Jul 02 2015

Three enterprise deals boost Aconex

Aconex logo 2014Aconex‘s bullish trading update last month has been followed by three major deal announcements from the Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor, including

Shares in the company have continued to do well on the Australian Stock Exchange market (as The Australian reports), today (2 July) trading at over Au$3.40.

The competition

The Lendlease deal may ring alarm bells at European-based rival Conject which has long retained a close working relationship with Lendlease in the UK and Europe dating back to its Bovis days. Of course, the Aconex deal is mainly focused on its stronghold in the Australian market and in southeast Asia but that hint about “making the platform available to other business units globally” sounds a little ominous.

QA Teambinder logoOf course, simply signing an enterprise deal does not mean other vendors are locked out (often different parts of the same group can choose other solutions). The John Holland group, for example, has also signed a similar three-year enterprise subscription agreement to make QA Software‘s TeamBinder available for all construction and engineering projects. QA’s GM sales and marketing, Rob Bryant, says the deals are non-exclusive, maintaining the right of teams to select their system of choice. TeamBinder is already used by John Holland, says Rob:

“Using TeamBinder’s master project approach, our teams will be developing project templates that follow the JHG project workflows enabling rapid deployment of TeamBinder for all new projects. TeamBinder’s proven expertise in delivering project document control for infrastructure has been a key consideration for JHG as it targets major projects in NSW and throughout the region.”


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/three-enterprise-deals-boost-aconex/

Jul 01 2015

Finalcad expands beyond France

Finalcad is a mobile-first construction application primarily focused on managing quality – but also with eyes on the BIM opportunity.

Finalcad logoBased near Paris and first launched in 2011, Finalcad is a mobile-first construction application primarily focused on managing quality. The company claims to be the only vendor in the mobile construction apps space covering all major mobile platforms with native apps – available for iPad and iPhone, Windows 8 and Android.

International expansion

Previously little known outside of France, it has expanded on the back of relationships with international clients including Vinci and Bouygues, and has been deployed by such firms on a number of major sports stadia – 11 of them in France, including the Nice Allianz Riviera Stadium, the Stade des Lumières in Lyon and the new Bourdeaux stadium (case study). Initially self-funded by the firm’s founders, Finalcad received a €2.1m (c. £1.5m) investment from Serena Capital in June 2014. This has helped the firm strengthen both its development team and its international marketing (the company currently has 50 people and offices in Singapore and London), and the application has been deployed on major projects in south-east Asia and on some UK projects. Since 2011, Finalcad claims it has been used on some 5000 projects in 25 countries.

Finalcad on iPadI met Baptiste Joyeaux, head of international development in London last week and he demonstrated the application to me. Its interface is similar to other tools such as 4Projects’ Field View (formerly Priority1) and Snagr (who I talked to at LondonBuild recently; 2011 post) insofar as it adopts a plan view of built assets with issues at different locations indicated by coloured blobs.

Mobile-first interface

The mobile tool is straightforward to use. When an issue is identified, it is automatically assigned a unique ID and the user can immediately assign it to a contractor for resolution, recording details, adding a photo (annotating it if necessary) and maybe attaching any relevant documentation, and fixing a deadline for response. As Finalcad is a native app, connectivity isn’t required, but as soon as the user has an internet connection, they can choose to synch their device and the issue is uploaded to the cloud-hosted system (deployed via Amazon Web Services – also being used by Snagr).

Finalcad on iPhone and iPadA simple colour coding system then helps the user keep track of the issue’s status. An un-synched issue is blue; once synched it turns green; when the recipient of the notification starts to work on the issue it turns yellow; the issuer then might receive a notification that the issue has been fixed and if they then confirm it has been resolved, they can close it out, and the blob turns to grey. Baptiste demonstrated the rapid relay of notifications from issuer to contractor and back again, showing me the report outputs summarising the status of issues by project zone, by contractor, etc. All interactions are captured in a secure audit trail.

Baptiste also showed me how Finalcad had been customised to offer more granular levels of navigation to meet the needs of different stages of projects. For example, even before rooms are created, Finalcad can be used to capture and share information on individual structural elements: pile caps, beams, etc.

The application also has QR (quick response) code capabilities (article). On major projects with thousands of rooms or zones, QR codes are created to label individual locations. When the Finalcad user scans the QR code with their device, the application automatically takes them to the relevant information. This opens up opportunities for Finalcad also to be used beyond commissioning and handover for repair and maintenance purposes.

