Dec 18 2014

Trimble launches mobile ProjectSight

Trimble targets the low-cost mobile construction project management sector in the US with a simplified version of its Prolog SaaS applications.

ProjectSight logoTrimble’s push into the SaaS construction collaboration space has gathered momentum with the launch of a low-cost mobile project management service, Trimble ProjectSight, for iPad users

Like most services in this space, it comprises two elements: a mobile app (currently only available for Apple iPads with iOS7 or later) and a web service accessed via a standard browser. It aims to eliminate delays between the field and the office; with ProjectSight, information entered or photographs taken on site are immediately available to the entire project team. A Plan View lets users “pin” issues directly on floor plans, and the platform also includes “over 18 standard forms specifically designed for construction management” (19, maybe?).

ProjectSight is priced at $20 per calendar month (billed annually) per standard user – a “standard user” is one who can create records (eg: RFIs, daily reports, and checklists) – but customers can invite unlimited free “collaborators” to their projects – “collaborators” may view and respond to records in projects to which they have been invited. The operating space for each grouping is a “ProjectSight Organization”: a collaborative workspace paid for, owned and operated by the creating company (eg: a contractor). A free 30-day trial version is also available.

Judging by the visual similarities of the interface, the US-hosted service appears to be a simplified version of the Trimble-owned (since 2006) Meridian Prolog Mobile (iOS and Windows Mobile) and Prolog Converge (web-based) applications, rather than a completely new offering. Trimble’s most recent collaboration acquisition was in September 2014 when it acquired Gehry Technologies’ GTeam platform, subsequently relaunched as Trimble Connect (October 2014), so I am guessing Trimble ProjectSight is pitched at US users not needing something as advanced as Trimble Connect or the full capabilities of the Prolog products.

With a strong industry name behind it, ProjectSight might also grab the attention of potential customers attracted to US-based mobile alternatives such as San Francisco’s PlanGrid (close to Meridian’s California base) and the well-funded NYC-based startup FieldLens (among others; eg: Aconex, Corecon, EADoc, FluidCM, Latista, Procore, etc). The US mobile construction collaboration sector is also set to get even busier when Viewpoint begins to roll-out its recently acquired Priority1 mobile toolset to support Viewpoint for Collaboration customers in its key north American market.

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Dec 15 2014

Milton Walters joins Textura Australasia

Experienced Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration executive Milton Walters has joined Textura Australasia as CEO.

Textura logoMelbourne, Australia-based Walters was at Aconex and then general manager of TeamBinder at QA Software, before, in August 2012, establishing a Melbourne-based company, Project Collaboration, to sell the 4Projects SaaS solution in the Australasian market. This successful reseller arrangement lasted until early 2014 before Viewpoint, who acquired 4Projects in February 2013 and already had an office in Melbourne selling its ERP solutions, decided to move to a direct sales model. Project Collaboration by then had also became a reseller of another Newcastle, UK-based company’s SaaS solution: the Kykloud mobile survey and asset management application (March 2014).

Construction Payment Management

Textura is clearly looking at strong experience in the SaaS construction space to support its international expansion. In July 2014, it announced that former BIW and Conject Group CEO Colin Smith had been appointed to head Textura Europe. The US-based business is a leading provider of construction payment management, CPM tools offered on a SaaS basis. This addresses an often notoriously slow and inefficient process relating to submission and approval of subcontractor payments – a frequent cause of late payment.

Recently, on 2 December 2014, Textura announced an innovative US alliance with Greensill Capital to enable general contractors to provide accelerated payments to subcontractors in the US.  The ‘Early Payment Program‘ (EPP) is supported by Textura’s CPM technology with Greensill performing the underwriting and providing the funding, including engaging Morgan Stanley to securitise these payments to provide preferential funding to select parts of the programme. Turner Construction (US subsidiary of Hochtief) worked with Textura and Greensill in the development of EPP, which will launch in early 2015.

The arrangement has parallels with the controversial ‘reverse factoring’ system instigated by UK main contractor Carillion in March 2013, when it also doubled its maximum payment terms (Building article).


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Dec 12 2014


Adopting BIM is not just about technology and data, it’s also about culture and behaviours. A new group, Behaviours4Collaboration is focusing on this aspect.

