Nov 10 2017

Aconex promotes from within

Aconex logo 2014Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor Aconex has announced the promotion of two employees to its executive team.


Tim Olshansky (Aconex CTO)Tim Olshansky has been appointed chief technology officer. He was most recently head of engineering, Americas, at Aconex. Previously he founded Worksite, provider of a SaaS project cost management solution that was acquired by Aconex in July 2015. Aconex says Olshansky will focus on strategy, direction, and execution of technology at Aconex. He is based in the company’s San Francisco office, its hub for the ongoing expansion of Aconex in the North America region. He replaces the short-lived Craig Fulton, the former Telstra executive appointed as CTO in February 2017 (post), who left Aconex in July and is now with IBM in Melbourne.

Kirsten Mann has been named acting vice president, product and experience. Mann “has spent close to two decades guiding organisations on how to enhance customer experience and has helped build a world-class product team at Aconex.” Over the past seven years she has held several Aconex roles, including director of customer/user experience and online support, and most recently, general manager of global design and experience. Melbourne-based, she will be directing new product offerings and continuing to address customer needs across the Aconex platform.

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Nov 03 2017

Total Synergy targets AEC designers

Australia’s Total Synergy provides a SaaS-based practice management toolset aimed at architects, engineers and other small AEC design firms, and is going global.

Total Synergy logoNorth Sydney, Australia-based Total Synergy has been developing its practice management tools for architects and engineers since 2000. I met founder and CEO Scott Osborne on a recent trip to London, along with EMEA regional manager Damiaan van Zanen, and they told me something of the history of the now 27-strong firm, and its forward ambitions.

Initially, the core Synergy product was a conventional on-premise toolset. It was competing against platforms such as the UK-based Union Square (acquired by Deltek in July 2016), Rapport3 and CMAP (its focus on AEC designers separates it slightly from providers such as the UK’s BuilderStorm, US-based and New Zealand’s TidyBuild – post). Having made the full transition to the cloud, the company is now looking to expand internationally. I saw van Zanen doing the rounds at Digital Construction Week two weeks ago; he manages the company’s London office in Clerkenwell. An office in north America is to be established in 2018 to expand the product’s round-the-clock human support and provide a US-based sales and marketing team.

An accountant by background, Osborne says Synergy is designed to meet the changing needs of the AEC sector globally.

Approximately 95 percent of global AEC businesses have fewer than 25 staff. We developed Synergy to enable this majority to untether from their offices and desks through a pure cloud software application. Synergy is designed to help all small-to- medium AEC businesses identify where they are profitable, manage their work and documentation, and collaborate with industry colleagues and clients on the same platform… without adding the significant cost and complexity found in bigger systems.”

Synergy is intended to help the AEC industry find more time for design. Drawing on the experiences of 10,000 users in Australia and New Zealand, Osborne says this is a key challenge for small-to- medium AEC professional services businesses:

“A simple example of immediate time savings is from one of our recent beta trials: a structural engineering
company of four people saved one-and- a-half days of time in just invoicing after only one month… that’s
one-and- a-half days back for the managing director who does almost everything in a firm that size.”

Three core functions

Synergy offers three core function areas for AEC design businesses: project accounting, project management, and collaboration. The service was launched globally this week, with a new website and a new video:

Synergy-dashboardThe product is built around a core offering of cloud-based project accounting, project management and collaboration, with strong dashboards and reporting functions. It has tools to set staff rates, and to manage documents, invoices, contacts, images and timesheets and is integrated with small business accounting solutions including Xero, QuickBooks Online and MYOB AccountRight Live, so avoiding double entry of information.

The company is not intending for Synergy to compete with the SaaS collaboration products of firms such as Aconex, Procore or Newforma. “Our aim is to integrate with the solutions from these guys,” van Zanen told me. “Where businesses do want to do some basic 2D markup we are working on an integration with the Bullclip tool from Drawboard.” He said some resource planning and related Gantt chart functionality would be added to the toolset in 2018 too.

‘Professional’ pricing start from £10 per user per month, allowing up to 2GB of storage per user, while the ‘Business’ band costs from £15, with 5GB per user and offering more document and invoice templates and deeper project phasing options.

Total Synergy functionality


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Nov 02 2017

Steve Spark expands on Viewpoint results

On 19 October, I interviewed Viewpoint’s Steve Spark about the SaaS vendor’s 2016 results and about prospects for 2017.