Open BIM

Finalcad also sees opportunities in becoming a field tool for BIM, with the 2016 UK government mandate in mind. By retrofitting information captured on the field back to the digital mock-up, Finalcad believes it can bridge the gap between ‘as-planned’ and ‘as-built’ models. Finalcad is also working towards compliance with Open BIM standards (it joined BuildingSMART earlier this year).

Finalcad is available free for trial use by a single user, while the professional package is normally on a per-project basis, allowing use by an unlimited number of users and with no cap on storage.

Update (2 July 2015) – I learned yesterday that Finalcad’s marketing director Aurélien Blaha was formerly at Dassault Systèmes. (Tenuous link time….) According to an Engineering.com post by Bruce Jenkins of Ora Research, Dassault is [again] hoping its manufacturing industry experience will help realise ‘the industrialization of construction’.

The company, of course, has some AEC background – having provided the underlying CATIA technology used by Frank Gehry’s practice (as distinct from Gehry Technologies, now part of Trimble; post) – but, looking back a few years, I recall Dassault reported as “gunning for Autodesk” in 2010. Plus ça change …

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/finalcad-expands-beyond-france/

Jun 25 2015

Surveying Project Information Management

At AECbytesAECbytes, Lachmi Khemlani is working on a research project studying the implementation of project information management (PIM) software in AEC firms, as part of which it is conducting a brief survey to better understand how users are using PIM in their firms. Your response to it would be invaluable in guiding the development of PIM software to better serve your needs. Please click on this link to launch the survey.

Often mentioned in Extranet Evolution, Lachmi is a US-based fellow writer and researcher in the architecture, engineering and construction technology sector, editing AECbytes, and contributing to various books and other publications (she wrote the foreword to the second edition of Chuck Eastman et al‘s BIM Handbook, for example). She also travels widely to observe industry events (we first met at a Harvard conference on construction collaboration in March 2006, and, for the third year running, both of us plan to be at Bentley’s 2015 Year in Infrastructure conference in London in November).

She recently attended and wrote about Autodesk’s AEC Summit, for instance, where she noted the continued development of the Autodesk 360 cloud suite – “according to Autodesk, BIM 360 is the faster growing product in its history” – with, among other developments, BIM 360 Scheduling, BIM 360 Docs (perhaps, finally, superseding the venerable Buzzsaw?), and BIM 360 Enterprise Insight, scheduled for release this year.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/06/surveying-project-information-management/

Jun 24 2015

Progress photos at risk of FoP changes?

Proposed EU changes to national Freedom of Panorama (FoP) rights could affect individuals and organisations taking photographs or videos of construction works and sharing them in commercial platforms.

Freedom of Panorama (FoP) is a somewhat obscure provision in copyright law that allows people to take photographs or video of buildings and and other works in public places without infringing any copyright, and to publish such images. This right prevails in the UK and in certain other parts of Europe (the Netherlands and Germany, for example), but not in others (eg: France, Italy, Greece). However, our continued freedom to take photographs and to use them (in brochures, on websites, in social media, etc) is threatened under proposals tabled by members of the European Parliament (see my PR blog post: PR use of public images under FOP threat; UK national newspapers are also now picking up on the story too – see today’s Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail pieces for example).

Bloomberg building - under constructionBriefly, copyright reformers led by a German politician Julia Reda MEP would actually like to introduce UK-style FoP across the EU. But other MEPs are proposing a non-commercial limitation clause in the FoP rules which would make it useless. As a result, taking shots or video for PR, professional or educational purposes against the backdrop of well-known public buildings, or even posting your snaps on commercial platforms such as Facebook, Flickr or Instagram, could potentially breach the building designer’s copyright. For a great many construction businesses, for example, limiting UK FoP could mean their marketing collateral breaches copyright – many companies showcase past and current projects in brochures, datasheets, case studies, websites, blogs and other social media (#ProtectFOP or lose your marketing collateral).

This got me thinking about other use of photographs and video in construction. Plainly, construction professionals today use photography and video extensively to document (for both personal and company use) the different stages of a construction project, from the earliest planning stages through to project completion and beyond. While some of these progress images will be captured within the construction site perimeter, technically there may still be issues if they show neighbouring buildings outside the site. And on many projects, site progress shots and time-lapse videos are often taken from public spaces outside the site boundary; if UK FoP rights are changed, architects and other designers may need to approve image use by others (or at least perhaps grant a license to project team members allowing images to be used for project purposes), including in online construction project management applications.