The longest chapter in my book on construction collaboration technologies was devoted to human aspects of collaboration, underlining a common industry maxim that successful collaboration is only 20% technology and 80% people and process (some occasionally suggest the balance is more like 10:90). This view persists today and is being repeated in relation to building information modelling (BIM).

constructing excellenceSince the early 2000s, Constructing Excellence has been almost the only organisation consistently advocating the need for more collaborative approaches to project delivery (I am on its steering group and have been a member of its collaborative working champions ‘think-tank’ for around 10 years). It recognised the opportunity that BIM presented to provide new thinking on collaboration, and its BIM Task Group (chaired by former Manchester City Council executive John Lorimer) has been looking at how CE can help the industry embrace collaborative structures and procedures, and promote the right cultures and behaviours to deliver the step change required by the UK Government. It is clear from the Construction 2025 industrial strategy that BIM is just part of the transformation needed, and several additional progressive measures have been proposed, including three new models of procurement.

Earlier this year, through CE, I was asked to join a recently formed group looking at behaviours for collaboration. Initially located at the University of West of England, the group sprang out of the south-west BIM Hub and, dubbed Behaviours4Collaboration, is now an official CIC “BIM4″ community, with participants from consultants, contractors and clients, plus academics (its principal convenor is Elizabeth Kavanagh from Bristol architect Stride Treglown; read her CIC blog post). I have been helping spread the word about the group, doing presentations at a recent Bentley Technology Day at the Crossrail academy in London and at Leeds Beckett University’s ThinkBIM event held last week at WSP in Leeds – below is the presentation and a video of me delivering this Pecha-Kucha style (20 slides in 20 seconds).

If you are interested in this initiative, a stakeholders meeting is being held at Bath University on 28 January 2015 (4pm to about 7pm). There is also a Behaviours4Collaboration Linkedin group.

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Dec 09 2014

Aconex shares slip slightly on ASX debut

Aconex shares dip on their first day of ASX trading.

Aconex logo 2014Sally Rose in The Australian Financial Review says Aconex’s “bold decision to downsize its initial public offer has been vindicated as the right call.” Despite lifting on its debut into a falling market, the stock quickly slipped below the offer price (see The Australian too).

Shares in the Melbourne-based SaaS construction collaboration vendor started trading at midday at Au$2, up 5% on the final offer price of Au$1.90, while the benchmark S&P / ASX 200 Index was trading down around 1% for the session. But by 12:45 AEDT the stock had settled around Au$1.87, just under the $1.90 offer price. It’s market capitalisation was then just under Au$300 million (£158m, US$247m, €200m). At close, the stock was trading at Au$1.80 (see ACX page), down 5% on the offer price.

Aconex co-founder and CEO Leigh Jasper agreed that this respectable-but-modest performance on listing indicates the deal would have likely sunk if the IPO had proceeded at the original premium: “I feel good about the decision to re-jig the deal. We responded to an increase in market volatility and I feel confident we got the right register.”

Rose reports UBS brokers’ views  that a first day lift of around 5% signals a “sweet spot” that shows a deal was appropriately priced – delivering immediate value to new investors, without short-changing the issuers.

In a SmartCompany interview, Jasper, who along with co-founder Rob Phillpot retains an 8% stake each in Aconex, says many of the company’s employees are also shareholders and stand to benefit from today’s listing. Without naming names, he was also excited about new investors: “They are great long-term investors who see long-term potential in the company,” he said.

Money raised will primarily be used as working capital to grow Aconex and invest in new products, sales and marketing. “We’re also looking at bolt-on acquisitions post-IPO,” Jasper said, pointing to cloud-based companies as possible targets (see also previous post).


Having postponed and downsized the IPO, Aconex and its advisors seem to have been downplaying investor expectations of a big uptick upon flotation, and this caution appears to have been well-founded. After all, we are not talking about a profitable company here, but one whose directors felt an IPO was the timely thing to do in order to restructure the company’s finances and give it some working capital to expand and acquire.

