Nov 07 2018

Growth continues at Asite

SaaS construction collaboration technology provider Asite grew its revenues and profits in the year to 30 June 2018. With AEC acquisitions happening almost monthly, is the London-based vendor the next big target?

Asite logo 2012According to its just-published annual report (here), the London, UK-headquartered company saw revenues grow 12% from 2017 to £8,004,773 – around US$10.47m or €9.17m. During the same period, operating profit increased 85% to £1,357,702 – around US$1.78m or €1.56m – from 2017’s £733,370.

The revenue growth figure represents a slight slow-down on the 2016-17 year, which saw revenues climb 18%, while the operating profits showed a bounce-back after dipping in 2017 for the first time since the global financial crisis.

construction collaboration vendor revenues to June 2018

This latest report was published less than five months after Asite’s previous results announcement, when it highlighted its investment in new offices in Hong Kong and development of its New Dawn release of Adoddle, launched in March 2018. Tony Ryan (Asite CEO)CEO Tony Ryan’s messages still focus on its growing global footprint and new releases of its Adoodle platform (the latest wheeze has been an instant messaging tool, aMessage); he describes the company’s common data environment as providing “Common Data Everywhere” (another variant on CDE – Bentley Systems has, for example, been talking about its “Connected Data Environment” for some years; post).

Global footprint

Within its “global footprint”, the mature UK market still contributes the largest proportion of Asite’s revenues: 76.9% – up slightly on 2017’s figure; revenues grew by 12%. Revenues were up in every other region apart from the Middle East, for which no figure was supplied (any revenues from that region were presumably rolled into results elsewhere – perhaps with India, where revenues jumped 60%). Elsewhere, revenues were up nearly 31% in Australasia, and 11% in Europe, while revenues grew by a comparatively sluggish 6.5% in north America – dropping it to third place in revenue terms behind the UK and Australasia.

Headcount dropped over the 12 months to June 2018, from 242 to 213 – the bulk of the reductions being born by Asite’s largely India-based technical team which shrank from 205 to 183 people. Excluding directors’ remuneration (some £614,000), the total wages and salaries bill was around £2.6m, meaning the average pay for an Asite employee is just over £12,000 – underlining the low cost-base provided by Asite’s Indian operation.

The next big deal?

Asite is in an interesting position compared to its competitors, particularly those from the UK. Following the acquisitions of BIW by Conject (then Aconex, then Oracle; post), and of 4Projects by Viewpoint (then Trimble; post), Asite is now – in revenue terms – the largest UK-based independent construction collaboration vendor. It must surely be being courted by potential acquirers (perhaps the rapid publication of its latest results and the trumpeting of its 85% profit growth is partly a marketing ploy to would-be suitors? See: the next big AEC SaaS acquisition?)

The UK market is also targeted by other US-based vendors – not just old hands like Autodesk (first Buzzsaw, now BIM 360 Docs) and Bentley (ProjectWise), but more recent arrivals such as Plangrid and Procore. The leading German players RIB and think project! might yet also enter the UK collaboration market – the latter acquired the UK’s CEMAR in May 2018 – while Belgium’s Bricsys 24/7 could be boosted following its recent acquisition by Hexagon (post).

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Oct 25 2018

Synchro buy a key step in building Bentley’s construction capabilities

Bentley’s courtship of Synchro started when the two firms collaborated during the Crossrail project in London, and the Synchro acquisition is a significant step forward in Bentley’s support for construction operations.

Bentley logo 2017This year’s Year in Infrastructure conference provided a platform for Bentley executives to talk about the June 2018 acquisition of Synchro Software, the 40-strong UK-based 4D BIM pioneer, and to explain how this broadens the Bentley ProjectWise construction offering.

Synchro logoTom Dengenis presented Synchro at the conference, highlighting how 4D construction modelling can make a critical difference to timely project delivery. In a product keynote, he showed how Synchro was used to help plan future construction work at Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium, and contrasted the performance of the team delivering London’s Shard versus the team delivering another – ultimately discontinued – skyscraper in the City of London).

