Feb 08 2017

think project! attracts new investment

Thinkproject-logoIn January 2017, TA As­so­ci­ates, a lead­ing global growth pri­vate eq­uity firm, an­nounced it has com­pleted an in­vest­ment in Munich, Germany-based think project!, a provider of cross-en­ter­prise col­lab­o­ra­tion and in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment soft­ware to the con­struc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing in­dus­tries. Fi­nan­cial terms of the trans­ac­tion were (unfortunately) not dis­closed.

J. Mor­gan Sei­gler, a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at TA As­so­ci­ates (who will join the think project! Board of Di­rec­tors) said:

“We be­lieve think project! is an ex­cep­tional com­pany that has es­tab­lished it­self as a lead­ing provider in a rel­a­tively unique, yet rapidly grow­ing sec­tor. Under the di­rec­tion of Thomas Bach­maier and his tal­ented man­age­ment team, think project! has en­joyed con­sis­tent growth in its core Ger­man mar­ket and in­ter­na­tion­ally. We are de­lighted to part­ner with a com­pany with such a strong foun­da­tion and wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to sup­port the con­tin­ued evo­lu­tion of think project!.”

think project! CEO Thomas Backmaier said:

Thomas Bachmaier“Since our found­ing, think project! has con­tin­u­ously strived to serve our cus­tomers and to help them achieve their goals by cater­ing to their in­di­vid­ual needs. We would like to thank co-Founder and for­mer in­vestor, WAL­TER Beteili­gun­gen und Im­mo­bilien AG, for their his­tor­i­cal sup­port, and are con­fi­dent that our new part­ner­ship with TA As­so­ci­ates will serve to strengthen our brand and fur­ther our growth. We are thrilled to begin work­ing with such an ex­pe­ri­enced and well-re­spected firm, and look for­ward to ben­e­fit­ing from TA’s valu­able in­sight and sup­port.”

Founded in 2000, think project! of­fers a SaaS, multi-ten­ant plat­form used by more than 100,000 users across over 8,000 pro­jects in 40 coun­tries. think project! de­liv­ers a read­ily avail­able and shape­able com­mon data en­vi­ron­ment (CDE) for con­struc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing pro­jects. Since 2015, its so­lu­tions have been build­ing in­for­ma­tion mod­el­ing (BIM)-en­abled, offering ap­pli­ca­tion pro­gram in­ter­faces (APIs) for close in­te­gra­tion with other busi­ness ap­pli­ca­tions and can be ac­cessed via mul­ti­ple touch­points and de­vices. think project! cur­rently sup­ports asset own­ers and gen­eral con­trac­tors across more than 20 sec­tors, in­clud­ing the en­ergy and au­to­mo­tive in­dus­tries, in­fra­struc­ture and gov­ern­ment pro­jects.

European battleground

The com­pany now has ap­prox­i­mately 200 em­ploy­ees across its Mu­nich head­quar­ters, its R&D cen­ters in Berlin and Szczecin, and, as Thomas told me last October, has been strengthening across Europe – in Spain (it established a joint venture with Madrid-based ProjectCenter in September 2016), Poland, Aus­tria (it ac­quired 70% of Aus­trian sales part­ner i-pm in June 2016), the Nether­lands, France (it acquired 60% of Lascom AEC, France’s market leader in product lifecycle management (PLM) and cross-enterprise collaboration software in September 2015), and in Germany (it acquired domestic competitor Conetics in October 2016).

The think project! news release repeats figures also used by global leader, Melbourne, Australia-based Aconex (who acquired think project’s Anglo-German rival Conject in March 2016) saying the global ad­dress­able mar­ket for con­struc­tion col­lab­o­ra­tion soft­ware is es­ti­mated by Frost & Sul­li­van at $5.6 bil­lion with a cur­rent pen­e­tra­tion of less than 10%, im­ply­ing a pre­sent mar­ket size of roughly $500 mil­lion. Ac­cord­ing to re­search from PwC, the global in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion mar­ket is ex­pected to grow 6.5% an­nu­ally to $9 tril­lion by 2025.