I also think little can be read into the first part-day’s performance with under 200,000 shares traded within a market which fell 1.7% during the day (it is also worth remembering that 55.2% of shares remain in the hands of existing shareholders, including the co-founders, non-executive directors and executive management). And there has been some unease about the volume of IPOs on the ASX – few recent flotations have seen any significant growth; Aconex’s dip echoes the experience of other market entrants.

Aconex financial results 2104

As part of its reporting obligations, Aconex has now lodged various documents with the Australian Stock Exchange, and opened its own investor centre. Among the items posted is Aconex’s annual report and accounts for the year to 30 June 2014. This confirms annual revenues of Au$66.224m and a pre-tax loss of Au$3.216m.

Of these revenues, Australasia accounts for just under 48% of the total, with EMEA, the Americas and Asia accounting for 25%, 16% and 11% respectively. Most of the company’s profits are derived from Australasia and EMEA; the Americas operation has the highest operating costs and is not yet generating a net contribution. Revenues were up across all the key countries or regions where Aconex operates; after Australia (Au$31m), the highest single country revenues were earned in the UAE (Au$6m), the US (Au$5.8m), the UK (Au$4.8m – £2.5m) and Canada (Au$3.9m).

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Dec 08 2014

Aconex to offer free BIM module

Pre-IPO, SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor Aconex is focusing on emerging technology trends, and eyeing potential acquisitions.

Aconex logo 2014On the eve of its Australian Stock Exchange debut (post), Melbourne-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider Aconex has started to look to the next phase in its growth strategy, targeting emerging technology trends, and already eyeing potential acquisition targets.

According to Sally Rose in the Australian Financial Review, Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper is ­focusing on industry technology changes, saying:

“The two trends really driving the uptake in our collaboration technology at the moment is the move from 2D to 3D design and the shift to applications that can be used via mobile devices out on the construction sites.”

Apparently, since Aconex launched a mobile service four years ago, over half of all clients have taken it up. While the traditional ­business model was to charge extra for new modules on its products, Rose reports Aconex has decided to make its new 3D functionality free to help secure market share. Aconex launched its Connected BIM service at the end of October 2014.


Post-IPO, Aconex is expecting the increased transparency that comes with being a publicly listed ­company will help when bidding for ­contracts on multibillion-dollar projects, and make it easier to lead and complete more bolt-on acquisitions.

Australian technology company Urbanise is identified in Rose’s article as having a similar business model and a number of key clients in common with Aconex; “We may look at partnering in instances where the two platforms could achieve a complementary solution,” Mr Jasper said.

My view

The two technology trends are at different stages of maturity, and are more about maintaining utility to customers and end-users.

Aconex has benefitted from being among the front-runners in adding mobile capability for its users – it launched its iPhone app in May 2011, and added an iPad version in September 2012. Some other vendors have recently been busy acquiring the specialist expertise needed to develop mobile apps (Newforma bought an apps developer in August 2012, for example; Conject announced its Wapp6 acquisition in January 2014; and 4Projects bought MCS Priority1 last week, having launched its first in-house developed mobile solution in July 2013). However, the mobile applications mainly extend the reach of the core solution out to the field, so making it more accessible – revenues may grow as a result of the added utility; most, if not all, vendors provide the apps free.

BIM in the cloudWithout further information, it is difficult to know if “free” means a BIM project will be completely free on Aconex, or if use of the BIM module will incur no additional charge over the normal Aconex information and workflow management services.

Assuming the latter, keeping the 3D or BIM functionality free is a wise, if somewhat predictable, step. BIM is not yet a “must have” for most SaaS collaboration customers (and Aconex does not have a strong position in, arguably, the world’s most rapidly advancing BIM market: the UK); its adoption will be very gradual. As I wrote in October, there won’t be a sudden “BIM boom” for the SaaS vendors in 2016. More likely, there will be a slow UK ramp-up as centrally-procured public sector (and some early adopter private sector clients) projects start to require ‘common data environments’ (CDEs), and market expansion outside the UK will also be gradual. I think it will be in the vendors’ interests to encourage customers to test out their BIM capabilities without charging them extra for the privilege.

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Dec 08 2014

Catching up with Buildingpoint ANZ

The Australian collaboration market has been hotting up in recent years, and BuildingPoint is stoking the fires still further.