Viewpoint logo 2016At Digital Construction Week in London last month, I conducted a short video interview with Steve Spark, commercial director of Viewpoint’s EMEA business. In it, I asked about the company’s recent financial performance – which saw EMEA revenues up 30% in 2016 – and about uptake of the Field View mobile application. We also discussed the Viewpoint CDE integration with Opentree (Spark also mentioned Solibri – a partnership dating from 2014), and the importance of the company’s BIM/CDE capabilities.

Talking about the prospects for the current financial year, Spark said the 2016 momentum looked to have continued into 2017, buoyed by continued investment in sales and marketing. New customers included a number of house-builders, more Tier One contractors, but also some mid-tier regional and specialist subcontractors. As a more mature market, the UK remains the company’s most important country market, but Spark said Viewpoint, helped by a network of 14 EMEA partners, had been winning customers in Holland and Denmark, and – further afield – even in south America.

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Oct 31 2017

BRE Databook: a step forward for BIM standards

BRE logoInteroperability of data has been on my mind lately – Bricsys’s advocacy of IFC and the multi-vendor supported .DWG file format was highlighted last week, and yesterday we had the announcement of the merger of the UK BIM Alliance and buildingSMART UK&I. So I was interested to read that the UK’s BRE has launched a free-to-use and free-to-list BIM Product Library which will serve as an immutable, definitive and universal data store for all BIM data.

BRE says DataBook will help to overcome current costly and time-consuming fragmentation issues, providing a compliant, trusted and standardised model that the entire supply chain can access and utilise. As the BRE announcement (made during Digital Construction Week) says:

“… current BIM software providers use different standards, without offering a complete range of building elements which the user can draw from, and are often non-compliant with the British Standard BS8541. Furthermore, the fragmentation in software has prevented seamless communication between different parties.”

The free, industry-disruptive DataBook Product Library allows registered users to link their BIM objects and associate data to a fixed manufacturers’ data source. In Beta testing and set to launch in early 2018, DataBook will provide plug-in functions for authoring tools with options to link and to attach data based upon project stage and appropriate project roles. This will remove the liability and risk for designers and constructors from using editable BIM Library objects, whilst providing them with the appropriate manufacturer data that they need to respond to the project requirements throughout the project lifecycle.

Activeplan logoBRE has also created a new Templater tool that holds the standard for exchanging data, including product data. This will remove the confusion and lack of interoperability that has surrounded sharing standardised product information from BIM and associates technologies. BRE Templater (with code by Activeplan – founded by George Stevenson and Tim Aikin, former colleagues of mine at what was then BIW Technologies) will provide core building element definitions (like doors, windows, plaster board, roof tiles, etc.), and is built on international standards such as IFC. Paul Oakley, BIM Director at BRE said:

“The new DataBook will provide a much-needed process to manage information flow during the design and build process, without the complex geometry that exists currently. This will help make BIM work for everyone, as currently too much manual object changing is required as projects are transferred between manufacturers, architects and contractors. Given the substantial savings in time and money, DataBook will quickly become the go-to development source in the building industry.”

DataBook will have a premium, paid for element. Services will include BRE independent assessment of the validity of the data available to each BIM object. BRE will check whether the information source is correct and co-ordinated, and content requirements, including manufacturer and contractor-specific contents, will also be verified. BRE is currently in talks with manufacturers, including Tata Steel and Wienerberger, regarding the listing of products in DataBook.

Update (6 November 2017) – Via LinkedIn, Paul Morris asked:

The BRE Databook appears to deliver standardized BIM information to the industry in a similar manner to the NBS National BIM Library? Will the BRE model deliver improved interoperability and will the BIM object content be categorized based on its level of definition (LOI + LOD)? Can you add any further insight into this?

Via George Stevenson, I got the following response from Paul Oakley at BRE:

The Templater provides the BIM Data standards and presently implements the IFC data schema using IFC 4. If you know how to implement the IFC 4 Docs version you should get exactly the same data standard. These are open for anyone to use including NBL. Future Product Templates will meet further industry identified needs

The BRE Databook allows values to be stored against the Data Templates provided by the BRE Templater. NBL is based upon the 2×3 schema with some updates to IFC 4 so they will have a large percentage of this already. The Templater also provides the opportunity to define what Stage and which Actors an attribute can be associated with. Therefore this can provide a LOI based upon the IFC Schema for specific stages. This is also implemented within the DataBook but other solutions could make use of this via the templater.

