Mar 19 2015

Conject finally enters the BIM race

Conject is not simply extending its document collaboration approach to embrace BIM. It is deploying key components from across its product portfolio to support the requirements of a BIM Common Data Environment.

Conject“Expect to hear much more about what Conject is doing with respect to BIM,” says UK CEO Steve Cooper. The Munich, Germany-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider retains a strong UK customer base, but it didn’t immediately jump aboard the BIM bandwagon when the UK Government started to talk about SaaS-based common data environments in 2011.

Briefed by Conject’s BIM team in Woking, Surrey last week, I learned a lot about its BIM philosophy, and it’s not simply extending its document collaboration approach to embrace BIM collaboration. Instead, Conject has looked across its product portfolio and identified components that it can redeploy – if necessary in an improved form – to support the requirements of a BIM Common Data Environment (CDE).

Collaboration and control

‘Collaboration’ and ‘control’ are Conject’s watchwords, Steve told me. and to furnish its BIM toolkit it has  methodically picked out and, if necessary, re-engineered core functionality that meets the need of asset owners and operators (staying true to its infrastructure lifecycle management, ILM, ethos), rather than designers. Its core elements include an object library focused on systems and spaces, FM processes, mobile data capture (Conject acquired mobile developer Wapp6 just over a year ago), and, of course, model viewing capability, but the project information model (PIM) is only part of the offering.

Model file management, collaboration, compliance and control are key to the asset’s owner’s requirements, Steve said, so Conject’s approach is geared more towards PAS1192:3 and the Asset Information Model (AIM), incorporating data from external sources, validating completeness, giving early visibility of end-user information (adopting Government Soft Landings approaches) and looking to be FM-ready.

While Conject’s project control application conjectPC is well-known in the UK, the group’s PM application is less well-known but is widely deployed in Conject’s mainland Europe markets, so I got a quick tour of conjectPM to understand the bigger picture

conjectPM

At first glance this looked like a step back in time to folders-based collaboration, but other aspects of the platform held out more promise. For example, the conjectPM user interface is highly configurable, with extensive use of widgets, strong cross-project search tools (including search into document content), file management regimes that rigorously reflect BS1192:2007 and support BIM execution plans and the CDE workflows of PAS1192:2 (work in progress, shared, approved, archive). Communication remains largely email-based, but ‘smartflows’ support over 25 common workflow processes, and the company is developing its support for common documents and forms like those used in NEC contracts.

conjectCDE

Conject BIM workflowsThere is also some convergence between PM modules and elements of conjectPC (the option to synchronise folders from the user’s desktop to Conject’s hosted environment was highlighted as a forthcoming function). Conject has also picked out other functionality which it thinks offer strong BIM relevance; for example, design standards management, time and cost management (Conject’s ‘Financial Control’ module was an option that differentiated its solution from other vendors), commissioning (its mobile capability plays here), and facilities management.

According to Conject’s team (sales director Duncan Kneller and BIM development lead Richard Moyle also presented), they are already getting positive reactions from customers when they explain their BIM philosophy.

Combined with the forthcoming UK BIM toolkit (Conject has been consulting with the NBS-led team) and third party tools that are strong on BIM authoring, validation and clash detection (Solibri, Navisworks), Conject believes its CDE can support the whole project process from early briefing, deliverables management, single model and later federated model management, validation and reporting, output to COBie and delivery of data drops to meet staged project gateway approvals.

My view

Conject has lagged behind UK vendors (eg: 4Projects, Asite, Business Collaborator) and international competitors (Aconex, think project!) in marketing its BIM CDE capabilities. Some industry watchers were suggesting that this might be due to BIM not having the same impetus in Germany that it has in the UK, but it appears Conject was simply adopting a methodical approach to reusing, enhancing and combining much of the functionality it already had within its product portfolio (conjectPC, conjectCDE and Conject’s NEC contract management tool are now listed on the UK G-Cloud 6 Digital Marketplace – news release).