It’s been a busy couple of years in the Australasian construction software market; for example:

  • 4Projects identifed a reseller in August 2012, then new owner Viewpoint brought the direct sales in-house
  • ProjectCentre was acquired by RIB in October 2012
  • Newforma began to target the ANZ market in December 2013
  • Asite, Conject and McLaren Software are all marketing in the region, and
  • currently, we’ve been watching the dominant SaaS player’s Aconex’s on-off-on-again IPO (see my most recent post), due to take place in Melbourne on 9 December

Against this backdrop of activity, Trimble’s Buildingpoint business has also been expanding and consolidating its capabilities in the region.

Building collaboration

I’ve been watching Trimble add to its collaboration software strengths for some years. It bought Meridian Systems in 2006, and acquired Google’s SketchUp in 2012, both consolidated into its Trimble Buildings design-build-operate (DBO) offering. And, more recently, in September 2014, it acquired Gehry Technologies’ GTeam platform, subsequently relaunched as Trimble Connect (October 2014).

buildingPoint logoLast week, I talked to Mark Forest, MD of BuildingPoint Australia, and Mark Sawyer, general manager of the Trimble Buildings portfolio in the region. Both were very bullish about the company’s prospects in the market, being part way through a BuildingPoint customer roadshow (see also Matt Rumbelow’s ThinkBIM blog). They identified three drivers to their Australasian strategy:

  • delivery of a lifecycle solution portfolio – meeting the needs of everyone from owners down to individual trades
  • the constructable model – linking design to site layout (Trimble announced a partnership with Bentley in November)
  • open collaboration – linking Trimble Connect to the rest of the DBO platform

BuildingPoint’s strong domain knowledge (half of the company’s team are qualified industry professionals) has been enhanced by the purchase of three ANZ resellers and the addition of the Gehry Technologies professional services team, they said, enabling them to deliver a full package of hardware, software, data (eg: 3D objects, GIS) and professional services.

This extensive reach has been enhanced still further by Trimble’s most recent acquisition (11 November 2014) of UK-based MEP software specialist Amtech Group, whose solutions include pricing (LUCKINSlive), estimating (Enterprise Estimating), specification (NES), electrical design (PROdesign), and 3D asset management (ArtrA). While not all of these are used in Australia, ArtrA is being used on the Royal Adelaide Hospital, I was told (this led on to a discussion about BIM – “Australia is maybe two years behind the UK, and mainly used on the design side, but with some adoption among structural steel and MEP contractors”).

My view

While BuildingPoint certainly has an extensive portfolio of construction-related software and services, in the field of collaboration at least it faces some stiff competition from the established local providers and recent arrivals, all of whom have well-known SaaS platforms – but is familiarity enough against BuildingPoint’s breadth of capabilities? Also strength in design and construction information management may need to be matched by some additional capabilities with respect to longer-term operation and maintenance information requirements, particularly as customers begin to deploy BIM more frequently on new projects, but Trimble is already working on this – its August 2014 acquisition of enterprise asset management software provider Manhattan Atrium was a significant step along this road.


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Dec 08 2014

Business Collaborator BIM 1.0 released

Newly independent Business Collaborator has announced the latest release, v6.3, of its core Software-as-a-Service, and its first BIM module, including a “state of the art” model viewer.

Business CollaboratorLess than two weeks after Business Collaborator announced its management buy-out, the Reading, UK-based construction collaboration technology provider has announced the latest release, v6.3, of its core Software-as-a-Service platform, and the first release of its BIM module, including a “state of the art” model viewer.

BC 6.3

Business Collaborator is one of the UK’s most mature SaaS construction collaboration platforms, having been launched in the late 1990s, and establishing itself as a strong ‘third force’ in the UK market through its adoption by companies such as Halcrow, Costain, Thames Water and others.

The latest edition of its core document collaboration and workflow management system provides a preview of a new interface based on HTML5, and designed from the ground up to work across desktops, laptops and tablets, being optimised for use with both mouse/keyboard and touch-based control (reminding me of Bentley’s “App-lications” approach; BC hasn’t yet started developing its own native apps, unlike UK rivals 4Projects and Conject, both of whom have acquired mobile expertise this year - post).