Naveen A. Wad­hera, a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at TA As­so­ci­ates, adds:

“With our focus on in­vest­ing in prof­itable, grow­ing busi­nesses, con­struc­tion soft­ware is a highly at­trac­tive sec­tor for TA. Given its well-es­tab­lished pres­ence in Ger­many and ac­cel­er­at­ing growth in Spain, Poland, the Benelux coun­tries and else­where, we be­lieve think project! is well po­si­tioned as a mar­ket leader in con­ti­nen­tal Eu­rope. We look for­ward to work­ing with the think project! man­age­ment team, build­ing on their suc­cess to date and fur­ther­ing the com­pany’s ex­pan­sion through or­ganic and in­or­ganic growth.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/02/think-project-attracts-new-investment/

Feb 07 2017

BC QuickStart launched

Reading, UK-based GroupBC, provider of the enterprise-class Business Collaborator and BC Assure platforms, is looking to command an increased share of the building information modelling common data environment market by launching an SME-friendly version of its CDE platform.

BC QuickStart has been specifically designed, GroupBC says, to help SMEs adopt the standard practices of BIM, ensuring the benefits are attainable for the whole industry and not just those at the top of the chain:

“SMEs make up more than 99% of the UK construction industry, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). With numerous projects delivered by teams of Tier 2 contractors, it is essential that the use of digital construction is encouraged and supported across the industry, collaboratively, so that everyone can reap the rewards that BIM will undoubtedly provide. This includes the improvement in the delivery of digital information – in the right format, to the right people at the right time – meaning that both public and private construction projects, of any size, will benefit from its adoption.

The platform, which costs £14 per user per month and is based on the company’s enterprise solution (to which users can upgrade if they wish), will also help SMEs maintain access to data for future projects, say GroupBC.

“Tier 2 contractors spend many hours using, contributing and updating information for client projects, only to lose access to that information after a project closes. With their own CDE, they can securely work and share that information and re-use it on all future projects.”

GroupBC, privately owned since a management buy-out in late 2014, has been pioneering the use of digital construction solutions since 1998. Its solutions are used by over 20,000 organisations worldwide, including Thames Water, Balfour Beatty, Sainsbury’s and Highways England.

Lower cost collaboration

The cheap, sometimes free, and easy availability of generic online file storage and sharing platforms (eg: DropBox, Box.net, etc) has provided many design and construction businesses with a simple way of sharing conventional, largely 2D project-related information. The platforms may not be particularly sophisticated in terms of commenting, mark-up and/or version control, but in a highly cost-conscious industry they often satisfy an immediate need (and in some cases can be integrated with more industry-specific platforms – both Newforma’s Connector strategy and Aconex’s link to DropBox were launched in 2016, for example), though they won’t easily meet the needs of future projects which are deploying building information modelling approaches.

Competition from low-cost generic file-sharing solutions has also spawned the development of a number of low-cost construction platforms (for example, in the UK and Europe, Collabor8 Online, SherLayer, construct.pm, BuildCloud and GenieBelt; in the US, Jobsite Unite and Skysite, among others). Some of the larger vendors, perhaps most notably Asite with its Key Lite product, have also offered a low-cost (£15/month) start-up version of their main platforms.

[Note: Apologies for the lack of recent Extranet Evolution updates. This was partly due to family and illness issues. I will be tackling the backlog of posts over the next few days and weeks.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/02/bc-quickstart-launched/

Jan 02 2017

Corecon completes suite upgrade

Corecon logoCalifornia, US-based Corecon, a provider of SaaS-based construction estimating, project management and job cost software, has announced new features for its Corecon Mobile app and TeamLink Portal. The updates were developed to complement the increasingly SME-friendly version of Corecon’s browser-based software released in August 2016 (post), with Corecon increasingly marketing the suite as a basis for collaboration connecting office and site personnel plus subcontractors (though not targeting subcontractors in particular, like eSUB – post).

Corecon updates

The modernised iOS and Android Corecon mobile apps have a new user interface and navigation functions, making it easier to view and add construction project information from a smartphone or tablet device. Corecon says field staff can quickly enter daily logs, timecards, miscellaneous expenses and view alerts from the app’s home page.