Of all the UK-based vendors Conject is also the one perhaps most strongly focused on owner-operators of built assets, and it’s sometimes forgotten that, as BIW Technologies, the company was also talking about intelligent components – ‘iComponents’ – 15 years ago (2001 Building article). The construction market wasn’t ready for this forerunner of BIM objects then, but it is now, and Conject is just starting to talk up its BIM capabilities again, but it is also underlining the depth of international capability and experience the group has to cover asset owners’ whole-life data management needs, and its BIM conversations have often focused on end-users’ data requirements (“Soft Landings” is repeatedly mentioned in Conject blog posts, for example).

It might be a little late in starting to promote its BIM capabilities, but Conject is focusing on its whole-life or ILM strengths and trusting that these prove attractive to asset owners at the top of construction supply chains.

[Disclosure: I worked for BIW Technologies, now Conject UK, from 2000 to 2009, and have since undertaken various consultancy projects for the company.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/conject-finally-enters-the-bim-race/

Mar 13 2015

Bentley acquires EADOC

Bentley Systemseadoc-logoBentley - logo has acquired California, USA-based Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration technology vendor EADOC for an undisclosed sum (see announcement), adding the platform to its MANAGEservices offering.

I have covered both Bentley’s and EADOC’s collaboration offerings over recent years. In the collaboration space, Bentley has mainly been associated with its Projectwise platform, extended last year to an SME SaaS offering, Projectwise Essentials (post). EADOC, founded in 2006, while providing document collaboration, has differentiated itself by also providing project cost control functionality (post) and integration with planning and scheduling tools MS Project and Oracle Primavera P6 (post) while remaining focused on the commercial and industrial development markets.

It appears that EADOC has been acquired to extend ProjectWise’s project delivery capabilities (while also taking a collaboration competitor out of the US market). EADOC believes its users can benefit from Bentley’s mobile expertise. According to the Bentley news release:

EADOC enables construction management professionals to track construction project documentation including design clarifications, inspectors’ daily reports, special inspections, memos, action items, deficiency items, and schedules. EADOC also uniquely integrates project cost controls, including budget, funding sources, contracts, schedule of values, pay estimates, change requests, and change orders, with this project information.

And EADOC founder Eric Law says:

Eric LawAs a former member of the Bentley Developer Network, our team is extremely pleased to now be part of Bentley. Together we can take information mobility across design and construction workflows, as well as into operations, to new levels for small and large organizations alike.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/bentley-acquires-eadoc/

Mar 11 2015

think project! grows 13% in 2014

Thinkproject-logothink project!, the Munich, Germany-based provider of the SaaS project collaboration platform by the same name, grew group turnover in the year to 31 December 2014 by 13% to €20m (see news release), up from €17.2m in 2013 (post).

Vying once again with locally-based competitor Conject, plus other UK and US rivals, think project! regards itself as “the market leader in cross-enterprise collaboration within Germany and Europe, and number two worldwide” behind Australia-based Aconex. Such a claim may again be disputed by Conject (as its then CEO did in May 2013), but think project! asserts that some of Conject’s revenues arise from non-SaaS products.

Some 35% of total turnover at think project! was achieved through its international businesses (in Benelux, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Poland).

The company highlights its development of a cross-enterprise solution for ‘BIM Collaboration’ (see post) enabling building information models to be linked with associated documents and integrated within different processes, and used directly within a browser. This is set to roll-out during the first half of 2015. think project! also highlights its new mobile interface (post), and a new RESTful API allowing customers access to the think project! backend to integrate their own applications and frontends. CEO Thomas Bachmaier says:

Thomas Bachmaier“We are very pleased with the business development of the think project! Group in 2014. With think project! BIM Collaboration, we have taken important directions towards our further development and market presence. Together with our other innovations, this considerable expansion of the think project! Collaboration Cloud will strengthen our market position and stimulate our growth in 2015. A focal point in 2015 will be further development of our international markets and our entry into new markets.”

think project! is available in 21 languages and is used by over 100,000 users across 8,000 projects in 40 countries.