The updated BC system can also be configured to show latest news in a project blog, capture photos and display in a fluid grid, and present key dates in a Gantt-style format. In addition to managing confidential project interaction, the new capabilities therefore allow easy creation and presentation of a website giving read-only information.

BC BIM 1.0

BC has been developing its support for building information modelling (BIM) for some years, outlining its BIM roadmap at user conferences in 2012 and 2013 (the MBO interrupted this year’s plans), and briefing customers this this year about delivering the requirements of a ‘Level 2′ common data environment in 2015.

BIM 1.0, a new module for Business Collaborator, is, it says, “the culmination of more than 3 years research and development”. Its BIM Viewer lets anyone on the project team view IFC 3D models and their associated data directly in their web browser, with the viewer experience engineered to access large models (0.5GB) while remaining responsive to user input. Users can navigate using an “Object Tree” or by IFC categories or attributes.

BC CEO Sanjeev Shah says:

“Building Information Modelling is the single, largest step change the architecture, construction and engineering industry has faced. At Business Collaborator we have been working hard to deliver the right solutions for our customers who are embracing BIM ahead of the 2016 UK government mandate.”

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Dec 05 2014

Autodesk raises its BIM cloud game

autodesk logoIt’s Autodesk University time in Las Vegas this week, and Autodesk has taken the opportunity to unveil some new cloud-based collaboration services (read more on the Autodesk In The Fold blog).

The collaboration back story

Well-known, of course, for its design authoring tools, Autodesk started to complement these with its own SaaS construction collaboration solutions over a decade ago. As I recently recounted, Autodesk was a 40% shareholder in a spin-off business, which launched an online project collaboration service, ProjectPoint, at the turn of the century, after raising around $90 million. By mid 2000, Buzzsaw had 240 employees, 10,500 projects on-line and 50,000 registered users – and was “chewing up cash at a $10 million per quarter rate” (see 2008 post). After it posted an operating loss of over $50 million in 2000 and began laying people off in May 2001, Autodesk acquired the business in July 2001 and ProjectPoint was later re-branded as an Autodesk product, Buzzsaw, and it remains part of the Autodesk portfolio – though increasingly overlooked, I think.

The second phase of Autodesk’s foray into cloud-based project collaboration was its February 2006 acquisition of Constructware. Autodesk spent $46 million to acquire this pioneer of on-demand collaboration, and at the time I expected the more sophisticated features of Constructware would be added to Buzzsaw. However, there was little (if any) convergence. The two brands were marketed as separate but complementary collaborative project management offerings: Buzzsaw positioned as a document and information management service (sold in the US and overseas); Constructware more of a process and budget control system (and largely focused on the US market). In May 2009, there were strong industry rumours that Autodesk was discontinuing Constructware, quickly denied, though the rumblings of uncertainty persisted, particularly when Autodesk laid off some 1200 employees and made other efficiency savings that year.

BIM-based collaboration

The newly announced services are not an expansion or extension of either of these existing SaaS file collaboration platforms. Instead, Autodesk is augmenting its building information modelling, BIM, tools (eg: Revit) with some cloud-based services to support model collaboration, delivering its own ‘common data environment’.

Previously code-named Project Skyscraper, Autodesk A360 Collaboration for Revit connects building project teams with centralised access to BIM project data (authored in Autodesk products, plus CATIA and Solidworks) in the cloud.  The new service will be commercially available, initially just in North America it seems, from 8 December.



According to Autodesk, the service helps overcome the barriers of corporate firewalls and physical location, replacing “costly work-arounds for sharing models such as use of FTP sites, sharing software or inefficient use of email with attached PDFs” (note, no mention of sharing via SaaS solutions). How “costly” this service is, I don’t know (the website is mute on pricing; update [19 December 2014]: Daniel Davis’s Autodesk University review says it “costs a sizable $800 annually per user”) and I’ve asked Autodesk’s UK PR team about its availability outside north America.