In a building and construction press briefing, Noah Eckhouse, Bentley’s SVP of Project Delivery, told a building and construction press briefing that Synchro provided greater “situational awareness” in projects and said “Synchro is being used by construction teams instead of post-it notes, Gantt charts and thick packs of plans.” And Steve Cockerell, Bentley industry marketing director for rail, thought Synchro was ideally suited to managing rail track possessions. Greg Demchak, now Bentley technical architect, joined Synchro in 2013, and hosted a conference session showing how Synchro helped a project team from PC3 rapidly review constructability options for the Echowater treatment plant in California.

Founded in 2007, Synchro applied learning from other industry sectors to combine scheduling tools with spatial data. The Synchro Pro platform can import project schedules from Primavera, MS Project, Excel and Asta PowerProject, and then synchronise these with building information models, so that project teams can better understand how a project might be delivered, and then – once a project is underway – to monitor progress against the programme and make adjustments as necessary.

The Synchro product portfolio includes: Synchro Site, which allows users to monitor progress on an iPad or on Microsoft HoloLens; Synchro Scheduler, free software which provides traditional 2D Gantt chart project planning and scheduling software with an advanced CPM engine; and Synchro’s free open 4D model viewer.

Expanding construction support

Bentley VP for construction, Steve Jolley said: “For infrastructure projects, integrating Synchro’s 4D construction modelling completes the reach of our ProjectWise CDE.” While Bentley had been investing heavily in BIM for years, he highlighted how the company had gradually been expanding its construction-oriented toolset, citing the 2015 acquisition of EADOC and ProcureWare in 2017, and looking to expand its support for construction managers beyond BIM – “Their primary concerns are time, money, risk”. He said Bentley has formed a construction group to try and take a larger slice of the construction space.

“If you imagine construction projects as pyramids, we have good relationships with the asset owners and operators, and we have good relationships with the Tier One contractors who are managing digital construction and design integration. As we have engaged more with them and with Tier Twos we now know what we need to do.”

This may involve further acquisitions, Jolley said.

Steve Jolley“Time – 4D – was the obvious first step after 3D, and while Bentley Navigator provided some 4D capability it was nowhere detailed enough for construction project management purposes – hence the Synchro deal. We have a very good foundation in Connect, in iModel.js, but there could well be some further acquisitions along the way.”

Jolley said Bentley had a long working relationship with Synchro dating back, in his case, to work with Crossrail, where Bechtel wanted greater certainty about the project’s planning, particularly when it came to complex structures like stations and to interfaces with operational underground lines and other infrastructure. Demchak recalled some complex workflows with data needing to flow from ProjectWise, through IFC, into an access server and back again.

“At that point we decided we needed an API. We couldn’t evolve with all this crazy data exchange, so we started building an API and a mobile app – Crossrail was one of the first users of that tech – in around 2015. … This was the point when Synchro became more than just an animation tool, more than a visualisation tool.”

The integration of Synchro into Bentley’s ProjectWise CDE offers a potentially powerful differentation from other project delivery platforms that are mainly focused on managing 2D and 3D information and workflows (though other vendor applications are also addressing the 4D aspect, particularly on detailed planning – Aphex and Visilean, for example).

Announcing its ProjectWise integration with Microsoft 365 (post), Bentley stressed the importance of workflows:

“With Synchro’s digital workflows, constructors don’t need to recreate 3D construction models from scratch, which would have orphaned the BIM models created during design. ProjectWise, with Teams and Flow, will automate digital workflows for construction planning to leverage the BIM intelligence. This immersive environment for visibility into the path and sequence of construction completes the reach for project delivery. Microsoft and Bentley are working together on further HoloLens applications for ProjectWise and Synchro to be introduced later in the year.”

The company’s iTwin Services will also integrate Synchro’s 4D construction modelling into its monitoring of project timeline states. Such detailed monitoring is vital for construction projects, said Jolley, mentioning the views of Hatch’s program manager Johan Palm who had collaborated with Bentley on its open source library iModel.js developments:

iModel.js gives Hatch the ability to implement a stakeholder engagement technology that extends the iModelHub visionary technology. We can expose complex project information to a level that is accessible, consumable, and extendable via the cloud and in context to the 3D model. Most importantly we can do so in a manner that embraces change as the project progresses.”

