Aug 28 2015

Clark Construction deploys Kahua

Kahua logoClark Construction group, one of the largest general building and civil contractors in the United States, with revenues of over US$4bn per annum has been working with Scott Unger’s construction Platform-as-a-Service specialist Kahua (July 2015 post) on a major business process and workflow reengineering project (news release).

Clark embarked on a study of its business processes with the objective of dramatically reducing costs while improving overall jobsite and team productivity. It selected Kahua’s PaaS offering for its ability to both conform to their business processes and dynamically change to meet their evolving needs. Additionally, Clark favoured Kahua’s platform for collaboration and rapid application development, as well as its online marketplace with a variety of applications to address common construction industry challenges. Steve Stankiewicz, Clark’s applications development manager, said:

“We began this initiative with a goal to reduce costs, improve efficiency by streamlining key business processes, and explore better integration options with our financial systems and other third party applications. We are achieving our objectives and are very pleased with the results.”

Since rolling out Kahua, Clark has realised improved efficiency with data retrieval, as well as seamless integration with accounting systems and other essential applications. Clark has already deployed Kahua on projects across the country totalling more than $2B of work.

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Aug 28 2015

Exit Buzzsaw, enter “Alexandria”?

autodesk logo“A complete, connected solution for construction project teams” is being promised by Autodesk’s “Project Alexandria“. The exact nature of this solution is still under wraps, but you can sign up to get notifications once Autodesk starts spreading the word “soon”. We are told:

Project Alexandria is being built to connect your construction project teams, with capabilities like:

  • Management of all your 2D plans, 3D models and any other project documents
  • Automatic updates to document set versions, and powerful workflows and approvals
  • Anytime, anywhere access to project documents for your entire project team

Project AlexandriaOf course, with the exception of the 3D model management, Autodesk has been offering a construction project team solution since the turn of the century. As I recounted last December, Buzzsaw was its first significant foray into the online collaboration field, and it then acquired Constructware in 2006. More recently, another project, “Project Skyscraper”, became Autodesk A360 Collaboration for Revit, augmenting Autodesk mobile functionality delivered through BIM 360 Field. With images featuring mobile devices, Alexandria is clearly promising something along similar lines for team members needing project document and workflow access via a phone or tablet (already a busy and competitive market sector). Is Buzzsaw or BIM 360 being quietly superceded? We will have to wait and see.


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Aug 27 2015

Textura promoting early subbie payment

Textura logoThe European arm of US construction payment management corporation Textura is starting to raise its profile in the UK, with early payment of subcontractors part of its service offering.

As I reported just over a year ago (Colin Smith leads Textura European push), Textura Europe is headed by the one-time founder and CEO of BIW Technologies and Conject, Colin Smith, and is based in Slough, Berkshire. Another European office has been established in Munich, Germany, managed by Andrea Trapp (also formerly at Conject).

Paul Bamforth - Textura EuropeDuring the past year, Textura Europe has been developing its core proposition, building a sales pipeline and refining the technology so that it will support UK and other European states’ payment processes. Colin is supported by another construction software veteran Paul Bamforth, right, formerly of Asta (developer of 27Asta PowerProject) and ProjectPlace, who is UK managing director (news release), plus UK-based product development, support and sales specialists.

In the US Textura a decade ago identified that the construction industry remained reliant on paper-based manual processes and decided to create an online invoicing and payment management platform, provided on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis: construction payment management (CPM). This remains Textura’s core product, and when I met Colin recently he told me the US business now estimates approximately US$2.5 billion in invoices are managed on monthly, with peak daily volumes of payments initiated by the CPM solution in excess of $100 million.

Supply chain finance

Alongside CPM, Textura now also provides a supply chain finance facility, announced in December 2014 (news release) and launched in early 2015, in partnership with Greensill Capital and Morgan Stanley. This ‘Early Payment Program‘ (EPP) enables a general (main) contractor to provide accelerated payment to subcontractors. Textura Corporation executive chairman Patrick Allin explained:

“EPP will address a longstanding structural challenge of the industry – namely, that work in process on a construction project is funded by the subcontractors.  Subcontractors perform the work but are typically paid for that work 30 to 60 to 90 days later. This puts pressure on a subcontractor’s balance sheet and acts to limit a subcontractor’s ability to grow and invest and in some cases leads to business failure.  This is as much of an issue for the general contractors that depend on their subcontractors’ performance as for the subcontractors themselves.  Our technology and Greensill’s expertise and funding will finally enable general contractors to address this structural challenge using Textura CPM and the EPP functionality.  Subcontractors have the potential to be paid up to 30 to 60 days earlier under this program.”