Update (11 March 2014) – think project! has announced a relationship with Germany’s Fraunhofer IGD, where it will deploy the latter’s X3DOM software to quickly visualise large and complex digital 3D architecture models.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/think-project-grows-13-in-2014/

Mar 10 2015

Asite reports 17% growth

Asite logo 2012In the year to 30 June 2014, London, UK-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor Asite grew its revenues by 17% to £4.715m (2013: £4.011m), generating a profit of £0.635m, up from £0.511m in 2013 (download Asite’s annual report here).

vendors turnover March 2015

That 17% growth lags a little behind that recently reported for the half-year to December 2014 by global leader Aconex – it reported revenues up 19% last month – but, of course, the two companies’ exposure to different market conditions varies considerably (and they also offer subtly different product portfolios, though Asite’s report, again, gives no clues regarding breakdown of revenues from the company’s collaboration activities and those relating to its procurement/transaction hub).

vendors profit March 2015

Last year, Asite tripled its revenues from the Australasian market, but this year they’ve fallen back a little, down from £0.557m to £0.536m. Next week Asite relaunches in the US (post), so it will no doubt be highlighting US revenues up by over a third from £0.150m to £0.218m. The other big bright spot is the UK market where Asite revenues were up 20% year on year. Staff numbers also grew during the year: the average monthly headcount over the year was 139 employees, up from 104 the previous year, once again mainly due to expansion of the India-based technical team.

In the report, Asite CEO Tony Ryan says:

Tony Ryan (Asite CEO)Our efforts to promote Asite’s products in the North American market are starting to bear fruit with significant new customers in the Facilities Management (FM) and collaborative Building Information Modelling (cBIM) sectors. We intend to build on our operations in this region and expect to see substantial grown in the near future.

The release of our new platform Adoddle17 has brought greater functionality and improved user experience. Combined with AppBuilder, which allows our customers to build their own business applications on the Adoddle platform in the cloud, this has enabled Asite to become the technological leader in its sector. Our focus on maintaining this technological edge and prudent cost control have put the business in a prime position for future growth and profitability.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/asite-reports-17-growth/

Mar 10 2015

OnShape – CADaaS lives!

The Beta launch of a new SaaS-based manufacturing CAD application, OnShape, has excited a few bloggers and tweeters recently, although the concept is nothing new (I recall US CAD writer Brian Seitz wondering Is SaaS the Killer App for the CAD Industry? in 2008, and it stimulated some CADaaS posts from me – firstsecond – and later some BIMaaS posts – the first was in 2008 and there has been a steady stream since).

Onshape logoOnShape, from a Boston, US-based company of the same name, is not a CAD tool expressly for most architectural, engineering or construction users. Three years and US$64m in the making, it is a feature-based model authoring tool for mechanical designers (so it could be used, for example, by construction product manufacturers), but – and this was the area that particularly interested me – it works like Google Docs insofar as all files are stored on the web, are available to anyone with Internet and file access, can be co-edited, and run in nearly all modern web browsers (read Ralph Grabowski’s blog post; also TechCrunch).

And perhaps even more radical, it is free. The OnShape commercial model offers the complete software package free, but after the first five models, users have to pay for private storage of their files (cost US$100/user/pcm). Otherwise, other users can view the files, make copies and develop their own versions of the models.

OnShape uses a container file format to organise and store all files and data (including PDFs, videos, and spreadsheets) related to a project in a single document. The container file format is also used to unify versioning control and to help it run in web browsers. Ralph’s Initial user experience suggests it runs like an installed application; model files can also be viewed and edited on mobile devices (iPhone and iPad initially, Android coming soon); and users can work on a file simultaneously if they wish (a collaborative feature of Google Docs that I really like).