The apps provide tools available in the Corecon browser-based solution, but capitalise on the features of their individual devices, allowing users to take progress photos, use speech-to-text functions and import contacts directly from their smartphone or tablet. And information entered in Corecon Mobile immediately appears in the browser-based version, eliminating the need for data synchronisation across devices.

Corecon customer, David Pratt, chief estimator/senior project manager at Whitlock & Shelton Construction says:

“The Corecon Mobile app serves as the documentation lifeline between our field and office staff. We primarily use the app as a tool for our construction site personnel to submit daily reports and to track the overall progress of our projects, as well as our subcontractors and our own labor force. Because the new interface mimics Corecon’s desktop version, we are all on the same page and can access the information in a similar fashion, whether we are working on-site or in our office.”

TeamLink updates

The Corecon TeamLink Portal is a user-friendly web-based service that enables subscribers to seamlessly connect project team members, providing the project owner, consultants, subcontractors and suppliers with secure, real-time access to project information.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/01/corecon-completes-suite-upgrade/

Dec 31 2016

eSUB shows investors like SME-focused SaaS

Hot on the heels of a €2m investment in Denmark’s GenieBelt, a US$5m investment in California’s eSUB shows enthusiasm for applications targeting the SME segment which dominates construction delivery.

In just about every construction market, most projects are reliant upon small and medium-sized businesses for project delivery; even if a bigger firm is the main or general contractor, a large proportion of the work packages will still be delivered by SME subcontractors – some of them self-employed individuals. With millions of such businesses participating in project delivery worldwide, and with accelerating adoption of mobile devices across most markets, this is therefore a potentially highly lucrative market for vendors of smartphone or tablet-based applications aimed specifically at construction SMEs. This is a market with many SMEs heavily reliant on manual methods (or on non-construction specific software (see this Software Advice analysis).

For example, I’ve looked at Denmark’s GenieBelt (which raised €2m in funding in September 2016 – post), Corecon and Jobsite Unite in the US, and Australia’s SmallBuilders in the past. And last month I talked about Australia’s TidyBuild and another US-based application: eSUB, which provides mobile and cloud-based project management and document control solutions for subcontractors.

eSUB recently (20 December 2016) announced a US$5 million Series A investment from Revolution Ventures. The company was founded by industry veteran Wendy Rogers, now CEO, and Benny Baltrotsky, now chief strategy officer, and eSUB has been used by clients for major construction projects including the Facebook and Apple headquarters, the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California, and the Freedom Tower in New York City. eSUB points out that subcontractors perform 99% of the work on large-scale construction projects and being able to accurately track their work in the field can make or break their profits. Rogers says:

“When changes occur in the field on construction projects, subcontractors often find themselves unable to accurately capture the work completed. They’re too busy doing the extra work to document it, but subcontractors don’t get paid for the work they do, they get paid for the work they document.”

eSUB says it solves this costly disconnect by implementing a cloud-based back-end solution that ties in with native applications and mobile devices in the field, giving personnel the ability to easily capture information on-site and share it in real-time with the back office for billing purposes and productivity tracking. They say using eSUB results in at least a 50% operational increase by replacing manual processes with automated workflows, and allows contractors to collect 100% on previously undocumented changes in the field.

Bobby Ocampo, Partner at Washington, DC-based Revolution Ventures, says:

eSUB is revolutionizing the enormous subcontractor market that has yet to be adequately served by technology. We are excited to join industry experts Wendy, Benny, and their team to accelerate eSUB’s growth, which will benefit the subcontractor industry by helping them save time, increase profits, and reduce labor costs.”

eSUB’s Baltrotsky says:

eSUB is designed for the hundreds of thousands of companies trapped with legacy solutions and inconsistent manual workflows, to make real business progress. eSUB is changing this reality for subcontractors in the U.S. and abroad.”