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Oct 30 2017

UK BIM Alliance merges with BuildingSMART UKI chapter

The UK BIM Alliance and the buildingSMART UK & Ireland Chapter have agreed to merge, hopefully opening up BIM conversations to cover wider issues relating to people and process change as well as adherence to technical standards.

UKBIMAlliance logoToday (30 October 2017), Anne Kemp, chair of the UK BIM Alliance, used the opportunity of the buildingSMART International Summit in London to announce that the UK BIM Alliance and the buildingSMART UK & Ireland Chapter have agreed to merge.

According to a UK BIM Alliance news release, the Alliance will act as the umbrella organisation for buildingSMART UK & Ireland, thereby becoming the UKI Chapter of buildingSMART (the former International Alliance for Interoperability). A memorandum of agreement has been agreed by both parties with further, more detailed discussions taking place with a plan to complete integration by the end of the year. Kemp said:

“Shared common goals and the intention of both parties to work towards a digital Built industry makes this the ideal time to collaborate and deliver the needs of the industry today and for the future.”

The UK BIM Alliance was set up in October 2016 following the UK Government’s challenge to industry to support the implementation of BIM Level 2. It has been established as a not-for-profit, collaboratively based organisation bringing together a wide community of interest including BIM4 interest groups and BIM Regions, and other industry organisations, to try and bring about a transformation of the built environment industry, and make BIM “business as usual” across the industry.

My view

The merger reduces the number of bodies involved in standards-setting and BIM promotion in the UK and Ireland. Secretariat responsibilities for buildingSMART UK&I passed from BRE to CIRIA in October 2016. With CIRIA also being ‘home’ to the BIM Technologies Alliance vendor group (a more extensive grouping than the Network for Construction Collaboration Technology Providers, NCCTP, was a decade or so ago), this latest merger may help in embedding common data standards across the UK sector, while opening up BIM conversations to cover wider issues relating to people and process change as well as development and promotion of adherence to technical standards. With several of the collaboration vendors also actively embracing IFC and cooperating on integration of their services through APIs, etc, the merged organisation could be in the right place at the right time. And to maintain the digitisation momentum, how about integrating Digital Built Britain into this effort too?

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Oct 30 2017

Chapoo is now Bricsys 24/7

The Bricsys collaboration platform is being rebranded for a fourth time, finally adopting the parent company’s branding, and, as the company’s core product embraces BIM, its cloud solution is positioned as a BIM model server.

Bricsys logoIn April 2017, I attended a Bricsys Insights event at the Ghent headquarters of the Belgium-based engineering software developer. Showing off the capabilities of the Chapoo AEC SaaS collaboration platform and underlining the growing importance of BIM, that event offered a foretaste of developments announced at the company’s user conference in Paris, held last week (24-25 October 2017).

As outlined in April, Chapoo is a (profitable, privately held) sister company of Bricsys, providing a cloud-based information management platform known at various times as Vista, Vondle and – until this year – Chapoo (“Was Chapoo collaboration tool or hat cleaner?“). Bricsys CEO Erik De Keyser told me the separate branding, introduced in October 2012, had helped underline that its platform could be used in non-engineering environments to share files created by multiple applications as well as BricsCAD. Five years later, that requirement seems to have passed, as the service is now being rebranded for a fourth time, to Bricsys 24/7 (read Chapoo’s 6 October 2017 blog post; the rebrand will take place in early November). It is adopting the Bricsys logo and other branding elements, but is still delivered via a separate company (it has slightly different shareholders) covered by an inter-company license. (Online, it will be at ‘bricsys247’ or bricsys24-7 as the slash breaks up web addresses.)

Erik De Keyser (Bricsys CEO)This re-alignment of the brands comes at at time when Bricsys is redoubling its development of building information modelling (BIM) capabilities. Indeed, Chapoo’s blog post says the rebranding is a first step in “a much bigger development. … In addition to the existing Chapoo functionality, Bricsys 24/7 will be a full cloud-based BIM solution” (the term ‘common data environment’, CDE, wasn’t used, but was inferred).