According to newspaper reports, the RIBA opposes the proposed changes. The Daily Mail reports a statement to The Times:

We are concerned that the well-intentioned proposals to ensure that architects are paid for the use of images of their work by commercial publishers and broadcasters would instead have negative implications and represent a potentially damaging restriction of the debate about architecture and public space.

Reactions to my first blog post on FoP were broadly incredulous: “bonkers”, “scary”, “unworkable”, “unnecessary”, “extremely worrying”, “ominous”, etc. I seriously doubt that architects, engineers and other design firms will be keen to, or even capable of, administering a potential flood of incoming copyright license applications. And, even if the FoP changes were enacted by the European Parliament, I suspect the UK might somehow seek an exemption to preserve the status quo.

(A lobbying campaign on behalf of cultural and heritage organisations, ahead of a crucial vote on 9 July 2015, is being coordinated by Wikimedia UK’s Stevie Benton [email].)

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/06/progress-photos-at-risk-of-fop-changes/

Jun 22 2015

City-Insights = asset insights

City-Insights potentially does more than ‘tell stories about places’ – as a mobile web tool, it could be used by construction and property professionals for a host of hyper-local internal and external communication purposes.

City-Insights logoThe recent COMIT* community day, as usual, welcomed some new members and a few guests. Among the former was City-Insights, a young (c. 2013) angel-backed startup based in The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey in south-east London. After hearing founder Tim Gardom’s brief introduction to the company, I immediately wanted to know more and, after a brief conversation at the COMIT event,  we had a follow-up meeting, including his colleagues Mike Gardom and Mohammed Rahman, in the ‘Almond’ building at the former Peek Frean factory last week.


City-Insights - Regents CanalCity-Insights has created an HTML5-based toolset that works across all popular smartphones and tablets, along with a supporting cloud-based content management system (Tim said clients can learn to use the system “in anything from 25 minutes to four hours”; the company can also manage content for its clients, if they prefer). In Tim’s words, the mobile application “tells stories about places”.

Tim’s background is in heritage and museum-related projects, but the scope for City-Insights is much wider, and the business has identified property developer and contractor clients as targets for the solution. Essentially, City-Insights allows a customer to share interactive multi-media content specific to particular locations or contexts, and to update that content as the location develops. End-users might scan a QR code, use near-field communication (NFC), click a link, receive a text message or even just use their device to recognise an image; the result will be access to rich multi-media content relevant to the end-user’s location and information needs.

A developer might use the solution for local community engagement (it can be used for surveys too), or to explain features to potential buyers or tenants, while a contractor might use it to brief subcontractors, support handover documentation or streamline maintenance.

Use cases

Example use cases included use by the King’s Cross Partnership and developer Argent at London’s King’s Cross area to create a digital heritage trail (KXplore, due to launch shortly), celebrating the area’s industrial past while also communicating rich background about its future development. Videos, photographs, audio files and interactive text-based data could all be accessed to share information about the past, present and future of specific structures, spaces or objects.

City-Insights - electricalIn collaboration with housing associations such as Octavia Housing and Family Mosaic, City Insights has explore new ways of delivering information about equipment and buildings to housing tenants and subcontractors.

Fit-out specialist Overbury has deployed the application to provide progress information for client visitors to ongoing developments. Material includes profiles of workers, video interviews, archive photographs, time-lapse imagery (reusing 4D BIM visualisations), and slider-controlled progress photographs – with content shareable by Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (and, yes, we talked about using LinkedIn too – particularly relevant to a professional audience well versed in use of that social media).

City-Insights - tenant careAnd – showing the toolset can be used equally for different phases of a development – Overbury is also planning to use it for handover support; for example, when a tenant or new owner starts to occupy a space, the tool can be used to provide online ‘how to’ information about installed equipment (potentially saving numerous face-to-face briefings).