Since 2013, eSUB has grown its revenues by over 400%. eSUB plans to use the new funding to add over 40 team members, with a focus on hiring in sales, engineering, customer success, and marketing at its headquarters in San Diego, California.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/12/esub-shows-investors-like-sme-focused-saas/

Dec 30 2016

Nemetschek acquires dRofus

Nemetschek, the Munich, Germany-based AEC software group which already includes Allplan, Vectorworks, Graphisoft, SCIA, Maxon, Bluebeam (a 2014 deal) and Solibri (acquired almost exactly a year ago), has acquired the Oslo, Norway-based SaaS building data management software vendor dRofus. The deal, announced on 20 December 2016, was valued at NOK220m (c. US$25.5m, £20.8m or €24.2m).

From healthcare to BIM

dRofus was started in 2001 by a Norwegian consultancy, Nosyko, which specialised in hospital planning. It was established as a separate software company around ten years later, in 2011, and subsequently founded wholly-owned subsidiaries in Sweden, the US, and Australia (in March 2016, it announced it would be hosting design guidelines relating to Australian health facilities). The company has 28 employees in North America, Asia Pacific and Europe, with its platform provided in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Dutch and English. Forecast revenues for 2016 were around €4.5m (c. US$4.75m or £3.9m).

Healthcare remains the largest and most important market sector for dRofus, but, as with its competitors in this software sector (eg, the initially less SaaS-y, UK-based Codebook InternationalFebruary 2015 post),* it has expanded into other sectors characterised by high building complexity, including airports, sports stadiums, rail projects, prisons and educational buildings.

Its solutions particularly speed up the management of room data – where details of common fixtures, furnishing and equipment are often repeated numerous times. This has made dRofus a valuable companion to BIM authoring applications (it has plugins to AutoCAD and Revit, PDF and Excel export capabilities, and supports IFC import and export), while its SQL-based SaaS architecture means it can be easily accessed by authorised users across a geographically-dispersed, multi-company, multi-disciplinary team. The dRofus customer base includes public and private building owners, designers, engineers and contractors.

Open BIM

dRofus CEO Rolf Jerving (who I met briefly during the 2015 Digital Construction Week conference; post) said:

We will continue our development of our state-of-the-art connections to both ArchiCAD and Autodesk Revit, with an even stronger focus on supporting open data standards in the industry. We can guarantee all our existing customers even better software and services in the months and years to come. The inclusion in the Nemetschek family of brands, is also a perfect fit to address the needs of building owners more strongly.

Nemetschek is clearly looking to capitalise upon the BIM and building data appetites of informed building owners. dRofus complements other Nemetschek solutions, and the company has already partnered with group companies including Graphisoft, Vectorworks and Solibri.

“dRofus is a perfect strategic fit for the Nemetschek Group,” says Nemetschek spokesman Patrik Heider. “With the commitment to Open BIM, we share the same business paradigm. I am convinced that the well-known presence of the Nemetschek Group can support dRofus in expanding internationally,” adds Heider.

[* Disclosure: CodeBook International was a pwcom.co.uk client between from mid-2011 to early 2013.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/12/nemetschek-acquires-drofus/

Dec 21 2016

Clearbox BIMXtra starts with BIM

The BIM Common Data Environment, CDE, market in the UK remains very competitive. Its players include vendors previously active in what was sometimes termed document management, file collaboration or project extranets, but there are also newer players for whom BIM was the starting point.

BIMXtra is a BIM platform that originated in-house at UK contractor Kier, in its process and engineering division. In 2013, the technology division that developed it was spun out as a separate business called Clearbox, which is now based in Basingstoke in Hampshire, and headed by former Kier director Graham Forbes (with Kier as a “supportive investor”). I understand that the system has also been marketed in the Netherlands.

BIMXtra provides a cloud-based common data environment, CDE, where project information can be consolidated, viewed, edited and compiled into intelligent, revision-controlled information, which can be accessed through a standard web browser. The information may be drawn from different software programs, and is then combined in BIMXtra for use by different members of a project team. At the end of a project, BIMXtra can also be used to create COBie outputs from data collected through the job and linked O&M manual.

Clearbox also offers a related mobile product called Insight.