Industry reaction

Industry observers like Adam OHern have made comparisons between OnShape, Autodesk’s Fusion 360 product (which started as a browser-based tool, but now requires software installation) and Solidworks (featured in one of my 2009 CADaaS posts – which also mentions Onshape’s CEO Jon Hirschtick). Having two players in the cloud CAD space makes things interesting, says Adam; the game has changed:

“It’s no longer enough for The MCAD Syndicates to sell CAD by the “seat” with complex bundling restrictions, bizarre and arbitrary licensing schemes, and pricing that was dreamed up in a backroom sales negotiation at Boeing or GM. Even if Onshape is only moderately successful as a product in itself, it will force the industry to re-examine regressive revenue models in favor of simpler, more straightforward, customer-oriented value propositions.” (my emphasis)

Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass has also blogged about OnShape, prompting some predictable comments from both the CAD cloud fans and those who think the cloud is a security risk, but also a sense that competition in this sector can only be a good thing.

My take

Although it is not strictly in the AEC sector, the launch of OnShape interests me because it challenges preconceptions about how software for complex design challenges can be delivered, and it offers new scope for collaborative co-creation and design development.

It also offers a different take on per-seat up-front license payment approaches, preferring instead to offer all functionality free, but charging for enhanced levels of security. Denmark-based GenieBelt is another company that has launched a free forever online product, designed from the ground up for access on mobile devices and in web browsers (5 November 2014 post; I had a brief chat at Ecobuild last week with GenieBelt founder Gari Nickson who is excited about the imminent launch of new document management functionality on the platform).

Just as the SaaS collaboration vendors (among others) challenged existing approaches to software delivery and licensing and heralding the wider adoption of pay-as-you-go computing, it appears pricing approaches have evolved still further to the point where we can now get software free, but pay for additional components such as private storage, advanced analytics, etc. Some software and services are rapidly becoming commoditised, barely distinguishable from one another in their core functionality, with users now able to pick and choose between the added value options offered by vendors.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/onshape-cadaas-lives/

Mar 06 2015

On good (collaborative) behaviour

Once again, it’s not just about technology, it’s people and processes – behaviours – that support successful collaboration.

constructing excellenceI have been involved with, and enthusiastic about, Constructing Excellence almost since its foundation and have been a CE collaborative working champion for about 10 years. CE is, I think, the only pan-industry membership body in the UK built environment sector, drawing its members from industry client organisations, contractors, consultants and manufacturers and suppliers, which underlines its core purpose: promoting integrated collaborative working across every part of the supply chain.

At the London offices of multi-disciplinary consultant Pick Everard yesterday, the CE CWCs held their quarterly meeting, and the agenda stimulated a lot of conversation about collaborative behaviours. I talked to the group about the Behaviours4Collaboration group (see my December 2014 post), updating my presentation a bit to include an example page from the prototype profession map (tabled at a stakeholders meeting at Bath University in January), and noting that the recently published Digital Built Britain document (post) also highlights the need for behaviour changes to achieve Level 3 BIM.

There was also discussion of an update to the Strategic Forum for Construction’s Integration Toolkit, first released in 2003, but now being refreshed as a by-product of a Technology Strategy Board-funded project focused on integrated project insurance.* Kevin Thomas then described how the first IPI project had been successfully tendered, relating to a college project in Solihull in the West Midlands.

The CWCs then heard from two guests: David Hawkins of the Institute for Collaborative Working, talking about BS11000, and Dale Evans of the Infrastructure Clients Group and Anglian Water talking about alliancing. Neither of these speakers had been present during the earlier discussion of Behaviours4Collaboration, but both reiterated key points about collaboration needing to be reflected in people’s behaviours on projects.

BS11000

David stressed that many organisations often just pay lip service to ideas such as partnering or integration, and make little or no effort to change their cultures accordingly. Achieving BS11000 certification, he said, will require businesses to show that they have the right behaviours enshrined in their processes (he particularly highlighted HR) and to demonstrate how those processes contribute to the relevant business relationships.

