management (10), and finance and administration (12).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/06/asite-revenues-up-18-in-2017/

Jun 20 2018

Aconex (UK) grew 31% in 2017

Aconex logo 2014Now that the Australian-based but internationally operating construction collaboration SaaS vendor Aconex is owned by Oracle it may seem strange to be revisiting its regional financial performance in Europe in the year to 30 June 2017. However, it is useful as a yardstick for the performance of other SaaS construction collaboration vendors, and an indication of the health of the market in general (the business reported separately to the UK-based operations of Conject [see previous post] – acquired by Aconex in March 2016).

Filed at Companies House in May 2018, the report and accounts for Aconex (UK) Limited for the year ending 30 June 2017 show that the business earned revenues of £5.486m (c. US$7.22m or €6.26m), up 31% on the company’s 2016 performance (though this may reflect the impact of customer revenues gained from the UK Conject operation, and that boost is likely to continue as more former Conject customers make the transition to Aconex). For the same period, it reported an operating loss of £100k, compared to a £410k profit in 2016.

The revenues were derived from the UK (£2.231m), from the rest of Europe (£1.635m), and from Africa (including an operation in Algeria now in liquidation) and the rest of the world (£1.613m), with growth reported across all three geographic sectors: of 34%, 54% and 10% respectively.

Update (29 June 2018) – An email from Oracle says: “As of June 1, 2018, the business of Aconex (UK) Limited will be performed by Oracle Corporation UK Limited.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/06/aconex-uk-grew-31-in-2017/

Jun 20 2018

Aconex’s Conject business reported £1.3m profit

Aconex logo 2014Aconex Services Limited – the UK-based business formerly known as Conject Limited, and before that BIW – had a profitable first year of operation as part of the international SaaS construction collaboration technology group Aconex (the Anglo-German Conject group was acquired by Aconex in March 2016).

In a financial report filed at Companies House in April 2018, the Woking, Surrey-based company reported revenues of £4.902m – or about US$6.45m or €5.59m – in the year to 30 June 2017. The figures are down on those reported for the last full year, to 31 December 2015 (post), when the company generated revenues of nearly £6.4m before altering its reporting cycles to align with Aconex group practices. The revenue drop is also to be expected as the business was operating in tandem with Aconex (UK) Limited, and starting the process of transitioning customers from the Conject system to Aconex applications. The report says:

“Across the company’s markets the organisation continued to grow its client base, and secured a number of new enterprise and programme engagements via its sister company, Aconex (UK) Ltd. Many of our existing clients extended their commitment to us by signing new enterprise agreements.”

The company’s headcount dropped from 61 to 47 (presumably due to post-acquisition rationalisation), resulting in lower operational expenses. However, the healthy EBITDA profit of £1.275m is largely due to inclusion in ‘other operating income’ of a £2.2m figure for “transfer pricing income” (I am not an accountant, but I think this relates to intra-group payments to Conject for provision of services to Aconex).

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/06/aconexs-conject-business-reported-1-3m-profit/

Jun 19 2018

Salesforce and construction – much more than CRM

Like several other software giants, Salesforce is exploring opportunities in the construction sector – and looking to develop construction-specific offerings, not just to sell more CRM seats.

Salesforce logoAt the invitation of Andrew Bowles (a long-time industry contact – he worked at what is today GroupBC from 2003 to 2012), I attended the inaugural meeting of the Salesforce Construction Council, held in London on 7 June 2018.

Building out the Salesforce proposition

Since its 1999 foundation by Marc Benioff, Salesforce has become one of the world’s leading providers of cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software. It has capitalised upon growing corporate acceptance of Software-as-a-Service tools over the past 19 years, and also expanded its portfolio through acquisitions and internal development of new products and services. Today, its offerings include:

  • An advanced Platform-as-a-Service (Lightning) upon which customers’ developers can build their own applications (desktop and mobile) that can either run standalone or fully integrated with Salesforce’s main applications
  • AppExchange – an online application marketplace for third-party applications running on the Lightning platform
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities – branded ‘Einstein’ – that can analyse and make predictions based on data collected by customers, from conventional CRM data through to social media data streams, data generated by image recognition – we saw an interesting drone example – and even Internet of Things (IoT) signals.