In a recent Building magazine webinar, a major civil engineering project – refurbishment of the Chelsea Railway Bridge (also known as the Grosvenor Bridge) across the River Thames in London – was used as a case study for the two products, where it was claimed it delivered a £865,000 saving and cut 36 days from the project programme for Kier. The case study I later received after the webinar described part of the process gain on the project:

“…to establish a benchmark, spans 1 and 2 were surveyed using traditional paper-based methods. It took two engineers three weeks to record data, go back to the office and then enter it manually into the database. After the first span, the team had identified that it would need another 8 heads to complete the work on time.

In BIMXtra, historical 2D drawings were drafted into a 3D model, containing some 7,900 uniquely identified structure elements. 2D views from the model were loaded to OnSite, our mobile application, so that individual elements could be selected to allow site survey work to be recorded against each element.

When they got to Span 3 the team used both methods as comparison. Using BIMXtra, it took two engineers just 4 days to complete the survey of the span. Data was recorded and stored within BIMXtra, ensuring consolidated information could be retrieved by multiple users, either on site or in the office. With the BIM process fully functional, it at least halved the length of time to process.

My view

The BIM and SaaS startup market is fast-moving, but – regardless of the merits or otherwise of an application – its history and ownership structure will still be a factor in potential customers’ buying decisions. Some construction contractors (and subcontractors and other supply chain members) may be wary of a company that is strongly aligned with a major contractor (I recall how BuildOnline on its various related businesses had shareholders from across a range of UK and German contractors, for example – post; UK-based iSite has a similar issue due to its ultimate ownership by Styles & Wood). Contractor backing can provide some impressive case studies (and deliver some good results from cross-selling – post), but the acid test is whether that SaaS business can also compete with other businesses where there is no corporate mandate (the Building webinar heard that Kier mandates use of BIMXtra as its standard default tool).


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/12/clearbox-bimxtra-starts-with-bim/

Dec 16 2016

SaaS collaboration and cyber-security

December 2016’s ThinkBIM in Leeds provided an occasionally frightening view of just how vulnerable the built environment might be to cyber attack. It also highlighted how SaaS collaboration platforms might also help teams apply more rigorous security processes.

PAS1192pt5 - coverIn May 2015, PAS1192-5 – “Specification for security-minded building information modelling, digital built environments and smart asset management” – became the latest addition to the suite of UK documents focused on building information modelling (BIM). Other documents – notably PAS1192-2 – cover the adoption and use of a ‘common data environment’ (CDE), and this has been a key area for construction collaboration technology vendors, but they will also need to help their customers and project teams address some of their security requirements.

In Leeds, Turner & Townsend’s Nathan Jones gave us the benefit of a non-construction person’s view of the security document (Jones was recruited into the construction industry after working in the armed forces specialising in military grade IT and security-related technologies). From his presentation and roundtable contributions, it was clear that he felt existing construction industry IT practices lag behind most other industry sectors in respect of security (“Often IT security is a bit backward in construction”).

From paper to data

This is, of course, hardly surprising. In the early careers of many people still working in the sector, we mostly exchanged design and construction information by paper. But now, in the early years of the 21st century, we are mainly sharing ‘electronic paper’ – emails instead of letters, Word documents instead of typed reports, PDFs or native files instead of drawings, etc. And we are (or should be) vigilant about security: guarding against software viruses, ‘phishing’ and hacking, and against the theft or loss of our devices, while also continuing to track, store and protect our communications and intellectual property. (And not always successfully: Jones described how details of the internal layout of a Royal Palace were recently freely distributed to potential tenderers via an unprotected email attachment.)

However, the next stages in the digital transformation of the built environment sector are set to make information management more challenging from a security point of view.

Built Asset Security Management

As firms begin to share and to combine or ‘federate’ data-rich 3D, 4D (time) and 5D (cost) models in CDEs, project teams will need to heighten their cyber-security regimes, Jones said.

A shared 3D model may expose intellectual property to competitors. Moreover, a walk-through visualisation of a new building might expose sensitive information about the building’s design – key structural components, locations of key building services, placement of CCTV or other security equipment, for example. Shared 4D models might reveal periods when assets might be susceptible to sabotage or sites could be vulnerable to theft, while a 5D model could reveal commercially sensitive pricing information to competitors.

