Jan 22 2015

Aconex developing BIM plugins

Aconex logo 2014According to the BIMcrunch blog, Australian construction collaboration company Aconex intends to create more building information modelling (BIM) software plug-ins. The full interview with CEO Leigh Jasper will feature on BIMcrunch soon.

Having previously released an Autodesk Revit plugin in early 2013, and then launched its Connected BIM capability in October 2014 (made available free in December 2014), the Melbourne-based SaaS vendor is now working on plugins for other BIM authoring tools and will be releasing them “in the coming year or so”.

Meanwhile, just over a month after its launch on the Australian Stock Exchange, Aconex shares have been changing hands at prices close to its initial offer price of Au$1.90. According to TheInstoReport, shareholders now include several institutional investors, including AustralianSuper (5.82% shareholding) and National Australia Bank (NAB), which participated through its subsidiaries MLC Investments, NabInvest Managed Investment and Antares Capital Partners (in total, NAB now owns 6% of Aconex, worth $18.3 million) .

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/01/aconex-developing-bim-plugins/

Jan 22 2015

Panzura pitching to UK BIM users

Panzura is seeking to raise its UK construction profile, but needs to understand the BIM opportunity. Meanwhile, Google lurks … .

panzura - logoUntil a few months ago, I was unaware of Panzura, a US-based hardware technology provider, but it is now promoting its file server hardware vigorously to UK construction firms involved with building information modelling (BIM). Its AEC customer lists bears strong similarities with that of Newforma insofar as it is heavily dominated by design organisations (including BDP, Gensler, WSP, Allies & Morrison, Wilkinson Eyre, Cartwright Pickard and Woods Bagot – among others).

Panzura targeting BIM

Now around eight years old, Panzura has partnerships with a Bromsgrove, UK-based hosting provider Prestige and, perhaps more importantly, with Google, and it held a half-day seminar at Google’s London Victoria offices today. The event attracted around 60 BIM and IT managers, many of them – on a show of hands – vexed by Revit file management issues (we were reminded, more than once, that Autodesk President and CEO Carl Bass is an advisor to Panzura) and attracted by talk of a BIM-friendly file management system.

Panzura’s people (Andy McGlashan and Steve Winfield) painted a strong case for its secure management of BIM files, including file lock-in and – with Google support – cloud-based back-up, archive and disaster recovery. But some doubts began to emerge with its peoples’ grandiose claims that it already – from a technology point of view - delivered Level 3 BIM! I could sense irritation rising in the audience, and, sure enough, they were challenged by BIM practitioners citing PAS1192 requirements (remember: the final building blocks of Level 2 BIM are still yet to fall into place), and the need to support BIM-related workflows through a common data environment (CDE).

Panzura helps AEC design organisations with respect to internal file management, using file metadata to help reduce latency in file synchronisation. A case study, focused on US-based CNS and Syracuse Airport, suggested that, by jointly using its hardware in conjunction with Google Cloud storage, Panzura could reduce latency from around 22 minutes to eight seconds, and remove the need for branch office file servers, tape back-ups, archives and disaster recovery precautions. Panzura controller hardware installed at each office location (entry-level solutions cost from US$17,500) could help firms manage their internal collaboration on files, we were told.

However, in a detailed discussion (Bentley Projectwise, 4Projects and “other EDMSs” were mentioned), it became apparent that Panzura’s focus on Revit and similar model files largely overlooked PAS1192 process management requirements. Under intense questioning (well done, Ian Bush), it was clear that Panzura is largely focused on the internal corporate management of files, less on collaboration with other (external) members of the design team. Only slowly did it emerge that Panzura felt application programming interfaces (APIs) might need to be developed to support Level 2 workflow needs delivered through third party CDE platforms. I think Panzura’s people might need to work harder at understanding imminent UK BIM workflow requirements and how its technology fits alongside process and policy issues (Bilal Succar‘s three circles diagram – a long-time favourite of mine – was shown and discussed more than once).