It will be interesting to see how Bentley’s construction offerings grow over the next year or so, but the early signs are that it is growing a strong suite of solutions that take the company well beyond its design roots and into the capital-intensive project delivery phase.

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Oct 24 2018

Hexagon on Bricsys 24/7: “Watch this space”

Now part of the HexagonPPM portfolio, Bricsys 24/7 has continued to extend its CDE capabilities, with an enhanced BIM viewer and support for IFC. Could it provide the basis for a revamped HxGN SMART Build offering? Announcements are planned for mid-2019.

Bricsys logoFollowing on from yesterday’s lunchtime news that Sweden’s Hexagon had acquired Belgium-based construction software developer Bricsys, the latter’s London user conference saw demonstrations of the the company’s BIM capabilities and then took a quick dive into “The Future of the CDE” [common data environment].

My BIM-embracing colleagues were impressed by Bricsys BIM, so the CDE demonstration was perhaps underwhelming by comparison. Bricsys 24/7 is “big in Benelux” (according to the company’s communications chief, Don Strimbu) and, after defining a CDE (useful for an audience with a large number of delegates from outside the UK), we learned about how the product was being deployed on a major project in Brussels: the Leopold II tunnel project.

Since October 2017, Bricsys 24/7’s viewer has been extended to incorporate full support for IFC (as 24/7 product manager Jurgen Schepers promised; Bricsys is a full member of BuildingSMART International). The viewing platform also uses 3D WebGL, and enables 3D annotations of the model.

Bricsys24/7 will be offered free to all BricsCAD v19 users next year (echoes of how Autodesk tried to expand adoption of Buzzsaw by offering it free to AutoCAD users nearly two decades ago). The roadmap now includes support for BIM Collaboration Format (BCF) and for virtual reality (VR).

CAD and BIM market

Hexagon logoAfter the main public sessions, we learned that the conversations between Hexagon and Bricsys had been going on for around 18 months. For Bricsys, which for a long time has focused most of its resources on software development and relied on resellers to undertake its marketing, CEO Erik De Keyser said a relationship with Hexagon would boost its sales and marketing activities; Hexagon’s Rick Allen said the parent company would also help boost Bricsys’s profile in north America, and Hexagon is clearly in the mood to take on Autodesk in the CAD/BIM market, criticising its aggressive pricing and subscription models, and looking to give its customers an option (“we will be leading horses to water, and a lot of them will drink”).

Eric De Keyser at Bricsys2018

De Keyser, above, also stressed that it’s not just about Autodesk. He identified that the potential global market for BIM is still under-penetrated, with – even on optimistic estimates – only around 16% of designers using BIM applications – “We are going for the 84% that don’t currently do BIM“.

Bricsys 24/7 and HxGN SMART Build

Asked about the potential ‘fit’ between Bricsys 24/7 and HxGN SMART Build, De Keyser said the Hexagon product extended across a much wider range of capabilities – estimating, planning and scheduling, for example – while 24/7 was specifically aimed at design collaboration activities, but it was recognised that the products complemented each other well. Some work is clearly already under way: “Watch this space in about nine months,” was the message.

HxGN SMART Build was launched at a time when Hexagon was looking to diversify away from its focus on oil and gas, and to use its expertise on detailed project planning and scheduling in other markets such as construction. It looked to integrate 4D and 5D project controls capabilities gained from the October 2015 acquisition of Ecosys, but making technologies designed for specialist engineering procurement construction businesses (EPCs) applicable to architecture, engineering and construction, I think, proved challenging. A collaboration with Skanska and a research project grant in Singapore are the only instances of industry engagement with HxGN SMART Build that I have been able to identify.

So perhaps Bricsys 24/7 will provide the new platform upon which Hexagon can relaunch its SMART Build ambitions?

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Oct 23 2018

Hexagon acquires Bricsys

Swedish software giant Hexagon AB has acquired Belgium’s building design and collaboration software business Bricsys.