Included in the subscription is access to:

  • the Autodesk A360 Team cloud-based project collaboration platform – this provides a somewhat basic level of collaborative sharing, viewing and commenting (read Lachmi Khemlani’s September 2014 AECBytes review), allowing non-Revit project users to access project design data, and is accessible using desktop, web and mobile devices
  • a Communicator for Revit in-context chat tool – this allows project team members to communicate directly with each other (rather than via email, telephone, or social media), in real-time while working on their project models in Autodesk Revit.

Project teams can extend the BIM collaboration process from Revit to the construction site with Autodesk BIM 360 Field. The BIM 360 suite was recently extended to include BIM 360 Layout – aiming to improve construction accuracy by connecting design intent from the digital model to the physical world using iOS devices (readers may recall that Trimble and Bentley announced similar construction modelling capabilities in early November).

BIM 360 Field also faces competition from other vendors of SaaS and mobile-based solutions. When I spoke to him this week, Viewpoint/4Projects’ Steve Spark was dismissive of BIM 360’s capabilities compared to what Viewpoint’s newly acquired MCS Priority1 toolset can already deliver. Various startups are also targetting this field, including, in the UK, Cadbeam, BaseStone and SiteDesk (see October 2014 post).


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Dec 02 2014

Viewpoint’s 4Projects acquires MCS Priority1

Viewpoint subsidiary 4Projects expands its mobile functionality by acquiring ‘best-in-class’ Mobile Computing Solutions Priority1.

Priority1 logo4Projects, the Newcastle, UK-based SaaS construction collaboration subsidiary of Viewpoint Construction Software, has acquired, for an undisclosed amount, Swansea-based construction mobile technology specialist Mobile Computing Systems, developer of the Priority1 site solution. The acquisition was announced to staff and customers yesterday (1 December 2014) and made public today (see 4Projects news release).

The deal may come as little surprise to many of Priority1’s current customers, particularly those who have attended MCS’s last two user conferences. At the November 2013 conference, after hearing how MCS was building a SaaS reporting capability, 4Projects commercial director Steve Spark talked warmly about how the two companies were looking to develop complementary capabilities to satisfy mutual customers. And at the 2014 user event, on 13 November, Steve spoke again, describing the convergence of desktop SaaS and mobile computing environments and how the future would see richer data sharing from the ‘common data environment’ (CDE) to and from the field.

4Projects by Viewpoint - blueThe two companies share several customers (Carillion, for example) so integration of what ViewPoint’s EMEA MD Alun Baker called MCS’s “best in class” site functionality strengths (quality, health & safety and environmental reporting forms, site permits, daily logs, etc) with 4Projects’ information management and project control functions will be a logical step forward for them. And, as with other complementary technology acquisitions, there will be scope for 4Projects to extend its reach to MCS’s other customers and for the MCS technology defects management (aka: ‘snagging,’ ‘punch-listing’) and form-creation technologies to become more widely used across 4Projects’ user base.

This will also potentially put the MCS toolset in the hands of users well beyond its existing UK heartland, with Viewpoint also extending the product’s reach to North America and Australia. Longer term, the anticipated expansion of BIM to support future asset management will also underline the value of mobile tools for planned preventative maintenance and other asset-related tasks. Currently MCS’s core customers are mainly main contractors, but, over time, Viewpoint will be putting its mobile data-sharing technologies into the hands of more and more owner-operators, and aiming to help them extract business intelligence from their aggregated data (MCS had started doing this in 2013 using Yellowfin reporting tools hosted on its recently developed SaaS back-end, but with 4Projects’ SaaS know-how I think we can now expect this capability to grow more rapidly).

In an email to customers, Viewpoint CEO Jay Haladay said it will be “business as usual”:

“You will not see changes in the people, quality of product or support you receive from MCS. In fact, I would say with confidence, you can expect more product opportunities and enhancements to Priority1 now that MCS and Viewpoint have joined force.”

He also said:

Jay Haladay“… By combining another UK based best-in-class construction software company under the Viewpoint umbrella, Viewpoint is further reinforcing its commitment to the UK market for construction software. When 4Projects first became part of Viewpoint, we knew the UK market was an area ripe for our investment and expansion, and this is further evidence of our plans.”