Google for Work

Google cloud platformSeparate to issues about how Panzura might (or might not) support Level 2, today’s event was also aimed at raising industry awareness of Google for Work (formerly Google infrastructure for business). Brad Gilshaw outlined how Google is competing with (“the bookstore”) Amazon Web Services (used by 4Projects, for example), Microsoft Azure (used by Bentley), Cisco, HP, and the like (all Panzura cloud storage partners) – in providing enterprise-strength hosting solutions (at just £0.026p per GB – less than 3p), with high resilience (a recent review found Google had delivered 99.9996 uptime: around 14 minutes annual downtime – versus 2.69 hours of AWS downtime). Google’s environmental control Nest acquisition was also quietly mentioned. There was no mention of Genie, Flux or related built environment initiatives, but, surely, if Google decided to invest hard in this vertical it would quickly knock several incumbents out of the market.


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/01/panzura-pitching-to-uk-bim-users/

Jan 21 2015

More SaaS and mobile AEC apps

Recent Twitter follows have led me to look at a few new – to me – names in the SaaS and mobile construction applications world:

  • BIMcollab – Netherlands-based Graphisoft (ArchiCAD) and Solibri reseller Kubus specialises in building information modelling solutions in Europe’s Benelux region, promoting OpenBIM and IFC workflow solutions, including BCF Manager – BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) plug-ins for Revit and ArchiCAD – and BIMcollab – a cloud-based issue tracking system for BIM.

  • elogger - logoeLogger.co.uk – Not to be confused with other eLogger products, this Sevenoaks, Kent, UK-based business specialises in an Android mobile solution for construction health and safety and facilities management. The core product is Pad2Print, which helps H&S/FM professionals centralise their management tasks, compiling documents and risk assessments, capturing site information in situ, and managing routine monitoring or maintenance schedules. The product is priced at £99/user/month.
  • safesite logoSafesite – Also supporting health and safety needs, Brisbane, Australia-based Safesite has developed a mobile tool (available for Apple devices and possibly other platforms – like Aecore, its website lacks information about the product, company, its track record, etc). Current features include site inspections, a personnel register, management reporting tools, and a plant/equipment register. In development (“coming soon”) are: pre-start meetings, toolbox talk coordination, work permit registry, incident reports, non-conformance reports, and site induction.
  • ProtrakrProtrakr – Also lacking useful background information, the website of Washington DC, US-based Protrakr says it is a construction management app linking office and site. APP linking the office to the job-site, allowing the user to log a timesheet, submit a field report and input daily quantity production.
  • SmartPM - logoSmartPM by Construx Solutions – Atlanta, GA, US-based Construx provides schedule, data and cost management solutions. Launched in May 2014, SmartPM combines online and mobile technology with CPM scheduling and digital daily reporting, real time performance metrics and schedule updates. Two levels of functionality are provided: “Daily Schedule Manager” (excluding the free single user option, pricing starts from $15/user/month) and the more fully-featured “Lean Project Manager (with data analysis)” (priced from $59/user/month – both prices based on up to four users).

A new ‘bubble’

Fifteen years ago, during the first dot.com boom, dozens of cloud-based collaboration providers were launched into the construction industry but not all of them survived when the bubble burst. Today we are perhaps seeing a similar bubble growing, buoyed by the ease with which a start-up can quickly develop a basic app and create some cloud-based computing and storage capabilities. Not all of these new entrants will survive. Some offer nothing that isn’t already delivered by more established vendors, demonstrate little or no track record, and provide no detail on their management, financing, hosting, reliability, security, etc – all factors that customers should be considering when looking to support project-critical processes.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/01/more-saas-and-mobile-aec-apps/

Jan 14 2015

Aecore repeats BuildBoxCM marketing fails

Californian cloud construction collaboration software start-up Aecore’s website does the business few favours. It needs improving – and quickly!

As an industry analyst and marketing specialist, I sometimes look critically at how software companies market themselves online. Having worked in the Software-as-a-Service sector serving construction since the late 1990s, and having almost single-handedly delivered the marketing functions for a startup that became one of the UK’s leading providers, I think I know a bit about what works for potential customers and other influencers.

aecore logoSo full marks to California, US-based Aecore for starting to use social media to engage with bloggers – I learned about the company when the founder (name vaguely familiar) started to follow me on Twitter (I don’t autofollow everyone – I will often click on the user’s profile, follow links, perhaps look at recent tweets, before deciding whether to follow back).