EPP is now being rolled-out alongside Textura-CPM in the UK. Textura’s European operation also provides a green building management tool, Greengrade, to facilitate LEED certification (news release) – which sounds similar to SouthFacing’s TrackerPlus (post) – and a field management tool, Latista (post).

UK marketing

Colin Smith - Textura EuropeAs well as the usual website and social media presences (a contractor payment blog, Twitter, etc), profile-raising activities to date have included a Construction News-hosted webinar on supply chain finance (“Efficient Access to Cash for the Entire Supply Chain, broadcast on 15 July), and dissemination of a survey. And the UK Textura team have been aggressively marketing the company’s services to industry associations and main contractors. Colin said there had been “some pushback” on EPP from businesses whose experience of supply chain finance has been tainted by exposure to schemes operated by some UK-based contractors – “we need to educate the market about our better alternative,” Colin said.

An early success has been achieved. The Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES) and its umbrella body, the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group (SEC Group), have formally announced their support of Textura Europe CPM and EPP as tools for improving payment practices within the construction industry. In total, the SEC Group represents some 60,000 construction industry firms employing over 300,000 people, and accounts for the largest single component (by value) of construction output.

Rob Driscoll, head of B&ES’s Commercial and legal team (and a contributor to the Textura webinar), said:

“To date, the impact and measurement of Government initiatives such as project bank accounts, payment charters, prompt payment codes and revised late measurement legislation are all hampered by lack of visibility. An online payment management system – such as Textura-CPM – would resolve the problem of how to implement and manage payment processes, making monitoring payment performance transparent and easily accessible.”

B&ES and SEC Group are currently lobbying the Government to adopt digitisation across its procurement and payment process within its property portfolio (interestingly, Lex Greensill, CEO of Greensill Capital, is also an advisor to UK Prime Minister David Cameron on supply chain finance). As I tweeted during the Textura webinar, thinking about building information management, BIM: Why make construction design digital and open, but leave payment processes analogue and closed?

Collobaration integration opportunity?

Textura certainly thinks there is an opportunity to improve collaboration by streamlining financial processes and making them more transparent; it has interfaces to ERP systems – Colin mentioned Oracle, COINS, Viewpoint and CMiC – and the continued adoption of BIM, including so-called ‘5D BIM’ where cost information is incorporated into the process, could also help Textura’s European cause.

Also, in the construction collaboration sector, there appears to be growing appetite to incorporate financial reporting functionality alongside design and construction information management. Viewpoint is moving in this direction (post), for example, as are Bentley Systems and Aconex with their acquisitions of, respectively, EADOC (post) and Worksite (post), while Conject’s financial control module is already very mature. Textura-CPM seems to be a perfect extension to such platforms; integration would enable authorised users not only to access and manage design and construction information but also to view, manage and report on related payment transactions.

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Aug 25 2015

Aconex 2015 revenues up 24%

Aconex logo 2014In its first results announcement since its December 2014 initial public offering, Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider Aconex has announced that revenues for the year ending 30 June 2015 were up 24% to Au$82.4m (2014: Au$66.2; 2015 results equivalent to £37.6m, US$59.4m or €51.7m) – read Motley Fool, the AFR. This result was ahead of the expectations set at the time of the IPO, and of the forecast at the time of its June 2015 trading update.

The company declared a pre-tax profit (EBITDA) of Au$3m (2014: a loss of Au$2.13m). These numbers vary against previous reports (a loss of Au$3.2m) as the latest EBITDA is “based on core operations, which exclude ASX listing fees expense, foreign currency exchange losses, and gains/losses associated with the Francisco Partners investment” (see Aconex IPO signposts VC exit).

Regional growth varied. Australasian revenues grew by 15% to Au$36.2m; EMEA, in revenue terms, remains important, contributing Au$21.3m (up 29% – though in that region, at €14.4m, it lags behind European-based SaaS construction collaboration providers such as Conject and ThinkProject – post), while revenues in the Americas (Au$14.7m) and in Asia (Au$10.2m) grew by 37% and 35% respectively.

Leigh JasperIn trading recently affected by an international slump in prices, shares in Aconex today closed at Au$3.99, down on a 5 August 2015 peak of Au$4.4, but Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper remains optimistic about the prospects in an under-penetrated global collaboration market, the impacts of three enterprise agreements and its recent acquisitions of US-based ERP vendor Worksite and Leighton’s in-house Australasian competitor, CIMIC/Incite’s Keystone.