Published by the British Standards Institute and the Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), PAS1192-5 is intended to help teams identify and guard against risks including:

  • hostile reconnaissance
  • malicious acts
  • loss or disclosure of intellectual property
  • loss or disclosure of commercially sensitive information, and
  • release of personally identifiable information.

ThinkBIM December 2016And our already abbreviation-heavy glossary of BIM terms now includes BASM – built asset security management – as a new discipline. Jones repeatedly stressed the need to build security considerations into project delivery from the earliest stages. Early engagement with a BAS manager will help a project team and the asset owner develop a strong built asset security strategy (BASS) and management plan (BASMP), he said.

Such measures will become more important in an increasingly connected world of not just ‘smart buildings’ but ‘Smart Cities’. We will need to protect information created during delivery of a new built asset, and – just as importantly, and depending on the asset’s sensitivity – protect some or all of the data created by the people and systems in and around that asset, and in any connected or surrounding assets or infrastructure.

At the people level, precautions might include procedures limiting information access to those with defined roles (I was encouraged that Jones identified that some Software-as-a-Service collaboration or CDE platforms do this well: restricting access to certain files, models or data only to people with defined responsibilities), supported by systems of passes, logins, keys or other forms of authentication.

And talking to the SaaS vendor about their systems’ logical security measures won’t be enough. For any sensitive project, teams will need to know where the data is hosted and by who, how it is physically protected, what back-up regimes are applied, etc. (In the early 2000s, I wrote white papers outlining the physical, personal and logical precautions taken to safeguard data and applications by BIW Technologies – later Conject, now Aconex – and devoted a whole chapter of my book to data hosting. I was also reminded of this when I heard Microsoft describing construction and operation of their Azure cloud hosting facilities at Bentley’s November 2016 conference in London – post.)

BASM – it’s about people

As with other aspects of BIM, this is certainly not just about data centres and technology, but people and process. Awareness raising and training will be important: working practices learned in the days of paper or “spray and pray” email will need to be amended, and data vulnerabilities addressed. Often the weak link will not be the software or hardware, but the people that use them (users noting passwords on Post-It notes next to their computers, for example), and, as risks can never be entirely eliminated, Jones also advised that organisations need to plan from the outset how they will respond to security breaches.

In one of the roundtable sessions, former Manchester City Council head of estates John Lorimer asked Jones if this heightened focus on security might counteract recent years’ efforts to get companies and people to share information more readily. “Security should not stop collaboration, so long as it is controlled and people are aware,” Jones replied, “BIM is actually helping to trigger some security-minded conversations much earlier. We may soon be segmenting our construction supply chains according to those who are security-aware, and those who aren’t.” I expect this will also apply to SaaS vendors – how well they satisfy security-related requirements may determine whether or not their services are supplied in relation to sensitive projects.

Update (6pm) – Coincidentally, I just opened an e-newlettter from Steve Cooper, UK general manager of Aconex (formerly the Conject business) which says (after various product updates): “we are making significant investments to enhance our security capabilities to match or exceed Government demands.”

[Disclosure: This is a slightly expanded version of a post first published on the ThinkBIM blog, delivered as part of consultancy support for Leeds Beckett University.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/12/saas-collaboration-and-cyber-security/

Dec 15 2016

South Africa lagging in AEC SaaS use?

CS&IT coverI have written occasional pieces for South Africa’s Construction Software & IT: A Journal for Digital Construction Solutions (post), which is edited by Vaughan Harris (also associated with the Cape Town-based BIM Institute). He has forwarded a link to some survey results relating to technology and building information modelling (BIM) adoption in the region.

The article – SA BIM Survey reveals local industry as technology laggard – suggests South Africa’s construction industry is struggling to reap the full benefits of design software, data and analytics, 3D scanning, mobile solutions and automation, while the sector’s current economic difficulties do not encourage investment in upgrading systems so cash-strapped businesses continue to use their existing software. It appears this may also affecting investment in BIM and cloud-based collaboration, though the latter is also reliant on having reliable internet connectivity.