AECore websiteHowever, the current Aecore website, while nice to look at, isn’t really marketing the company and its SaaS product particularly well (and I started to recall my critique of a similar startup’s website in October 2011). I can see Aecore:

  • is “cloud-based construction management software for contractors”,
  • allows contractors to share the latest RFI’s, submittals, plans “and more”
  • uses “the cloud” to share folders and documents
  • is an “integrated task management solution” helping prioritise workflow and assign tasks
  • costs from $19/user/month (“Townhouse) up to $99/user/month (“Skyscraper”)

But that’s about as much as you currently learn from the site. While there are small illustrations of parts of the user interface, it is difficult to get a view of the full application or the detail of particular features. There is no information about the company, who founded it and when, their experience, their technological competence. There is no company address, telephone number or email address (though you can follow Aecore on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin). No details are given about hosting (where? service levels?). There are no testimonials or case studies from AECore customers.

OK, it may be early days, maybe this is work in progress and there is a big launch to come (if so, why not say so?). But if I was a Californian contractor looking for a cloud-based solution, there is little to reassure me that this would be right choice. The ‘terms of use‘, for example, insist the customer “shall provide accurate, current and complete information on your legal business name, postal address, email address, and phone number”, yet Aecore doesn’t do the same, and term 8 starts “The core features of Aecore are free to use …” clearly wrong, so the text of the terms of use may have been based on a previous product….

… And it all ckicked into place. Looking at Aecore’s social media output, the founder’s name rang a bell: project engineer Anthony Cirinelli was the founder of BuildBoxCM, the San Jose, CA-based startup I wrote about in 2011. He responded to my blog post then saying lessons would be learned. One or two have been addressed – there are some (partial) screengrabs, and it’s clear who the solution is targeted at: contractors – but otherwise the online presentation of Aecore has some significant information gaps. It needs to be improved, and quickly!

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/01/aecore-repeats-buildboxcm-marketing-fails/

Jan 13 2015

Checkd mobile checked out

Checkd is a mobile/SaaS construction application incorporating QR codes into its toolset, and attracting customers in its local Norwegian market.

Checkd logoNorway’s construction market is a fraction of the size of the UK’s or US’s, and is proving a rich testing ground for a new mobile and Software-as-a-Service construction application called Checkd. Developed by a small Oslo-based team led by CEO and founder Tom-Erik von Krogh-Martinsen, Checkd was launched in November 2013, almost two years after he led a group working on a ‘proof of concept’ mobile reporting project funded by the main trade organisation for the construction industry in Norway. This demonstrated that simple reporting and sharing of PDFs via mobile devices was attractive to construction users, but Checkd has since developed into something more sophisticated.

As befits a system developed on a mobile-first philosophy, Tom-Erik showed me the mobile front-end first. This is currently offered on iOS and Android smarphone and tablet devices (full Windows support may follow if customer demand grows; two of the four core modules are currently available on Windows), and adopts a Google App-style approach to tasks, rather than trying to incorporate all modules into a single application:

  • Checkd mobile viewHoursCheckd provides one-click, location sensitive time-tracking. Upon arriving at a site, the user logs in. The application uses GPS to help identify where the user is located; the user may select the chosen site and then ‘checks in’, or, if the employer prefers, the user may have to scan a QR code upon arrival.The app records if the user leaves the site (to obtain materials, for example) and so provides an accurate and real-time record of site presence and travel.
  • Control – Checkd provides an overview of users, tasks and issues. It includes a daily report tool, into which prevailing local weather conditions can also be automatically imported and recorded
  • Floorplan – As the name implies, Checkd provides images of previously uploaded floorplans upon which the user can select a location, record a problem, take a photograph to illustrate the issue, assign the problem to another user for rectification, and then issue the notice. Such notices are received almost instantly, are captured in the SaaS back-end tracking and reporting tools, and progress in resolving the problem can also be tracked by colour changes on the mobile device.
  • Checkd equipmentEquipmentUtilisation of equipment and machinery on-site is also recorded via Checkd. QR codes got another mention here, as the system allows the user to scan codes mounted on the relevant equipment, and instantly access all relevant information, including any documents that might be needed for compliance purposes. Over time, the system tracks who used the equipment, when and where.