Bricsys’s growth has partly been fuelled by expansion of a substantial network (De Keyser, right, and colleagues last week repeatedly referred to it as an “ecosystem” or “collaborative”) of developers building complementary specialist engineering and construction design and analysis solutions based on the Bricsys platform. It now offers an ‘App Store‘ (gaining nearly half a million visits in 2017 so far, up over 200% on 2016). In April, Chapoo-compatible applications included AproPlan (March 2017 post), time management tool TIQ, property inspection app SmartCheckups, and project imaging and timelapse platform C-Site; recent additions include Netherlands’ Kyp and Belgian field reporting app vendor ArchiSnapper.

Bricsys and BIM

BricsCAD vs AutoCADBricsys regards its BIM solution as a viable alternative to other modelling solutions – drawing heavily on its .DWG heritage (its BIM product application planning interface was described as “DWG API + 1%” at the Bricsys developer forum on Tuesday) and on its compliance to international standards, notably BuildingSmart’s IFC.

Some will be familiar with BricsCAD as an affordable and fully functional alternative to AutoCAD, with fewer of the perceived drawbacks of dealing with Autodesk (Hexagon, formerly Intergraph’s Peter van der Weijde summed up some of the differences, right). However, the BIM application will, of course, be competing with Autodesk’s mature Revit BIM solution – in some building circles seen as the de facto cross-project standard – while Bentley’s BIM tools have a strong position in the infrastructure sector.

WorldCAD Access‘s Ralph Grabowski, live-blogging from the @Bricsys2017 annual conference, summed up Autodesk’s stumbles and self-imposed road blocks: “forcing subscriptions, writing desktop software for being eventually cloud-only, running the corporation to please Wall Street, and slowing down development of flagship software AutoCAD.”

Bricsys is therefore one of several AutoCAD workalikes doing the opposite of what Autodesk is doing, with a BIM product, BricsCAD BIM, that uses .DWG instead of a single-vendor proprietary format (like .RVT). Bricsys is a member of the Open Design Alliance; the ODA’s Neil Peterson, right, spoke briefly at the conference saying: “No company should have a competitive advantage by making it hard to get data from your files.” Bricsys also joined BuildingSMART International in December 2016, and BricsCAD BIM comes with IFC import and export functions to streamline data exchange with other IFC-compliant models.

Several of the live BricsCAD BIM presentations demonstrated Bricsys 24/7 in use to update shared model information. I am no expert on BIM authoring software, but in the demonstrations the Bricsys V18 product handled large file sizes impressively quickly, while collision checking was completed in a fraction of the time taken for Revit to handle the same tasks (I think Bricsys BIM – priced November 2107 at £1180, versus £2460/year for Revit – would excite a lot of interest if it raised its profile at some of the UK construction technology events such as Digital Construction Week; thousands of firms will be making their transitions to BIM over the next three years if the UK BIM Alliance succeeds in its aim of making BIM “business as usual” across the industry).

Bricsys 24/7 as a CDE

Any way, back to Bricsys 24/7…. Apparently, Chapoo had become the number one collaboration product in the Benelux region of western Europe. Head of communications Don Strimbu highlighted the product’s use at Brussels Airport, on the A11 highway and on Zaha Hadid Architects’ design of the Antwerp Port Authority’s head office.

Bricsys 24/7’s development team, led by Jurgen Schepers, is relatively small and is co-located with and shares many of the same developers involved with Bricsys’s core CAD and BIM design authoring products. In this sense, it shares characteristics with Autodesk’s BIM 360 and Bentley’s ProjectWise as a BIM developer’s CDE.

Bricsys 24/7 opens in a browser without plugins, presenting authorised users with a dashboard view of their project information. Schepers demonstrated the ‘document inspector’ function that allows users to quickly view the properties associated with a file. More than 70 file formats are supported by the system’s viewer; the BIM viewer is primarily .DWG; Schepers told me:

“We are going to add IFC so for Revit you should export to IFC. If it really seems required we could create a Revit plugin that provides a ‘Upload to Bricsys 24/7’ button that will automate the export to IFC and then upload.”

I asked about viewing of federated models. Schepers said:

Jurgen Schepers (Bricsys)“In theory yes, as we already do this now for the master and xref files. All files have their own viewing info and data. When you view the master you are basically viewing a consolidated view of the master and each of its xrefs at once. For files that are not xrefs, we need to create a user interface to select the files you want and consolidate them in the viewer and that should be it. Keep in mind though that this will only work if they are the same scale, have the same origin and probably some other constraints.”