He is forecasting annual international revenue growth of 30%and ANZ regional growth of 15% over the ‘next couple of years’. Global equity turmoil led by China’s stockmarket rout could dampen confidence and slow the onset of some large infrastructure and building projects, but has not changed its outlook:

“There’s a confidence element, but if it’s just the share market – the share market in China is such small percentage of the overall economy – I think it may mean that projects slow coming on a bit, but we’ve got long-term clients and long-term revenue.”

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Aug 19 2015

Conject eyeing cost control future

Conject the ILM groupWith electronic document management increasingly commoditised, Anglo-German SaaS construction collaboration specialist Conject believes the future will increasingly be about how businesses manage cost and programme information.

In just about every part of the supply chain, differentiation has always been difficult in the hugely fragmented architecture, engineering and construction collaboration sector, and it is no different when it comes to technology. Numerous internet startups were launched around the turn of the century, many targeting the construction drawing and document management sector. And the various vendors were all competing to win over initially sceptical construction businesses nervous about web-based technologies, about companies with little or no track records, and about replacing paper-based communications with electronic exchange of information.

Even once the principle became accepted, there was often little to choose between the various vendors; their applications all provided broadly the same functionality, so it often became a question of quality and reliability of service, of trust, and – of course (this is construction, after all) – of price. After the dotcom bubble burst, the surviving vendors gradually began to offer new options. For example, in the early 2000s, Conject (then BIW Technologies) developed Health and Safety File data capture, created a financial control module  that increased visibility of the financial implications of design changes, and added contract change control. These additions helped retain key customers such as Sainsbury’s, Bovis LendLease and Mace while also appealing to new ones, but – excepting financial control – were easily emulated by rival UK-oriented vendors.


Conject EVMThe benefits of that early development of SaaS cost control expertise are now beginning to be felt, says Conject’s professional services director Nick Sansome. While rival AEC SaaS technology vendors (eg: 4Projects) have started to develop project cost management functionality (post), or have acquired businesses with that expertise (eg: Aconex acquired Worksite last month), the Conject team has been consolidating its now mature financial control toolset, including strengthening the earned value management (EVM) toolset it began promoting nearly two years ago.

However, it is not about trying to replace a customer’s existing systems, but integrating with the various applications they use. “Most construction businesses deploy numerous tools and they no longer work in isolation,” says Nick:

Nick Sansome“By developing APIs [application programming interfaces] with most of the common ERP systems – Oracle, Peoplesoft, Coda, COINS – we can ensure relevant project cost information from Conject Financial Control can be seamlessly exchanged with corporate systems. And we have also been extending our integration with Primavera P6 and Microsoft Project, as neither are particularly effective for EVM. Ultimately, our commercial management toolset will work as part of suite of Conject and non-Conject applications enabling customers to focus on the key time, cost and quality aspects of their projects, to deliver business intelligence from cross-project reporting, and to connect asset information with the project delivery piece.”

New Financial Control enhancements are being developed in parallel with changes to the core Conject project control system. The look and feel of the application is being revamped, with HTML5 used extensively to improve its reach across different devices and operating systems, email integration is being extended, a new iOS mobile application has been launched this week, and BIM-related work (see March 2015 post) in relation to model visualisation, federation and COBie/IFC data management continues. But Nick Sansome sees financial control – not BIM – as the key competitive area:

“All the vendors used to compete on their document management capabilities but these are no longer differentiators – there are many cost-effective solutions out there (Dropbox, Sharepoint, etc) – and in markets like the US document management functionality is practically given away alongside mission-critical tools to manage scheduling and project costs. BIM is making us more data-centric, and it is also increasing the opportunity to incorporate time and cost – so-called 5D BIM – and to be more focused on the asset lifecycle. These are all Conject strengths.”

ConjectPS iOS app screeniOS mobile application

The new iOS application, ConjectPC Mobile, was launched on the Apple iStore this week (Android and Windows variants will be available soon). From their iPhone or iPad, authorised users will be able to access project information and deal with information requests, approval processes, etc, direct from their devices. Notifications are presented in an easy-to-read visual dashboard, showing the number of items and using a traffic light system to indicate levels of urgency.



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Aug 14 2015

APE Mobile closes Au$2m funding round

APE LogoIn October 2014 I profiled APE Mobile, a Perth, Australia-based developer of a mobile application for the construction and natural resources industries. In the latest sign of positive investor sentiment towards such businesses,* it has announced the successful closure of a Series A funding round led by Jolimont Global and Viburnum Funds.

According to a news release sent to me by founder and CEO Matthew Edwards, APE Mobile was initially looking for Au$1.5m and got access to Au$2m (c £0.94m or US$1.47m), more than originally anticipated. The funds will be used for further product development and to drive growth.