The SaaS back-end is where user accounts are created, projects set up, new users are added, floorplans and other information are uploaded, and forms created. Checkd will create common forms for a small charge (c. £100), but users can also be trained to do this themselves. Once a project is in progress, the system also provides dashboard reporting and export tools, allowing information to be shared with other systems (this can be via CSV but Checkd is also developing interfaces with corporate CRM and ERP platforms too).


Adoption of Checkd is, according to Tom-Erik, often best achieved by showing the app and its back-end to site-based project managers. He said the Norwegian market was receptive to new ideas but, without the more active competition seen in the US or UK mobile construction app markets (see previous post, for example), raising awareness and educating potential users about mobile solutions was still necessary (most of Checkd’s indigenous competition was from internal, office-based systems that had been adapted to create apps, Tom-Erik told me; other SaaS solutions in the Scandinavian market include two Copenhagen-based developers: Docia and its Docia Deficiency List app, acquired by RIB in July 2014, and GenieBelt - post).

Nonetheless, Checkd is already being used by three of Norway’s eight biggest construction businesses, more trials are in the pipeline, and there was interest in taking the system to other markets including Germany, the UK (it is already being bundled as part of a solution from the Bullit Phones/Caterpillar joint venture, Catphones) and Asia (Tom-Erik took advantage of a Norwegian trade mission to Asia to test industry appetite in Singapore). As customer experience develops, the company’s pricing strategy will evolve, with options based on numbers of users, numbers of projects and volume of information stored all being considered.

The product is also one of six finalists in the Norwegian heat of AppCircus this week (the winner will be nominated for the Mobile Premier Awards 2015 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/01/checkd-mobile-checked-out/

Jan 09 2015

Latista adds mobile business intelligence

Latista says its BI toolset will help users quickly identify and resolve issues by highlighting key indicators and trends, and BIM seems to be firmly on the roadmap.

Latista logoI have mentioned US-based mobile construction solution provider Latista only occasionally since 2010, most recently in connection with its now parent Textura, who acquired the Virginia-based business in November 2013. Latista provides a mobile and cloud platform for documents, commissioning, quality, punch list, and safety management applications. It has started 2015 by adding business intelligence (BI) capabilities to its platform (see the Latista news release) and BIM features heavily on the roadmap.

According to the company, Latista BI will help users quickly identify and resolve issues before a project is impacted, enabling improved collaboration between project stakeholders and keeping the entire team informed and coordinated. A library of standard reports can highlight key indicators and trends:

Owners, general contractors and architects can easily compare and cross-reference performance among projects right from the reporting dashboard within Latista. Power users can access the advanced data analysis tools to create custom reports that track specific issue, inspection, and commissioning metrics.

Business intelligence capability has been added by most of the leading UK-based SaaS AEC collaboration vendors in the past 2-3 years. Conject (then BIW) launched its BI toolset almost three years ago, for example; Asite and McLaren launched their BI offerings in March and April of 2014 respectively; while the Viewpoint/4Projects acquisition of MCS last month added further mobile BI capabilities to its portfolio.

Mobile BIM construction competition hotting up

Latista is one of a growing number of mobile data-capture and reporting tools being developed for construction use in both the US and Europe. In the US just last month, for example, I noted Trimble’s launch of  ProjectSight, though, as a budget product in the Trimble Buildings portfolio, it is not as sophisticated as Latista. The latter is increasingly being positioned as a BIM-ready tool, while others remain largely focused on the traditional sharing of 2D drawings and documents. Here I would mention US vendors such as PlanGrid, FieldLens, Corecon, EADoc, FluidCM, Procore, and – eventually – Viewpoint for Collaboration. Mobile BIM offerings are also being developed by, among others, design software giants Bentley and Autodesk (see my 5 December post: Autodesk raises its BIM cloud game), and UK-based mobile-centric software developers Cadbeam, BaseStone and SiteDesk.

