Whole-life thinking by owner-operator clients – and by their investors – will change how technology is adopted and applied, believes SaaS vendor Viewpoint’s head of strategic asset development, Mark Coates.
“We are on the cusp of a major sea-change in client attitudes to how built assets are delivered,” believes Mark Coates, the UK-based head of strategic asset development at Newcastle-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider Viewpoint (since July 2018 a Trimble subsidiary).
Coates is a former quantity surveyor with extensive family connections in construction around the world. Recruited by Viewpoint in late 2017 from Construct.pm (June 2017 post), he spends most of his time talking to asset owners and their advisors; he is therefore well placed to comment on shifts in technology adoption and asset-related thinking. Time, cost and quality still drive many contractors’ commercial decisions about what technologies to deploy on a project, he says, “but we can do so much better.” Viewpoint is looking to establish long-term value-adding relationships with customers, integrating its technologies with owner-operator clients’ in-house systems and with other providers’ solutions. Coates says:
“Sophisticated clients are increasingly thinking about the ‘whole life’ of their built assets. They are now starting to see them as investment ‘products’, and so need to regularly re-evaluate them, to have a clearer view of how those ‘products’ perform – particularly if they might need to update them, dispose of them, or acquire new, better ones – right down to the performance of individual systems.”
He sees the early days of cloud-based project collaboration as mainly about creating an online filing cabinet for information about the design and construction process – “as such, businesses like Viewpoint were then mainly dealing with traditional contractors.” However, since around 2010, the UK building information modelling (BIM) adoption programme has expanded horizons (“notwithstanding common perceptions promoted by some American software providers that BIM was all about 3D modelling”), and the promotion of ‘Soft Landings’ approaches to facilities and asset management, has increased awareness of how data can be used and reused throughout the life-cycle of an asset.
BI and best whole life value
The UK government’s latest Industrial Strategy (November 2017 – available here) talked about manufacturing-led approaches to construction, and urged best whole life value approaches to procurement:
- “five government departments to adopt a presumption in favour of offsite construction by 2019 across suitable capital programmes where this represents best value for money”
- “work to ensure construction projects … are procured and built based on their whole life value, rather than just initial capital cost” (further endorsed by the Construction Leadership Council’s July 2018 Procuring for Value report which recommends, first, procuring on the basis of whole-life value and performance, and second, measuring and rewarding good asset and supplier performance).
“With this kind of thinking guiding client decisions, it’s about more than a transfer of data to CAFM [computer-aided facilities management] systems,” Coates says. “Now, a growing number of Viewpoint’s customers are asset owner-operators – increasingly dominant in procurement decisions – and they want lifecycle data they can use to manage their estates portfolios.”
“Viewpoint’s Team platform is about helping clients ensure continuous performance improvement, it’s about business intelligence (BI). They don’t just want the specifications and 3D geometry of their HVAC units, for example, they also want performance information across their estate so that they can make accurate predictions about their service life, about how that might impact on overall asset costs and liabilities, and about the productivity of people working in a building.”
Launched in the US in 2017, and in the UK in May 2018, Viewpoint Team complements rather than replaces Viewpoint For Projects (VFP), the company’s flagship collaboration platform, Coates says (echoing Viewpoint chief product officer Matt Harris in May 2018). He believes Viewpoint’s long history and credibility in the market will help it improve performance within the industry:
“VFP was the primary workhorse for Tier One and Tier Two companies delivering construction projects. Viewpoint Team takes nothing away from VFP. It is a toolset for the whole team – it is able to surface data about supplier relationships so that the owner-operator, Tier One contractor, Tier Two, etc, can monitor supply chain relationships and protect or ‘future-proof’ their supply chain – identify those that are most resilient, most efficient, most critical to profitability.”
Coates believes Viewpoint’s long history and credibility in the market will help it improve performance within the industry, and says financial institutions are keen to talk about protecting their investments – their ‘products’ – through better use of data.
“Let’s look five years down the road: who is going to have the most influence? It will be those with the money that will insist on what systems need to be in place to manage their data, and to support due diligence by providing a complete ‘service history’ of their assets.”