My view

The application’s mobile focus is timely:

  • First, we increasingly prefer to access data on our mobile devices. According to Ofcom’s 2015 report on media use, two-thirds of UK adults now use smartphones (compared to 30% in 2010), with use in the 16-44 age group around 87%. Tablet use lags, at around 45% for the same age group, but adoption remains on an upward trend. Moreover, these devices are immediately familiar and simple to use, enabling both professional and lay (re)use of data and content.
  • City-Insights - handoverSecond, many professionals in the built environment sector are increasingly focused on capturing and reusing data, particularly to support future occupation and use of built assets (‘soft landings’ was mentioned a few times). BIM has started to focus people’s minds beyond construction and handover, and – in the process – we are creating data that can be efficiently re-purposed for reuse by owners, occupiers, visitors, tourists, maintainers and others.
  • I was also interested in the potential to capture location-specific stories that capture ‘social history’. City-Insights could be used to record photos, a video interview, or background information about someone working on a project that could later be viewed by historians or anyone interested in how an asset was delivered. We talked at length about how the platform might be used to tell stories associated with major projects; the London Bridge station redevelopment, Crossrail, HS2 and Thames Tideway are just some of the epic contemporary projects we might compare to Bazalgette’s London sewerage network, the Manchester Ship Canal or Scotland’s hydroelectric schemes; and we wandered off on tangents including QRpedia (post), the UCL Bartlett’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and Andy Hudson-Smith’s Tales of Things, too.
  • City-Insights offers a 2015 alternative to tools I’ve previously seen, such as UK-based ResidentsHQ or Finland’s Howzee (post) that created hyper-local information services to manage the tenant/property management communications at the level of individual blocks. City-Insights potentially narrows that down to individual apartments, rooms and even items of equipment.
  • City-Insights - engagementThe application potentially complements platforms such as StickyWorld (post; and, before that, YouCanPlan), which have used gaming engines, panoramic 3D photography, video and social media tools to enable interactive community consultation projects.
  • As a PR professional, I can also see great potential in the platform to provide new mobile ways to communicate with a range of publics – investors, potential customers or tenants, employees, local residents, tourist visitors, suppliers, etc – regarding different aspects of built environment projects, from early planning stages through delivery to post-handover occupation and use. And, importantly, the PR team will be able to access analytics and measure how frequently the tool is used and what information is accessed, helping them judge the success of their place-centric story-telling.

[* Disclosure: I am a member of the COMIT steering group; Stickyworld is a past pwcom.co.uk client.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/06/city-insights-asset-insights/

Jun 19 2015

iSite 2014 revenues up 7%

iSiteStyles & Wood’s specialist information management subsidiary iSite grew its revenues again in 2014, but not at the double-digit, 33% rate initially indicated in September. Described as the group’s ‘Business Intelligence’ offering within its professional services portfolio, the SaaS property information systems vendor’s turnover was £1.84m, up a more modest 7.5% from 2013’s £1.711m. Profit was squeezed from £278k down to £192k, perhaps partly due to recruitment of new staff; the Nottingham, UK-based business’s average headcount in 2014 was 32, up from 26 the previous year.

The iSite service supports retailer Tesco, and the Styles & Wood 2014 annual report gives some statistics on its use of the system: 275,000 logins/year, 45,000 documents uploaded per month, and 4,500 users, including 3,500 supply chain members.

The relatively modest growth figure contrasts with some of the double-digit revenue growth rates previously reported by some UK competitors, but £1.84m is another new high for iSite, and even if the profit was down it has remained consistently in the black.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/06/isite-2014-revenues-up-7/

Jun 17 2015

Aconex boosts investor hopes

Aconex logo 2014Just over six months after its December 2014 IPO on the Melbourne Stock Exchange, and some four months on from a rosy financial update, Australian-based Software-as-a-Service collaboration vendor Aconex is benefitting from the currently weak Australian dollar, according to various reports (eg: AFR).

According to Aconex, full-year revenue for the year to 30 June 2015 should rise to between Au$79m and Au$81m (up from a pre-listing estimate of Au$76.5m, as a weaker Australian currency gives it a higher-than-expected global revenue. Aconex will still post an after-tax loss, but this may be lower than the predicted Au$3.2m, perhaps as low as Au$2.7m. The company will report full-year results on 25 August.

What is still described as “the biggest-ever float of an unprofitable tech company on the Australian market” has proved some of its initial doubters wrong, with its share price currently up two-thirds from its Au$1.90 listing price last year. Aconex’s success is boosting the hopes of other upcoming IPO candidates; AFR reported yesterday on several ‘Rich List’ individuals, and, with Aconex the 21st best performer on the ASX All Ordinaries Index since 1 January, CEO Leigh Jasper’s stake is valued around Au$40m.

Update (24 June 2015) – Aconex has announced a three-year enterprise agreement with Bechtel, “one of the world’s largest engineering, project management and construction (EPC) firms”. The news release says Aconex plans to invest in the relationship “with the addition of product functionality that it believes will benefit all Aconex customers and users worldwide.”