APE Mobile has apparently enjoyed rapid adoption, with monthly revenue growth of 20% in its first year since launch, and it aims to continue to establish itself as the dominant paperless site app in its field in the national and overseas market.

Matthew Edwards said:

“… Since our launch last year we had an amazing response from large enterprises and small contractors alike, with customers so far including Iluka Resources, Calibre Global and Tasman Civil. There’s a massive opportunity for us out there, with the construction and engineering market having over 1 million employees in Australia.

The raising provides us with further financial security and underpins our plans to expand on the East coast of Australia and overseas. We’re thrilled to continue helping increase efficiencies for our customers in the Construction, Mining and Oil & Gas sectors with our essential productivity tools.”

*Previously this year, I have noted successful funding rounds by GenieBelt (€0.7m; February) and Plangrid (US$18m; May). Finalcad raised €2.1m in June 2014, FieldLens closed a US$8m funding round in May 2014, and Sitedesk raised £0.435m in April 2013.

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Aug 13 2015

Aconex CIMIC deal absorbs SaaS rival

Aconex logo 2014Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor Aconex last week announced a strategic partnership with CIMIC Group. which will also see it absorb a rival Australian AEC SaaS technology provider.

CIMIC (not to be confused with US construction software provider CMiC, or a Shanghai porcelain and stone business) was formerly the Australian contracting giant Leighton Holdings Limited, and changed its name to CIMIC to distance itself from historic corruption allegations (reported the Sydney Morning Herald in March 2015); CIMIC apparently stands for Construction, Infrastructure, Mining and Concessions. The name change follows the acquisition and subsequent restructure of Leighton by Spanish construction group ACS in 2014. ACS was Leighton’s majority shareholder through its ownership of Hochtief.

More pertinent to the AEC collaboration market, Leighton Group also had its own collaboration technology vendor: Incite Keystone, which mainly provided its platform to group companies including Leighton Contractors, Leighton Asia, India and Offshore, Thiess, and John Holland (announced as an Aconex partner in July). Aconex’s agreement with CIMIC will see it:

  • Provide cloud collaboration services for existing and new CIMIC infrastructure and construction projects in eight countries. Aconex says the partnership will generate a minimum of Au$16.5m of committed revenue for the base management of existing and new projects over the next four years.
  • Acquire the intellectual property, assets and certain customer relationships of INCITE Keystone, a global project collaboration platform owned and operated by CIMIC. Aconex will pay CIMIC approximately Au$6.4m in cash for the acquisition of INCITE Keystone intellectual property and assets.
  • Add INCITE Keystone product development and support staff to its workforce.
  • Integrate INCITE Keystone process functionality for infrastructure projects on the Aconex collaboration platform over the next 12 months.
  • Operate the INCITE Keystone platform until all projects currently on it are either completed or transitioned to the Aconex platform.

Incite Keystone

Long-time Extranet Evolution readers may recall my enthusiastic reaction to my first sight of the Keystone platform in 2010 (post). But the innovations the then Incite team were developing and the ambitious plans they had to expand the market beyond Leighton Group and potentially into Europe all evaporated on 14 February 2011. The leadership team were sacked (see St Valentine’s Day massacre leaves Incite almost out-of-sight) and the software development process was reined back – critically damaging, in my view, the potential of Keystone to challenge the indigenous market domination of Aconex.

In July 2012, the Incite implosion appeared to be continuing, with platform users complaining of unreliability, rumours Leighton might switch to a rival AEC software platform – possibly Aconex – and talk of disposal of the business as a non-core operation. At the time, I bemoaned the lost opportunity: “if it had persevered with the Keystone innovations … [and] … grown an external … market for these tools, then today we might have been talking about a lucrative spin-off … rather than a fire sale”. Leighton initially killed off the Keystone brand, then later (2013) resurrected it as part of its Nexus Point Solutions business, but the opportunity had by this time been lost.

Instead, Aconex has been able to pick up the pieces for a modest sum, strengthen its regional position by removing a potential rival platform from the Australasian market, and deepen a relationship with the former Leighton group from whom it had already started to win business (see: Aconex wins Leighton EPC project). And just as it recently announced in relation to its US acquisition of Worksite, Aconex plans to increase research and development costs – albeit “moderately” – for the integration of Keystone process functionality on the Aconex platform, believing this additional functionality will benefit all of its customers and users worldwide.

Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper said:


Leigh Jasper“Our global position as an industry leader is significantly strengthened by this partnership with CIMIC. We’re enhancing the Aconex platform with infrastructure process technology and functionality from INCITE Keystone and adding an experienced team that has successfully served hundreds of large, complex infrastructure projects around the world. We’re also gaining a long-term enterprise commitment from one of the largest contractor groups in Australia and Asia, with projects spanning the globe, and a leader in regional infrastructure development.”