The journal ran its first South African BIM survey, and as the survey was conducted online (with respondents primarily recruited through email invitations in a BIM newsletter, a Zoho campaign, and links in social media) the results are not representative of the industry at large, but offer a glimpse of how some of the the more digitally engaged organisations in South Africa are using technology in construction and in the built environment.

As well as some clues on favoured design authoring tools, I learned that 55% of respondents said they used cloud-based document management systems such as Asite (the UK-based provider who opened a South African office two years ago), and two Johannesburg-based operations: Docwize and Key360 (provided by project manager SSG Consulting). There was no mention of Docia (since 2014 a RIB-owned solution, which opened a South Africa office in 2012), Aconex (which also has a Johannesburg office) or India’s Wrench (adopted by South Africa’s Murray & Roberts), though this may, of course, be due to the survey sampling methodology.

The survey also showed some smaller firms were still using cloud-based storage tools like Dropbox and Google Drive (despite the latter not being as secure and BIM – or AEC – specific). Sixteen percent of respondents said use of cloud-based document management systems is hampered due to poor internet connectivity.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/12/south-africa-lagging-in-aec-saas-use/

Nov 15 2016

SaaS for AEC subcontractors and SMEs

While some SaaS vendors focus on the needs of main/general contractors and owners, eSub aims to provide an easy-to-use mobile project management solution specifically for subcontractors, while TidyBuild supports SME business needs.

For some years, the construction collaboration technology sector largely focused on web-based platforms to support whole project delivery, creating a single central repository for the principal participants to share documents, drawings, photos and workflows. The introduction of smartphone and tablet technologies during the late 2000s began to change the picture as software developers began to create mobile apps to manage discrete processes (eg: ‘snagging’) out in the field. We have also seen mobile-first applications developed to support smaller scale projects (eg: Denmark’s GenieBelt, in the US Corecon from California and Jobsite Unite from Iowa, and Australia’s SmallBuilders). With the vast majority of construction projects still undertaken by SMEs, it is not surprising that start-ups are looking at the business needs of subcontractors and smaller market players.


esub-logoIn the US, San Diego, California’s eSub.com recognised competitors were focused on the needs of general contractors and owners, and set out to provide an easy-to-use mobile project management solution tailored specifically for subcontractors (or as Benny Baltrotsky, eSub’s strategy director, termed them to me: self-performing contractors). Reminding me a little of Rapport3 (see previous post) and its multi-faceted support for business processes and integration with third party tools (especially accounting packages), eSub provides a familiar set of capabilities:

  • Centralised project management, including document management
  • Time card managementmult
  • Corporate management
  • Resource management
  • A field works mobile app (eSub also has a partnership with Plangrid – read October 2016 news release)
  • Scheduling
  • Accounting integration (eg: with Sage and Viewpoint ERP, among others; the company is involved with the Construction Open Standards Association, COSA, an organisation dedicated to making construction software more interoperable – helping its integration capabilities.)

The SaaS application was apparently launched just before the global financial crisis, but its timely focus on mobile devices ultimately proved attractive to customers looking to switch from a reliance on email and paper-based communications, particularly in a subcontractor sector in which many employees are not office-based. Unfortunately, no details on pricing are given on the website


Tidy BuildAlso targeting this sector is New Zealand’s Tidy International. Founded in 2009 by CEO Kevin Mann, its TidyBuild.com offering is a cloud-based building and construction management solution for job and project control from quote-to-invoice, and (like Corecon – April 2015 post) provides integration with the cloud-based accounting platform Xero.

Tidy’s TidyWork project and job management system “for service providers, architects, engineers, workshops and creatives,” was launched in 2011, followed by TidyStock, a stock and inventory management system that enables efficient use and tracking of resources (the integration with Xero ensures all materials are invoiced effectively – Tidy says the application is used by food manufacturers, sporting and warehousing business, among others), and TidyBuild.