Embracing digital technology

Andrew Bowles addressing Salesforce Construction CouncilBowles and his colleagues (including representatives from partner businesses) briefly explained these technologies to a construction industry audience including several existing customers of Salesforce. They highlighted the industry’s productivity challenges and its widespread continued reliance on creating and then sharing conventional documents, drawings and spreadsheets via email. As a company, Salesforce practices what it preaches when it comes to investing in its workforce – its own experiences show that businesses that invest in their employees outperform those that don’t, attracting better people, retaining them longer, and helping them be more productive.

Yes, we often embrace consumer technologies enthusiastically in our personal lives, but hesitate when it comes to deploying the same types of platforms at work. Concerns about security and trust are often used to justify delaying their deployment in the construction world. Overcome such resistance and there can be powerful opportunities to enhance productivity. Salesforce shared several examples.

Salesforce in action

First, a Salesforce partner, Israeli startup BuilderEdge, demonstrated a Salesforce-based solution that could automate numerous project team processes when organisations deploy repeatable and reusable components in their construction projects, and automatically adjust schedules, budgets, quantities, etc, accordingly.

BuilderEdge reusing building information I talked to one of the presenters, Avi Kaye, afterwards, and we identified there is a strong need to educate traditional construction organisations to rethink their near-bespoke approaches to every project. Offsite and design for manufacture and assembly, DfMA, techniques are increasingly advocated as ‘disruptions’ that could capitalise upon BIM and so improve industry productivity, but many industry professionals tend to start projects almost from scratch.

Second, we heard from Glenigan, which provides construction industry business information services. It had developed a proof of concept with Salesforce to explore how Glenigan’s historical bid data held in Salesforce and/or in Glenigan might be explored using artificial intelligence (“augmented intelligence”) and machine learning to help businesses identify critical success factors in work-winning.

East Sussex Highways customer portalThe third example was closer to Salesforce’s CRM heartland, and underlined that successful delivery of services to end-users requires businesses to be responsive to customers’ needs. East Sussex Highways’ Salesforce-powered portal, operated by Jacobs (formerly CH2M), efficiently captures users’ concerns relating to physical assets (around 30,000 defects per annum), manages its employees’ workflows, and has cut complaints by over 80%.

The final two examples were from residential property. First, we heard a Salesforce partner (London-based CloudShift) explain how its Salesforce-based platform had helped a property developer turn sales prospects into customers, while also efficiently managing on-site snagging processes. Then we heard how not-for-profit social housing organisations were working with Salesforce.org (the social enterprise arm of Salesforce) to streamline facilities management works relating to their physical estates and to build successful community initiatives with residents.

Towards a more customer-oriented industry

As expected, in a highly competitive low-margin sector, there was some keen interest in Glenigan’s example of more targeted work-winning. But I also felt that the construction industry’s ongoing digital transformations …

  • from being document-centric to data-centric
  • from being adversarial and silo-based to collaborative and integrated
  • from lowest-price to best whole life value, and
  • from being focused on project delivery to thinking whole asset life-cycle

… could all be accelerated by more connected approaches, accompanied by some market education. As construction digitally transforms, it will embrace more connected business processes, and will be devising, creating, operating, maintaining and updating built assets that are themselves more connected.

Future citizens will be living and working in smart buildings, many of them located in smart cities, with sensors and other devices constantly streaming data to help users make informed real-time decisions. In such a social, economic and technological ecosystem, the industry currently known as construction cannot solely be concerned about designing and building new assets. It will have to consider the constantly changing needs of its customers and of their stakeholders as they interact with systems of both new and existing assets – and this will heighten the need for technologies that will help businesses be more responsive and more productive.

[Disclosure: I was paid by Salesforce to attend the event. Tweets from the day were shared using the #constructforce hashtag, and I produced a white paper based on the day’s presentations.]

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2018/06/salesforce-and-construction-much-more-than-crm/

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