All in all, this looks like a good bit of patient business by Aconex, but also a missed opportunity by some now long-gone Leighton Holdings executives. If they had persevered with the vision set out by Sean Kaye, Scott Crane, Mike Baker, they might now have had a business that was competing with Aconex rather than being consumed by it.

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Jul 31 2015

Aconex finishing strongly

Aconex logo 2014Ahead of an official annual results announcement on 25 August, Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS collaboration technology provider Aconex has today reported its cash flows for its fourth quarter ended 30 June 2015 with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). In a supporting statement from CEO Leigh Jasper, the company also highlighted a record volume of new business, enterprise agreements with global contractors, and positive cash flow of Au$4.7 million.

Leigh Jasper“We ended FY15 with strong momentum in ANZ and internationally. Top-line performance in Q4 reached a new quarterly high, driven largely by infrastructure development across all regions. We signed enterprise agreements with Bechtel, John Holland, Lendlease, and other major global contractors, underscoring our strategy of increasing market penetration and expanding our global user network. Cash flow was positive and up significantly from Q3, demonstrating the inherent strength of our subscription-based business model. We’re entering FY16 in a very solid position – strategically, operationally and financially.”

The company is in a communications blackout until FY15 results have been made public.

Update (3 August 2015) – Shares in Aconex jumped almost 12% in ASX trading today (reports Motley Fool).

Update (13 August 2015) – Aconex last week announced that it had hired UBS, Macquarie Securities and Paterson Securities to oversee a share sale facility for Australian-based shareholders looking to reduce their stakes later this month. Aconex’s 2015 financial year results on August 25 will see 49m shares, worth about Au$215 million or 30% of the company’s shares on issue, and 1.6m vested options released from escrow, reported the Australian Financial Review. Aconex listed at Au$1.90 in December 2014 and closed at Au$4.40 on 6 August, increasing the company’s market capitalisation to Au$725 million from Au$312 million at listing.

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Jul 30 2015

Viewpoint names new CEO

Viewpoint names Manolis Kotzabasakis, formerly CTO at Aspen Technology, as its new CEO

viewpointcs-logoPortland, Oregon, US-based Viewpoint Construction Software, ERP vendor and parent company of the UK-founded 4Projects SaaS construction collaboration business (with its core application shortly to be rebranded as Viewpoint for Projects), has announced its new CEO (see also Oregon Live). He is Manolis Kotzabasakis, formerly chief technology officer at Massachusetts-based Aspen Technology – a provider of software and services for the process industries. He steps into the role vacated by Jay Haladay who announced in April that he was standing down after 25 years running the business and a hands-on role in the 4Projects acquisition in February 2013.

Kotzabasakis, 56, had been with Aspen since 1997 (it has a market value of about $3.75 billion and reported $391.5 million in revenue in 2014). He will move to Portland when he starts his new job, and in a written statement he said:

“I look forward to working closely with the entire team to help drive and support Viewpoint’s strategic initiatives while fostering a corporate culture of innovation and collaboration,”

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Jul 27 2015

e-Builder boosts its BIM

e-Builder-logoe-Builder, the Florida, US-based SaaS construction programme management provider has announced today that it has acquired the assets of Scenario Virtual Project Delivery (VPD), a leader in collaborative Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology for construction. This acquisition (for which the terms were not disclosed) extends e-Builder Enterprise by tightly integrating it with BIM (when I talked to e-Builder in February 2014, co-founder Jon Antevy said BIM was still at an early stage for many of their customers, but interest was growing).

Founded in 2010 as a subsidiary of Florida HQ-ed specialist contractor KHS&S, Scenario VPD developed a SaaS-based BIM integration platform for design, construction and operation of complex projects and structures, launched in 2011. The web-based system used plug-ins to integrate data from Autodesk’s AutoCAD 3D, Revit and Navisworks, to create a single BIM dataset. The goal was to reduce clashes and errors while projects were still at an early virtual stage (something also flagged by Jon Antevy last year). To date, this has been deployed on a range of projects, including one of the top five largest projects in the world with an aggregate project value of over $8 billion.

Ron Antevy, President and CEO of e-Builder said:

“BIM adoption rates are on the rise as facility owners seek new strategies to improve project outcomes and reduce the risk on their projects. This acquisition strengthens our commitment to provide the most complete system to manage capital projects specifically for the facility owner. While many project management and BIM technologies are available for contractors and designers, our combined technology will provide the only integrated system that is designed from the ground up to meet the needs of the building owner throughout the process from planning to construction.”


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