The current dedicated Apple iOS and Android Chapoo mobile apps will continue to work with the Bricsys 24/7 platform but will be rebranded in due course.

The AEC SaaS collaboration field is filled with competing solutions that were developed to be design file-agnostic, cloud-based information sharing and workflow platforms. Leading providers active in Europe such as Aconex, think project! and Viewpoint spring to mind, several of them describing themselves as common data environments, CDEs (again, not a phrase I heard in Paris last week), so this may be terminology that Bricsys 24/7 will need to use so that it gets linked from web searches for CDEs. If Bricsys 24/7 is to serve more than its BricsCAD heartland, it will, I think, need to be addressing the needs of users of other BIM authoring solutions and looking at the BIM compliance requirements of markets such as the UK.

Update (10 November 2017) – Bricsys VP communications Don Strimbu has written a blog post introducing Bricsys 24/7 (and talking about it as a CDE). A video of the 24/7 presentation is now also available:

[Disclosure: I travelled to Paris as a guest of Bricsys who paid my transportation, overnight accommodation and some meal expenses.]

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Oct 26 2017

Aconex boosts US Connected Cost team

Aconex has been boosting its Connected Cost sales and marketing efforts in the US, and is supporting digitisation efforts across the construction and engineering industries.

Aconex logo 2014Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor Aconex has been recruiting heavily to boost its Connected Cost sales and marketing efforts in the US, with several former Oracle workers joining Aconex, reports ENR.

Garrett Harley, former director of engineering and construction strategy within Oracle’s Construction & Engineering Global Business Unit (formerly Primavera), has been appointed as vice president, strategic accounts for the building sector. He brings over 20 years of experience in engineering construction technology, and was recently included in the Influencer50 list as a top industry leader. He said:

“I chose to work for Aconex because I believe in their ability to deliver what no other construction and engineering project management software can provide – a truly collaborative solution that provides complete neutrality. Aconex is the only connected construction industry platform that is safe, fast and flexible. We have been trusted for the last 17 years and we will continue to disrupt the status quo and lead the way.”

Harley is joined by several former co-workers from the sales team at Oracle’s construction and engineering unit, including global commercial director Guy Barlow, senior product marketing manager Krista Lambert, regional sales manager Matt Miller, sales consultant Jabin Higgins, sales representative Jared Swartz, and two account executives, Jeff Russell and Nicholas Haddad.

Connected Cost was launched in April 2017 as an addition to Aconex’s SaaS construction and engineering project management software, filling a gap in its product portfolio compared to several competitors, particularly in its strategically important north American market. At the time, Aconex co-founder Rob Phillpot talked of expanding into financial services by developing a payments function on the back of Connected Cost. This would see them competing against Oracle, which acquired Textura, the leading player in the construction payment management (CPM) market, in April 2016. Other CPM players include Australian vendor ProgressClaim (which recently merged with Zuuse), and UK-based OpenECX (post).

Global Industry Council

Aconex has also announced that it has formed a ‘Global Industry Council’ with participants from several of the world’s largest contractors including AECOM, Bechtel, Fluor, John Holland and Lendlease. Council members are said to be “thought leaders who are passionate about evolving digitisation in engineering and construction through sharing ideas and finding solutions to the industry’s most pressing challenges”. The group has collaborated with Aconex and Boston Consulting Group to produce a report, “Digital Technology: The Key to Unlocking Construction’s Potential,” set to be discussed at the second annual Construction Technology Summit in Melbourne this week (25 October  2017).

EarthCam integration

Aconex has teamed up with New Jersey, US-headquartered EarthCam, a leading provider of construction camera technology and services, to integrate its high-quality imagery content into the Aconex user platform. Photos are shareable via the Aconex dashboard and can streamline the ability to make informed decisions more efficiently. Aconex’s Rob Phillpot said:

Rob Phillpot“Massive amounts of data are generated on projects, managed across a range of applications. At Aconex, we understand the potential to use this data to drive efficiencies and improve the bottom line. We are constantly expanding our ecosystem by connecting our users with powerful service providers like EarthCam, empowering our user network to extract that value from their data. With a single, consolidated view of all project information in Aconex, our clients can get clearer insights and make fast, informed decisions.”

Users can easily view, markup and share the visual content, while staying informed by regularly updating images for a quick look at site activity and quality control of subcontractors.

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Oct 24 2017

New CFOs for Kykloud and think project!