Bricsys logoErik De Keyser (Bricsys CEO)BREAKING (London – 1pm BMT) – In London today, opening the 2018 conference of Ghent, Belgium building design and collaboration software developer Bricsys, CEO Erik De Keyser announced a milestone: Bricsys has been acquired by Sweden’s Hexagon AB (read Hexagon announcement) for an undisclosed amount.

Hexagon’s executive vice president Rick Allen said: “The acquisition will have a disruptive and lasting effect,” highlighting the company’s flexible approach to software licensing and stressing the versatility of the DWG file format. The deal adds building CAD and BIM software capabilities, plus collaboration via the SaaS product Bricsys 24/7 (rebranded from Chapoo a year ago), to the Hexagon PPM portfolio. In 2017, Bricsys’s turnover was approximately €13 million (c. £11.5 million or $14.9 million).

Bricsys’s CAD platform, BricsCAD, supports 2D/3D general, mechanical, and sheet metal design and building information modelling (BIM) in one system. It is 100% based on the DWG design format (described by Hexagon as the “de facto standard design format”), and gives designers, engineers and BIM professionals access to thousands of vertical CAD applications created by third-party developers. Bricsys also offers time-saving, artificial intelligence-driven add-ons – from conceptual modelling to seamless BIM workflows and cloud connectivity.

Hexagon President and CEO Ola Rollén says:

Hexagon logo“Hexagon has long been a leader in structural & process piping design. The Bricsys acquisition extends our domain expertise into building design, adding walls, floors, doors, and other construction related features. More importantly, we can now provide the AEC market with an end-to-end platform – with conceptual design, CAD design, BIM software and collaboration tools, project and cost controls, in-field construction execution tools (work packages), and progress documentation (reality capture) – to connect, automate, and ultimately ‘autonomise’ the entire building and construction ecosystem through our HxGN SMART Build solution.”

HXGN SMART Build and Bricsys 24/7 fit

Update (1.45 pm, 23 October 2018) – The mention of HxGN SMART Build is potentially significant for Bricsys 24/7.

Launched in June 2016 (news release), HxGN SMART Build intelligently links models, schedule, and cost in a cloud and mobile building construction management solution for construction planning and execution. It connects site-based field workers to the office, offering real-time, bi-directional communication to align planning and execution of construction. In June 2017, Hexagon announced it was partnering with Skanska – the construction business planned to use SMART Build to consolidate all elements of its estimation, design, planning, scheduling, pre-construction and construction processes into one cloud platform.

On the face of it, it sounds like SMART Build offers a lot of the functionality that one might expect in a common data environment like Bricsys 24/7 (since last year, Bricsys has started to use the CDE term – its session this afternoon is entitled “The Future of the CDE“).

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Oct 23 2018

Script&Go plans Site Diary upgrades

Script&Go logo 2018Fulfilling a promise made in January 2018, Script&Go is now a UK registered business and – despite, or perhaps because of, Brexit – has opened offices in London and Birmingham. The Rennes, France-based mobile application developer says (see announcement) that it wants to move closer to its UK users and improve its products – a Site Diary app is its main UK product – to suit their needs.

Script&Go says the UK will see a wide range of changes in Site Diary from January 2019, including:

  • Improved product with new features such as Task Management, Timesheet, improve PDF Report, chat, etc. All features will be integrated and collaborate with each other.
  • New product design (colours and user interface)
  • New pricing in the British pound sterling currency
  • Product hosted on Microsoft Azure and connected to Azure active directory federated login.


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Oct 23 2018

Basestone wins Best Application of Technology at DCW Awards

BasestoneLondon-based mobile construction technology developer BaseStone won the award for Best Application of Technology at the Digital Construction Awards 2018 – part of the Digital Construction Week event in London last week – for its work on the Bakerloo Line link at Paddington Station.

The “Best Application of Technology” category provides recognition for companies and projects that effectively utilise specific technology to improve processes and deliver measurable improvements. BaseStone’s nomination for this category cited a 60% productivity gain achieved by BaseStone and long-standing customer, the Costain Skanska Joint Venture (CSJV), for their work on the London Underground Bakerloo Line Link (BLL) project at Paddington Station.