Currently Latista apps are only available for users of Apple iOS and Microsoft Windows devices; Android device support is on the roadmap. Latista marketing manager Fendi Liu tells me the solution supports IFC and many other formats:

“We also support federated models and import and export to COBie. Equipment and components can be extracted from BIM to be available for use in other modules. Offline, users can navigate through BIM using mobile devices. Project engineers can create issues that can be shared to their subcontractors directly from a specific location within the BIM. Users can annotate BIM with markups when they create issues.”

However, it’s not clear how far Latista would support the Level 2 requirements for UK BIM adoption of a Common Data Environment, set to be clarified further this Spring once the final digital Plan of Works and classification elements of the digital toolkit are published. Parent Textura is currently little-known in Europe, and while the 2014 appointment of former Conject CEO Colin Smith will, I am sure, see it localising some of the Textura CPM capabilities to meet UK commercial needs in 2015, it may take longer for the Latista platform to do the same in the context of BIM.


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/01/latista-adds-mobile-business-intelligence/

Jan 05 2015

More mobile, BIMaaS, ‘Big data’ and M&A?

Paul Wilkinson dusts off the ExtranetEvolution crystal ball to see what 2015 might bring: more mobile collaboration, BIM-as-a-service and ‘Big Data’, maybe.

January 2015 calendarIn the noughties, I wrote several New Year blog posts with predictions about SaaS and collaboration in the coming year. In January 2008, for example, I predicted:

  1. Further polarisation of the UK construction collaboration marketplace
  2. Increased interest in online BIM-based collaboration
  3. Collaboration vendors to push SaaS and sustainability
  4. Recession to have impact upon the collaboration technology market
  5. Social networking and other Web 2.0 application features begin to overlap into construction collaboration

I reviewed these predictions the following December. On four out of the five, there was only modest progress – perhaps because of the one exception: the Global Financial Crisis really began to be felt during late 2008. All the main SaaS construction collaboration vendors saw revenues drop during the very late 2000s as projects slowed or stopped altogether; some bounced back strongly, others had to restructure or were acquired, and some eventually disappeared altogether (the roots of Cadweb‘s and Woobius’s closures last year can, I think, be traced back to those tough years). Vendors’ focus on managing costs also limited R&D and marketing investment, including on areas such as BIM, sustainability and social media, and it wasn’t until the recession ended and revenues started to grow again that the vendors began to invest in their future technology platforms.

  • BIM – Building information modelling has been a dominant driver for many vendors over the past 2-3 years. As I have described during this time, Asite and 4Projects have been leading the online collaborative BIM push, followed, in varying degrees of sophistication, by Aconex, Business Collaborator, Bentley, Autodesk, Nemetschek, Newforma and Trimble. Others (Conject, McLaren) are adopting a … well, more measured approach, perhaps conscious that there won’t be a sudden BIM boom for the established SaaS vendors.
  • Sustainability – While the BIM-related mantra (repeatedly quoted by the UK Government’s first chief construction advisor Paul Morrell) was one of “Cash is king, and carbon is queen”, we haven’t seen more overt promotion of sustainability. To me, it seems it is increasingly regarded as intrinsic to the whole-life philosophy that underpins the UK Construction 2025 strategy, including its BIM adoption drive.
  • Social media – It’s taken a few years, but social media is more widely accepted. Five years ago, I was lamenting how rarely UK construction people admitted using Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc, and while these platforms are increasingly part of many businesses’ communications channels there is often still management resistance to their effective use. Meanwhile, we have yet to see any significant shifts in how SaaS construction collaboration platforms share information by using Web 2.0 techniques.

Mobile collaboration

However, some potentially significant changes have been brought about by developments in the mobile arena. Following the launches of the Apple iPhone and its Android competitors, online application market places (eg Apple’s iStore) were launched in late 2008, providing a means to market mobile-centric tools to owners of smartphones and, particularly from 2010 onwards, tablets.

During 2013 and 2014, I have been tracking the efforts of both established SaaS vendors and new market entrants to capitalise upon the demand for mobile solutions. 2014, for example, saw acquisitions of mobile development specialists by Conject (January) and by 4Projects (December), while several US, UK and European-based startups are also targeting the mobile collaboration space, challenging the previously browser-focused incumbents to react to growing user demands for collaborative capacity on their tablets or smartphones regardless of internet connectivity. I expect more mobile developments in 2015, perhaps with a particular focus on supporting BIM.