UK-based SaaS proptech startup Kykloud and Munich, Germany’s SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor think project! have both appointed new chief finance officers.

Kycloud appoints Norden

kykloud-logoBased in North Shields near Newcastle, Kykloud, a SaaS business providing cloud-based software for surveyors (its client base features eight of the top ten global surveying firms) and property asset managers, has appointed Michael Norden as CFO.

Norden previously worked as financial director at north east companies Hayes Travel and Parkdean Holidays before joining telecoms success story Callstream, where he helped grow and sell the business to the US NASDAQ listed telecoms giant J2 Global. He said:

Michael Norden, Kykloud CFO“I’ve worked with some great businesses and have helped to achieve their goals.  I’m certainly attracted by fast growth, highly ambitious businesses which is why I was drawn to the opportunity at Kykloud. I spent the past six years helping to grow VC-backed, fast moving, telecoms business Callstream, originally  north east based Bluebell Telecom; there are huge similarities between the two recurring revenue business models so I am confident of what I can bring to the table.

“Being part of a disruptive technology business that is having a huge impact within its sector is without a doubt a hugely exciting challenge for any experienced finance professional.”

Kykloud CEO Ed Bartlett, who launched the business with former 4Projects technology chief Nick Graham in 2012, said: “Michael brings with him a wealth of experience from a range of companies and is therefore a welcomed addition to the Kykloud team where he will play a pivotal role in helping to shape the future of the business.”

think project! appoints Ralf Grüßhaber as MD and CFO

Thinkproject-logothink project!, mainland Europe’s leading SaaS company for collaboration in construction and engineering, has appointed Ralf Grüßhaber as managing director and chief financial officer. He joins the senior management team alongside founder and CEO Thomas Bachmaier.

After studying technical business management in Germany and the UK, Ralf Grüßhaber began his career with Hewlett Packard in Germany and France before working for more than a decade as CFO of the publicly listed telegate AG in Munich. Most recently, he was MD of B2X Care Solutions. Grüßhaber has spent more than 20 years in the technology sector and is familiar with the entire spectrum of financial, HR and legal topics, including mergers and acquisitions.

At think project!, in which global growth private equity firm TA Associates acquired a majority shareholding in January 2017, he will work alongside CEO Thomas Bachmaier, who said:

Thomas Bachmaier“Ralf’s entrepreneurial spirit and long-term experience as CFO in technology companies and in mergers and acquisitions are a great benefit for our company. Ralf’s experience will be particularly beneficial in the further expansion of think project! into international markets, which will strengthen our global presence.”

Commenting on his appointment, Grüßhaber said:

Ralf Gruesshaber, think project! MD and CTO“Given its low penetration, the market for construction collaboration software offers exceptional opportunities for continued strong and profitable growth. I am excited and honoured to join think project! and am eager to help continue, and possibly even accelerate, the company’s impressive track record of organic and inorganic growth.”

Prestele is new think project! non-exec director

Update (7 November 2017) – think project! has also appointed a new non-executive director: SaaS expert Peter Prestele, who began his professional career 25 years ago with AEC software provider Intergraph and has held sales and management positions with firms including I2 Technologies, Mercury, IBM, HP and SuccessFactors. CEO Thomas Bachmaier says:

Peter Prestele (think project! non-exec)“Peter’s extensive and long-term experience in the software industry … will provide valuable support for our company as we pursue additional growth. We are confident that Peter [right] will play a critical role, especially when it comes to the further expansion of think project! into international markets, as well as the overall strengthening of our position as a leading SaaS company in construction and engineering.”

Prestele said:

“Construction and engineering is one of the largest industrial segments. Customers in this market are dealing with some of the most complex requirements and must perform multidimensional projects, both locally and globally. think project! has created a unique offering that provides substantial value and helps its customers to fundamentally differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace.”

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Oct 20 2017

Talking digital transformation with PwC

I recently collaborated with Eoin Ó Murchú and Colin Mann of PwC’s Capital Projects team to produce the first in a series of podcasts, entitled Reimagining Capital Projects. This series aims to explore how technology and innovation is changing capital projects and the wider infrastructure industry.

In this episode we discussed the influence of construction technology disruption and how innovation can displace established market practices. How can the industry adapt to new business models? Are we adequately addressing the current industry gaps to meet future business challenges?