Rivals in the category included a Kier project using Clearbox (post), and an entry by VolkerFitzpatrick and GenieBelt. Familiar technology names in other categories included 3DRepo (post) in the R&D category, and GroupBC for its Sainsbury’s Digital Estate project with retailer Sainsbury’s (discussed at GroupBC’s 2017 user conference), in the digital innovation category.

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Oct 22 2018

Total Synergy launches enterprise solution

Total Synergy’s latest SaaS product, Enterprise, features advanced forecasting and resource planning tools for architects, engineers and construction design firms.

Total Synergy logoIn time for last week’s Digital Construction Week show in London, North Sydney, Australia-based AEC project management software developer Total Synergy launched its new Synergy Enterprise platform, targeted at architects, engineers and construction design professionals.

This latest Software-as-a-Service product, which features advanced forecasting and resource planning, has been in development for some months, helped by recent product development recruit Paul Hemmings (formerly at RIB after it acquired ProjectCentre), and extends the core Synergy SaaS product launched in November 2017 (see Total Synergy targets AEC designers).

Core practice management platform

EMEA regional manager Damiaan van Zanen said Synergy is making waves as it grows to become a globally adopted product:

“Since launching the new cloud version of Synergy in November 2017, we’ve seen more than 130 AEC businesses, totaling over 1100 users, adopt it for their AEC project delivery management — from sole operators on our Professional and Business products to companies with over 150 staff.”

Synergy forecastingSynergy supports built environment design businesses throughout the entire project delivery lifecycle — from opportunity to work breakdown, forecasting and resourcing, and document delivery. Its project delivery management functions are underpinned by a comprehensive project accounting capability to ensure visibility into project and practice profitability throughout the lifecycle.

Synergy Enterprise

The latest advanced forecasting and resourcing features released with Synergy Enterprise allow directors to look ahead in their business to see revenue forecast at phase and stage level, and individual staff capacity and utilisation in a simple, drag and drop Gantt chart.
While the Synergy Enterprise release brings new capabilities in practice and project management, further functional growth is planned. Hemmings says:

Total-Synergy-Paul-Hemmings“The release of Synergy Enterprise helps design practices answer two key questions: Do I have enough revenue in the pipeline to run my business, and do I have enough staff to deliver the projects? Synergy Enterprise is the third tier of our project and business management platform. From here we’re actively developing features that suit design businesses with diverse portfolios and reporting needs, multiple offices, foreign currency billing, and continued enhancements to online document management and delivery.”

Scott Osborne (Total Synergy CEO)I also talked with Total Synergy CEO Scott Osborne this week and he invited firms to look closely at the platform’s drag-and-drop planning board. “Project accounting is not everybody’s favourite activity, but being able to quickly manage how and where project design work gets undertaken does get people excited,” he said.

He also mentioned the firm’s work with Microsoft to take advantage of Azure storage and build project portals for digital storage of information used by small- and medium-sized businesses (topical and interesting in light of Microsoft Azure’s continued expansion to power Bentley’s Connected Data Environment – see previous post).

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Oct 22 2018

Bentley ProjectWise365 extends Microsoft integration

Bentley logo 2017At its 2018 Year in Infrastructure event in London last week, Bentley Systems announced the general availability of integration between ProjectWise 365 Services and Microsoft 365.

ProjectWise dashboard, powered by AzureProjectWise is Bentley’s ‘workhorse for work sharing’ used by 70% of Engineering News-Record’s Top 250 Design Firms in the design and engineering of all types of infrastructure assets. Now 20 years old (see this October 2018 short history of ProjectWise), the collaboration platform was originally a customer-hosted on-premise solution for document and drawing sharing, but in recent years it has been extended to the cloud, its workflow capabilities have also been extended, and – since 2013 – its connectivity to other solutions via Microsoft’s Azure cloud services has slowly grown. A year ago, Bentley was saying Projectwise had grown more in past two years than at any time, and announcing steps towards integration with Microsoft’s 365 suite of services.