Alliancing

AlliancingDale presented a really interesting case study about Anglian Water’s @OneAlliance relationship (he also referenced an ICG project initiation routemap, and tabled a copy of a guide, Alliancing Best Practice in Infrastructure Delivery), whereby a consortium of contractors and consultants manage an asset management progamme (AMP5 is just drawing to a close) delivering 800 projects worth some £2.4bn. Set some stringent ‘stretch targets’, @OneAlliance team members have to work effectively as a single business in partnership with the client and are incentivised by a gain/pain-sharing pool to deliver innovations. A tough target of reducing embodied carbon by 50%, for example, had been particularly powerful in stimulating innovation, Dale said, with the team adopting off-site construction approaches and other efficiency improvements, reducing the benchmark cost of some £10m projects to £7m in the process. Behavioural change was a strong characteristic of the Anglian alliance process, he said, and the Alliancing guide underlines the importance of behaviours:

To ensure success an emphasis has to be placed on the behavioural aspects of both the organisations and individuals involved.

[* Disclosure: pwcom.co.uk has been providing consultancy services to help develop the new integrated collaborative working toolkit.]

 

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/on-good-collaborative-behaviour/

Mar 03 2015

Asite (re)launches in USA

Asite logo 2012A year after launching its v17 Adoddle update at a St Patrick’s Day event in London (post), London-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider Asite is staging what it describes as its official launch in North America in New York on 17 March 2015 (news release).

The event will include an open bar and traditional Irish music and canapes, at Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick Street, New York City, 6.30pm on 17 March. Asite CEO Tony Ryan says:

“Adoddle will bring the huge benefits of advanced cloud-based BIM to many more US projects, enabling seamless collaboration between disciplines. Internationally, Adoddle is at the forefront of major changes in the way we work together and manage information. We’re excited to bring this innovation to the US.”

Asite is not new to the US. It has previously cultivated marketing networks through print group ReproMAX, in April 2012 it announced it was opening an East Coast office in New York, and a West Coast office in San Francisco (post), in July 2013, it appointed a VP Sales for the US, and a year ago was aiming to build on its client relationship with Goldman Sachs.

BuildEarthLive, and Big Data

Meanwhile, the latest Asite-sponsored international collaborative BIM competition, BuildEarthLive (this year focused on Newcastle-on-Tyne) is being held on 16 March 2015, organised in collaboration with BIM4SME and WYG.

A month later (16 April 2015), Asite is a sponsor, with the CIOB and ConstructIT, of a Big Data: Opportunities and Challenges in Construction event at Google Campus in London.

Update (4 March 2015) – And, to return to the US theme, there will be another BIM collaboration event, Build New York Live, starting 25 September 2015 (Note: date changed from 21 September).

Update (26 March 2015) – “Asite launches the Adoddle platform in New York!

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/asite-relaunches-in-usa/

Mar 03 2015

For Level 3 BIM, read Digital Built Britain

DBB-Level 3 coverLast week saw the “launch” of Digital Built Britain, the preferred branding for the UK’s Level 3 Building Information Modelling (BIM) programme. The work is apparently intended to “build on the standards and savings delivered by the BIM level 2 initiative which has been central to the £840M savings achieved on central public spend in 2013/14,” and core to this is a new strategic plan.

(Unless I missed something, it was an oddly low-key launch for a document that is intended to continue the BIM transformation process – did it get overrun by the push towards a UK General Election in May?).

Open Data

The report says the UK wants to make fully computerised construction the norm, ensure that the benefits of these technologies are felt across the UK, and support the export of these technologies and the services based on them. A new round of investment will “enable us to continue and extend the work that began in 2011″ with funding enabling:

  • the creation of a set of new, international ‘Open Data’ standards which would pave the way for easy sharing of data across the entire market
  • the establishment of a new contractual framework for projects which have been procured with BIM to ensure consistency, avoid confusion and encourage, open, collaborative working (‘collaboration’ is mentioned 20 times in the report, ‘collaborative’ is used 16 times; together, as they should, these outnumber the 33 mentions of ‘technology’).
  • the creation of a cultural environment which is co-operative, seeks to learn and share
  • training the public sector client in the use of BIM techniques such as, data requirements, operational methods and contractual processes
  • driving domestic and international growth and jobs in technology and construction

Social media

On a first read, I was also struck by an explicit endorsement (p.25) of the value of social media (mentioned six times, more than ‘software’) in the report, and the talk of toolkits:

Normal lay users are mostly conversant with applications such as email and social media, both of which perform complex processes, yet manage to present the user with clear simple interfaces. Our aim must be to present the day to day user with useful easy to consume and interact with information and knowledge.