There is a 14 day free trial offer and each of the systems is available at different levels of implementation from ‘Essentials’, through ‘Turbo’, ‘Jet’ and ‘Rocket’ plus an ‘Enterprise’ offering. TidyBuild, for example, starts at US$49/month for 1 manager user and two additional users, with a neat slider quote interface showing a 200 user system would be US$2029/month on the ‘Essentials’ configuration. The ‘Enterprise’ offering of the same product, with four manager users, starts from US$551/month.

As well as Xero and depending upon which configuration level is selected, integration options include Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Project, Capsule for CRM, and DropBox for file storage (in my view, not a perfect solution compared to the sophisticated document control alternatives available in the market for project-based construction collaboration, but probably more than adequate for most AEC SME’s internal needs).

TidyBuild case studies include a New Zealand-based contractor, Adan Larsen, and a Manchester, UK-based surveying practice, BPM Group (as well as its New Zealand base, TidyBuild has an Australia-based reseller, and a London, UK office):

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/11/saas-for-aec-subcontractors-and-smes/

Nov 14 2016

Trimble enhances cloud and mobile tech

Trimble expands its mixed reality, mobile and cloud collaboration capabilities.

Among the subjects I discussed with Bentley executives at the recent 2016 Year In Infrastructure conference in London was an announcement regarding an alliance with GIS technology provider TopCon – and whether this changed Bentley’s relationship with fellow US technology giant, Trimble, announced in 2014 (post).

Bentley’s Aidan Mercer and Bob Mankowski told me the Trimble deal had not been an exclusive one, and that they still enjoyed a cordial relationship with Trimble (during the rest of a GIS-focused interview, we talked about ‘location intelligence,’ and they also underlined Bentley’s commitment to open geospatial standards – geo-coordination was a dimension earlier highlighted by Bentley CEO Greg Bentley).

Trimble SketchUp Viewer for Microsoft HoloLens

Trimble logoTrimble has also been holding a user conference, its bi-annual Trimble Dimension event held in Las Vegas last week, and there were some similarities with events at Bentley YII2016. While Bentley was talking about deepening its relationship with Microsoft and demonstrating Microsoft HoloLens, Trimble has launched Trimble SketchUp Viewer for Microsoft HoloLens. SketchUp, acquired by Trimble in April 2012, can now be used in combination with Microsoft’s mixed-reality platform to visualise design and construction processes, say Trimble (news release). It first started discussing this technology in May 2015.

ProjectSight update

TProjectSight logorimble Dimension also saw the launch of a new edition of the company’s project controls solution, ProjectSight. This product was launched in December 2014 as a low-cost, iOS-only mobile application – targeting users that did not need more sophisticated tools such as Trimble’s Prolog tools or Trimble Connect (launched in October 2014, following the acquisition of GTeam). According to Trimble’s news release, the application has been re-architected to address growing challenges facing construction teams to save time and reduce rework due to lack of interoperability between point solutions. Segment manager Marcel Broekmaat said:

“The unfortunate fallout from the recent explosion of mobile apps for construction has been the creation of data silos. Today, many contractors are reporting that disparate workflows and communication gaps between teams are creating huge inefficiencies and costly rework; and project managers no longer feel like they have control over projects. With ProjectSight, we are breaking down those data silos by providing a centralized workflow that is easy for all field teams to access, update and share critical project data.”

Accessible via the web or an iPad app, Trimble ProjectSight provides design-centric workflows to keep teams in sync; access to centralised data provides teams with up-to-date information to and from the field. Trimble says key features include:

  • Advanced markup for both 2D and 3D design files – making it easy to update, reference and access while in the field.
  • A new collaboration method similar to text messaging – Team Conversation keeps a digital record of these interactions to maintain an audit trail of decisions made throughout the project.
  • BIM workflow enhancements – Integration with the Trimble Connect collaboration platform (itself also upgraded with new scalable data processing capabilities in the cloud to reduce time to delivery of actionable information) to let authorised users access and share detailed BIM files without the requirement of specialized model viewing applications.
  • Offline capabilities


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2016/11/trimble-enhances-cloud-and-mobile-tech/

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