In parallel, the range of ProjectWise capabilities was expanded. A March 2015 acquisition, EADOC was rebranded as ProjectWise Construction Management in 2017. Nicole Stephano (senior director of product marketing) says the product retains a strong user base which has helped Bentley better understand the project data needs of constructors. Two years later, in March 2017, Bentley acquired US-based SaaS vendor eBid Systems and added bid and tender process management, now branded as Bentley ProcureWare, to the suite of ProjectWise services.

Stephano estimated that 90% of ProjectWise implementations were still on-premise, reflecting the historical legacy of the product, but most new implementations were being delivered via Microsoft Azure Services. Update (24 October 2018): Bentley tells me that over 25% of its top 100 accounts have hosted implementations and the number of hosted users in these accounts has almost tripled in the last year.

ProjectWise Project Insights

The latest announcement builds on the October 2017 announcement, using learning from early adopters including Mott MacDonald and AECOM. One of the 2018 YII Award winners (announced last Thursday) was an AECOM submission focused on ProjectWise Project Insights, which exploits Microsoft Power BI, a toolset in the Microsoft 365 suite (see this ‘Advancement Insight’).

03_AI_AECOM Accelerates Digital Advancement with Near Real-time Insights (2)

Norris Spencer, AECOM’s highways information manager, said: “ProjectWise Project Insights is delivering a new perspective to leadership and project management as the dashboards provide unique views of information management practices and building information model health across the CDE” [Connected Data Environment – a Bentley term]. AECOM information manager Elizabeth Berna added: “Our project managers also use the dashboards to identify trends in project performance providing the client with new ways of assessing project health.”

Neil Lee, IT Director – Applications at Mott MacDonald, said: “The integration of ProjectWise and Microsoft Office 365 will be a significant enabler for our ongoing digital strategy for project delivery. Our evaluation of the integration capability against the typical demands of our project teams demonstrated that Bentley and Microsoft are fulfilling the vision of enabling more seamless and automated digital workflows for project teams to access project information residing in either Office 365 or ProjectWise. Our project teams will be enabled to drive improved project outcomes with more streamlined collaboration that enables faster and more informed decisions.”

Noah Eckhouse - BentleyThe Microsoft 365 integration is clearly seen as extending the reach of information stored in ProjectWise. “There’s a lot of information locked up on ProjectWise – we need to unlock it and make it more widely available across teams,” Noah Eckhouse, Bentley’s senior vice president of Project Delivery, told a building and construction press briefing. By using Microsoft 365 tools such as Azure Search, Microsoft Flow and Microsoft Teams – launched in November 2016, Stephano told me this is now one of Microsoft’s fastest growing applications – every level of an extended team can have assured and secure access to the correct and current project deliverables.

Connecting digital twins

Eckhouse said: “This integration with Microsoft 365 brings automated digital workflows to the extended project team and will help users replicate best practices across a team’s projects. And significantly, now ProjectWise users can add Bentley’s new Azure-based iTwin™ Services, taking advantage of automated digital workflows within ProjectWise to align and synchronize project digital twins for continuous and comprehensive status reviews.”

The launch of iTwin Services was another key YII2018 announcement (see news release). These services can be “transparently provisioned within Bentley’s Connected Data Environment (CDE) for ProjectWise … users,” enabling infrastructure asset owners to capture and synchronise data about physical conditions, including IoT inputs, while also comprehending the “digital DNA” captured in the project or asset’s engineering specifications. Bentley CEO Greg Bentley spoke about digital twins reflecting both an asset’s physical reality, and its “virtuality” (engineering data) using reality modelling, iModelHub (announced in 2017), CDE, and web-visibility technologies.

Further ‘Digital Twin’ announcements from Bentley included the acquisition of Stockholm-based city-scale reality modelling provider Agency9 (news), development with Siemens of PlantSight digital twin cloud services (news), and a strategic partnership with IT services giant Atos to provide digital twins to asset owner-operators (news). However, there appeared to be no connection with a recently announced Microsoft initiative. Microsoft announced its Azure Digital Twin IoT service on 24 September (read this news article), and Azure Digital Twins was to be publicly available for customers to begin building solutions from 15 October 2018 (Eckhouse said this wasn’t an initiative that Bentley was currently involved in).