4Projects plans to invest in and build the Swansea-based team – Steve said it will become Viewpoint’s “mobile centre of excellence for collaboration” – with MCS MD Richard Scott taking on a new role as director of market development. Richard said:

Richard Scott (Priority1)“… It has been clear from the beginning of the endeavour that our principles and values are aligned and after seeing the vision, energy and passion shared by everyone within the Viewpoint Team I have no doubt that this is a unique opportunity to join an exceptional organisation. Viewpoint are committed to the roadmap we have set out for Priority1 and by working together we gain access to unprecedented, industry leading technical capability, resource and experience that will allow us to accelerate the delivery of the products and services that our customers want.”

The Priority1 product itself will be rebranded as Viewpoint Field View, helping 4Projects expand the workflow and document sharing capabilities of its current 4Mobile solution so that it will eventually be able to offer complete integration with the 4Projects BIM CDE, enabling data capture, aggregation and reporting in the field. In terms of future user adoption, it helps that there are some strong similarities between 4Projects and Priority1 in terms of user interface and user experience, and Windows users will soon be catered for. Priority1 is currently offered only as an Android app, but the product roadmap revealed on 13 November showed a Microsoft app is in development.

My analysis

This is the second mobile acquisition by a SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor in the past 12 months, following Conject’s deal to buy the French mobile business WAPP6 which was signed at the end of 2013 and announced in January 2014. However, the two deals differ in at least three respects:

  1. 4Projects already offered some mobile functionality, having launched its 4Mobile app in July 2013, whereas Conject had none until the Wapp6 purchase.
  2. The Priority1 application already has an established user base in the the UK market, and shares several customers with its new parent (as well as some of 4Projects’ competitors). The Wapp6 apps had little traction outside of France, and it was four months before the first English app was shown to UK Conject customers, and another four weeks before ConjectMI became commercially available.
  3. The Wapp6 acquisition did mean Conject was catching up with key SaaS rivals 4Projects, Asite, Aconex, plus less well-known names such as Dome Connect/iSnag (February 2014 post) and Newforma (April 2014 post) – all of whom had their own mobile or field apps, but none of these, in my view, offered comparably diverse functionality to Priority1. This deal means 4Projects pulls ahead of its competitors again.

This deal also adds further substance to 4Projects and Viewpoint product roadmaps aired at its May 2014 user conference. Then I heard much about BIM, about a gradual shift to enable even ERP “in the cloud”, and mobile was a third strand. I thought then that Viewpoint/4Projects might be eyeing a strategic acquisition to enable a step change in its mobile data delivery capabilities, and so it’s proved.

In addition to this deal and Conject’s Wapp6 buy, 2014 has seen the announcement of several acquisitions involving SaaS vendors (Trimble acquired GTeam in September; Newforma bought SmartUse in October and Nemetscheck bagged BlueBeam, also in October), an MBO at Business Collaborator last week, and the folding of Cadweb, Woobius and SmartBuilder during the summer. So, while there is clearly strong investor support for some AEC SaaS businesses, others have not shared the same appeal. There appears to be some polarisation between those offering a robust and diverse portfolio of capabilities to support future AEC and asset owner needs, and those offering narrowly-based document collaboration or related ‘point solutions’.

A bigger test is coming soon – next week (9 December), in fact. Aconex’s long-anticipated IPO (covered repeatedly in this blog) will be watched very carefully by existing and potential competitors, investors, acquirers, aspiring startups, and customers. The initially optimistic flotation was downsized, and last week investors were being advised (by Tim Boreham in Australian Business Review) to judge the IPO “on its merits”, not expect sentiment to deliver “stag profits,” and “given the signs of IPO fatigue, … see how it fares on debut.”


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Dec 01 2014

Recent ExtranetEvolution outages

Apologies to anyone affected by recent downtime at (and my other sites) on two days last week and earlier today.

Last week’s outages (on Tuesday and Thursday) were due to problems in migrating my sites to a new server at my hosting provider, while this morning’s was due to a problem with an updated plugin affecting my networked installation. The bug has affected other WordPress-based sites and blogs deploying multiple domains, and I understand the developer is working on a fix. In the meantime, the plugin has been temporarily disabled (the main effect seems to be a change in how the site handles cookies).

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