With an industry so keen to enable collaboration of diverse people, the uptake of social media in the supply chain has been relatively slow. Where uptake has taken place it has been with tools such as LinkedIn which have a more business focus. Lessons should be learnt from this and the patterns of social media uptake to create an appropriate toolkit to encourage very wide adoption and usage.

I have bemoaned the lack of social-savvy approaches to collaboration for some years, and finally it seems others share my views.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/for-level-3-bim-read-digital-built-britain/

Mar 02 2015

Rapiere to launch at Ecobuild

Rapiere screen grabUK-based Rapiere’s cloud-hosted software “calculates embodied carbon, whole-life energy use, and creates live cost models and comparisons”

Rapiere, “a unique system designed by the industry for the industry and [representing] the next generation carbon, energy and cost modelling platform for the built environment which runs in the cloud” is being launched at this week’s Ecobuild exhibition in London, 3-5 March 2015.

The email I received mentions the involvement of Architype, Chapman BDSP, GreenSpace Live and the Sweett Group. The product will be demonstrated on stand N7011 and there are also two presentation sessions scheduled for Wednesday 4 March (potential attendees are urged to email sales@rapiere.net).

Information about the system on the website is currently sparse (Update [3 March 2015] – more information is now available on the website); Architype’s website gives a little more background. The current one-page Rapiere website says:

Rapiere Software came out of a research project. Designed by the AEC industry for the industry, it is the only next-generation, early design stage, BIM compatible solution that simultaneously performs cost, energy and carbon analysis in the cloud.

rapier logoSome readers may recall I mentioned Rapiere last year. Prior to the closure of SaaS construction collaboration Cadweb in July 2014, CEO Francis Newman was one of five founding directors of Rapiere Software, incorporated in October 2013, which was developing a web-based decision support tool for design of low impact buildings. Environmental issues have been a recurring theme for Francis; while at Cadweb, he devised the company’s ‘Football pitch’ reporting tools showing how much paper was being saved by using an online document collaboration system.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/rapiere-to-launch-at-ecobuild/

Mar 02 2015

KA’s Knowledge Management Survey

Chris Parsons, CEO and founder of US-based Knowledge Architecture, provider of AEC intranet solutions and organiser of the annual US conference, KA Connect (post) – 2015’s is in San Francisco in May – is running a knowledge management survey. He writes:

KA connectWe believe this survey is the first of its kind and is the logical next step in fulfilling KA Connect’s mission of “Advancing the Practice of Knowledge Management in the AEC Industry”.

The statistics from the survey will help AEC firms evaluate their use of knowledge management in comparison to peer firms and competitors, as well as implement new strategies for managing knowledge.

The survey will cover the following areas:

  1. Strategic Priorities for Knowledge Management
  2. Core Knowledge Management Processes
  3. Supporting Activities for Knowledge Management
  4. Knowledge Management Leadership
  5. Successes, Challenges, and the Year Ahead

You’ll be able to review your results in two ways:

  1. Personal Summary and Detail: See your responses with KM performance gaps highlighted.
  2. Benchmarking Summary: See side-by-side highlights of your responses and what others in the AEC industry said.

The deadline for participating is Friday, April 3, 2015.

Who should participate? Architecture, engineering, planning, or environmental consulting firms; construction contractors and construction managers; speciality AEC contractors and consultants.

The survey should be completed by the individual with the highest responsibility for knowledge management issues or any firm leader who can accurately answer questions about the firm’s KM priorities, processes, and people. And you do not need to be a Knowledge Architecture client or KA Connect attendee to participate.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/03/kas-knowledge-management-survey/

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