[Disclosure: I attended the Bentley Year in Infrastructure conference as a guest of Bentley Systems, who paid my hotel expenses. I was also a juror in the YII Awards. Publication of this post was delayed due to a laptop failure while I was at the conference.]

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Oct 12 2018

think project! expands in France

Thinkproject-logoMunich, Germany-based construction and engineering Software-as-a-Service provider think project!, has announced it is strengthening its operations in France to accelerate growth.

think project! acquired France’s Lascom AEC, a provider of PLM (project and plant lifecycle management) in September 2015, and it was rebranded to think project! France. in June 2017. Clients of the Paris Vélizy-based business include Alstom, Grand Paris, and Vinci.

The main business’s clients include Audi, Bayer, BMW, Bouygues, Eiffage, Heathrow Airport, Ikea, Lufthansa, Samsung, Société Générale, and Technip FMC, as well as Alstom and Vinci. It claims over 150,000 users in 50 countries.

think project! says it is “offering a hybrid strategy to drive portfolio convergence by progressively adding legacy Product & Project Lifecycle Management (PLM) capabilities to its modern cross-enterprise collaboration and information management solution”. This involves creating new jobs in France, and the firm is recruiting for roles in sales and marketing, and in consulting and technology.

Thomas Bachmaier, CEO of think project!, says:

Thomas Bachmaier“Further investing in the French-speaking markets is a major cornerstone in our international growth strategy. This move provides think project! with the opportunity to acquire new French and international customers, while adding a leading collaboration solution to the local product portfolio.”

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Oct 10 2018

iBinder – building on simplicity?

iBinder logoSwedish construction, procurement and property management Software-as-a-Service provider iBinder makes a virtue of its product’s simplicity; “Building on Simplicity” is the company’s slogan.

iBinder is a company based in Örebro, Sweden, which has developed a simple-to-use project management system based on a ring-binder approach to construction information.

iBinder manual imageThe software, accessed via a standard web browser, mimics the look and feel of a ring-binder using index tabs to denote different sections of information (each sub-section can then be further sub-divided as necessary). A user with several projects is presented with a view of a bookshelf containing a binder for each project. Other users can be invited to open and use project binders, while iBinder also allows certain tabs (for example, contracts or budgets) to be locked, making those sections and their contents inaccessible to unauthorised users. Multiple virtual ‘bookshelves’ can apparently also be created for different types of binders.

iBinder launched in Sweden in about 2010, and its user base has been growing at 15-20% ever since, and it now claims to have over 200,000 users (though I suspect this is a historic total, not the number of currently active end-users), while the company also says customers double their use of the system year-on-year. “Its cost is based on the project’s budget, so you can have an unlimited number of users and uploaded files.”

Use of the system, which is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform, has expanded to customers in Norway and Denmark, while – interestingly – the company is now looking at franchising its platform to open up new markets, including the UK (it is exhibiting at a franchising show in London in April 2019 – see blog post).

Targeting SMEs?

iBinder appears to be something that may appeal to small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs), but I would be wary about how easily functionality designed to fit Swedish construction industry standards could be adapted to suite non-Scandinavian markets. Presumably, anyone taking on the role of Master Franchisees for the UK (or other markets) would need to develop some marketing materials to help promote the platform in their territories, to adapt the user interface so that it uses the right language and terminology, and develop some of the workflows so that they correspond to the processes most commonly applied in a particular market.

To me – and despite the ‘simplicity’ sloganeering – iBinder is a useful reminder that most SaaS products launched for construction use have tended to require some kind of direct sales effort. The solutions are generally not something that will be adopted just be finding a solution on the web and then following some software ‘wizards’ (I sometimes contrast the complexity of these AEC solutions with some accounting and timesheet solutions – eg Xero, Harvest – that are marketed to small businesses). Usually new customers and/or end-users need support to set up accounts and to then configure AEC applications to suit their business.

Prepared for BIM?

The company’s website also says the construction product is “Prepared for BIM (Building Information Model).” No further explanation is provided, but, again, the platform might need to be developed further to become a ‘Common Data Environment’ offering the functionality required by a (slowly) growing number of clients and their project teams.

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