What might happen in 2015?

Aconex prospectus coverArguably, the most significant development in the SaaS collaboration market in 2014 was the flotation of Aconex on the Australian Stock Exchange, finally accomplished, after some nervousness, in December. Other notable deals included Bain Capital’s April 2014 investment in Viewpoint – now pushing on with its ambitious programme to integrate collaboration, ERP and other elements of the construction IT ecosystem – and Trimble’s and RIB’s acquisitions of additional SaaS collaborative capacity (GTeam and Docia respectively).

Aconex has successfully replaced some long-standing investors with new backers, and may now be better able to make some strategic acquisitions, perhaps of complementary technologies. Collaboration alone – even spiced up with BIM and mobile – is no longer enough in an increasingly commoditised and global market. Several of the bigger construction IT players recognise this and so are extending their software and platform capabilities and international reach (and it’s possible that firms such as Google might make a strong push into the sector). Watch out, therefore, for some further corporate merger and acquisition activity around this sector in the coming months.

At a more functional level, 2015 is – in the UK at least – the threshold to new ways of collaborating in construction. The UK Government has commissioned the final elements of its BIM toolkit and these are due to be delivered in the next 3-4 months. Armed with the new dPOW and classification tools, the SaaS collaboration vendors will finally be able to provide a Level 2-compliant ‘common data environment’ to support sharing of structured data across projects, and – I hope – we will also continue to see continued progress in improving interoperability.

Finally, and more speculatively, having spent many hours looking at ‘Big Data’ in construction, I also reckon the construction IT sector, and its SaaS collaboration specialists in particular, are well placed to deliver business insights from delving into the masses of data accumulated during delivery of 1000s of built assets for its clients. While BIM is not ‘Big Data’, aggregating information from millions of data collaborations, plus data from clients, from across all their built assets (thinking ‘internet of things’ here too), from supply supply chain partners, and from public and private data sources, could open up new opportunities for construction IT businesses and service delivery partners in this space.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/01/more-mobile-bimaas-big-data-and-ma/

Jan 02 2015

267,000 Extranet Evolution page views in 2014

Blogging on narrow niche topics (SaaS collaboration, BIM, mobile, etc) still attracts a growing audience for ExtranetEvolution.

At the end of some years, I do a quick review of traffic to ExtranetEvolution (here are my 2012 numbers, for instance), but it’s not a regular occurence – I didn’t talk about 2013 last year – and the numbers have varied over the years depending on which blog platform and/or analytics tools I’ve used for my statistics.

EE stats 2014Any way, and judging from Google Analytics, in 2014, ExtranetEvolution continued to draw a loyal audience – about a third of users are return visitors – with a total audience of 40,601 unique users during the year, generating over 267,000 page views (around three times the 2012 figure). By geographic location, this readership is predominantly based in the UK, US, Australia, India, Canada and Germany (same as two years ago).

Looking at device use, use of mobile devices to access ExtranetEvolution content has reached 21%, and Chrome is the most popular browser (used by 45% of my visitors). Organic search delivers the highest proportion of visitors (57%), followed by “direct / (none)” (20%), Twitter (3.4%), EE email subscription (3.3%, though I only started this service in February 2014), RSS (2.4%) and Linkedin (2.3%).

The most popular posts published during 2014 (judging from landing page results) suggest a strong interest in the financial aspects of SaaS collaboration vendor activities and in new mobile technologies. They were:

  1. Project Tango, Genie, Google Glass – converging? (25 February)
  2. Aconex to float on ASX? (18 July)
  3. Breaking news: Aconex cancels IPO (27 October)
  4. Bain Capital pays US$230M for stake in 4Projects parent Viewpoint (22 April)

Looking at the daily user spikes during the year, it seems the Aconex IPO story stimulated a lot of interest, as its IPO valuation on 13 October stimulated a big spike over the ensuing 24 hours. From the overall daily use and from the bounces, I can also see the impacts of the server issues I suffered in May and December.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/01/267000-extranet-evolution-page-views-in-2014/

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.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2014/12/trimble-launches-mobile-projectsight/

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).


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2014/12/milton-walters-joins-textura-australasia/

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