We touched on the Farmer review, BIM (of course), procurement practices, industry fragmentation, the UK government’s new models of construction procurement, and ‘servitisation’, among other subjects.

… and coming soon: the DCW2017 podcasts

This week, I have been at the Digital Construction Week event in London’s ExCEL centre, and some of these themes have been revisited, this time in a series of DCW podcasts that I hosted from a Podcast studio installed in the exhibition centre. I will publish a link to these podcasts shortly.

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Oct 18 2017

Viewpoint EMEA revenues up 30% in 2016

UK construction collaboration technology vendor Viewpoint grew revenues 30% in 2016 to £15.1m, reported a £2.5m profit, and is bullish about its 2017 prospects.

Viewpoint logo 2016Viewpoint‘s EMEA operation has shared its latest financial results with me, showing the Newcastle, UK-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor has increased revenues 30% year on year, in the year to 31 December 2016.

Reported revenues for Viewpoint Construction Services Ltd were £15.097m (roughly US$20.47m or €18.49m), compared to 2015’s £11.587m. Growth, while still healthy, was down from the previous “bumper” year’s 48% – reflecting some uncertainty resulting from the UK’s Brexit situation (a factor that softened Aconex’s forecasts in March this year too) and the resulting weakened pound.

While the revenue growth rate may have slowed from the 48% reported in 2015, the result underlines how far Viewpoint’s combined SaaS collaboration and mobile business sits ahead of its principal UK-based competitors. Reading’s GroupBC grew its revenues 33% in 2016, while London’s Asite was up 14% to 30 June 2016.

Collaboration vendors revenues

Two of Viewpoint’s principal competitors in the international SaaS space both reported similarly strong revenue growth. In May Germany’s think project! reported 30% sales growth and said underlying revenues grew 17% in 2016, while Aconex enjoyed 31% growth in the year to 31 June 2017 (and its UK operation grew revenues by nearly 40% – see final section below).

International collaboration vendor revenues

Viewpoint EMEA returns to profit

After the losses reported in the past two years, Viewpoint EMEA has returned to profit, declaring a pre-tax profit of £2.495m (roughly US$3.38m or €3.06m), and returning it to the kind of profit trajectory it enjoyed before the February 2013 Viewpoint deal and the December 2014 acquisition of MCS/Priority1 (now Field View). The UK business says it makes up 12% of the global Viewpoint group.

Looking forward

During quarter 4 of 2016, Viewpoint says it saw a growth in sales of 16% compared to quarter 1. There has also been an increase in orders received during the early part of 2017 leading the directors to be confident that sales in 2017 will increase on 2016 levels. Total order intake in 2016 was £10.2m. The company also shared a 12 month view of forecast demand from key customers: at 31 December 2016, the company had orders outstanding of £10.1m.

The number of customers at the year end stood at 207, up 16% from 2015, while the user base continued to grow, increasing 67% from the previous year – a total of over 85,000 new users, or over 7000 new users per month – contributing to a global total of over 450,000 users worldwide, located in 170 different countries. Use of Viewpoint’s Field View has also been expanding: it added over 1400 new projects in 2016, and over 10,000 new users of the mobile platform; the user base created over 1.3 million tasks during the year.

Viewpoint 2016 in numbers

Aconex and Conject financial updates for UK

Aconex logo 2014The above UK vendor graphs incorporate updated figures for the UK operations of Aconex and Conject in the year to 30 June 2016 (Conject’s report was for the six months from its previous year-end of 31 December, as the businesses align their reporting periods). The reports mainly cover the period before the merger of the two parent groups, and before the EU referendum.

  • Aconex’s UK operation enjoyed 39% revenue growth, from £3.004m to £4.190m. After 2015’s small £5k loss, the London-based business generated a profit of £474k in the year to June 2016.
  • Woking, Surrey-based Conject’s UK operation generated £3.129m revenues in the six months, suggesting a slight slow-down from the previous full year’s revenues of £6.385m. The director’s report says the company recorded a pre-tax loss of £424k “but this included restructuring costs and provisions of £467k following the acquisition” (EBITDA otherwise would have been £59k). New order sales intake of £3.9m was achieved in the half year, with the UK team in particular said to have performed well. The order book (future recognisable revenues) at 30 June 2016, was £12.7m.

When the combined group reported its annual results to 30 June 2017 in August, it said a factor in its 31% revenue growth was its first full-year contribution from the former Conject operation.

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