Aconex’s review reviewed

AECbytesThe company’s application was recently reviewed by Lachmi Khemlani’s AECBytes, when it claimed adoption stood at over Au$800bn in projects, 1.3 billion documents, 600,000 users and 50,000 companies served in 70 countries around the world. Lachmi’s review includes a look at Aconex’s ‘Connected BIM’ module launched as a free service in December 2014.

While Aconex does differ from solutions (Bentley ProjectWise, Newforma) that are more familiar to Lachmi, it has rivals that do match it as a project-wide collaboration tool, frequently paid for by single customers, on an industrial strength platform, and with pure browser-based access (for example: the Europe-based vendors 4Projects/Viewpoint, Asite, Conject and Think Project! [I was pleased to meet up briefly with Think Project! CEO Thomas Bachmaier in London last week]). And the first two in particular have benefited from close involvement with the UK BIM drive to offer pure browser-based BIM tools too – also being developed by the latter pair – looking to capitalise upon the potential export of UK-based BIM expertise worldwide.

Lachmi identifies a need for Aconex to focus on integration with solutions such as ProjectWise, A360, Newforma, Primavera, Timberline, etc, that individual firms are deploying for internal project management, collaboration, accounting, scheduling, and so on (Aconex does offer SharePoint integration, but needs more, she wrote). Seamless internal flows across different disciplines is on the radar of Aconex rivals too. Viewpoint is already envisaging a unified SaaS system covering all its project management capabilities including cost control, an area which has long been a Conject strength, while Bentley’s acquisition of EADOC potentially brings cost management into ProjectWise.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/06/aconex-boosts-investor-hopes/

Jun 12 2015

Docia boosts RIB SaaS revenues

Acquisition of Docia helped increase RIB’s 2014 earnings from its SaaS/cloud operations, and these more than doubled in the first quarter of 2015.

RIB software logoThe value of the July 2014 acquisition by RIB Software of Copenhagen, Denmark-based SaaS construction collaboration technology provider Docia (aka Byggeweb) has been confirmed in RIB’s 2014 Annual Report, which, somewhat belatedly, I’ve been reading this week.

As I wrote, the deal was indeed worth around €20m – to be more exact, €20.159m (or then £16m). The total comprised a €7.1m purchase price, an earn-out component based on Byggeweb’s earnings (EBITDA) in the year to December 2014 which resulted in agreement to pay a further €2.749m (adjusted down by €0.25m as part of a share purchase agreement), and a consideration of 880,000 shares worth a further €10.560m.

The acquisition helped increase RIB’s earnings from its SaaS/cloud operations in the year to 31 December 2014 from €6.653m to €9.393m (Docia contributing €2.291m in five months, roughly equivalent to a full-year contribution of €6.699m) with the segment profit up from €4.395m to €5.684m. The RIB report says Docia had 7,000 customers and around 140,000 users and is currently used on 850 projects worldwide, and adding: “In 2015, Docia was integrated with iTWO 5D and developed into a 6D platform, which also supports model-based facility management processes.”

According to RIB’s latest interim report, in the first quarter of 2015, itsSaaS segment more than doubled, generating revenues of €4.794m, up from €2.032m the previous year, underlining the boost that the Docia deal has given.


While browsing the RIB website I had a look back over previous years’ annual reports to get some understanding of what the Stuttgart-based software group paid for a previous SaaS acquisition, of Australia’s Projectcentre (aka CADX) in October 2012. The 2012 Annual Report said the amount of the purchase consideration had not been settled as it was partly dependent on future economic development of the business, but for the purposes of the report it assumed a fair value of €14.028m (then c £11.2m). A purchase payment of €4.524m and “a payment into RIB CADX as part of a capital increase” of €3.243m were made in October 2012 in respect of 75% of the business. The balance of shares was eventually acquired in July 2014 for shares worth €1.759m, according to the 2014 report.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/06/docia-boosts-rib-saas-revenues/

Jun 12 2015

Conject website upgrade

Conject the ILM groupConject, the Anglo-German provider of SaaS construction collaboration applications has revamped its website, placing an increased stress on infrastructure lifecycle management (ILM).

The new website went live this week, announced in a 11 June news release proclaiming:

“the launch of the new website reinforces the company’s unique commitment to supporting customers throughout the planning, construction, maintenance and disposal stages of any built asset.  In addition, the website features improved user experience, easy access to a range of Conject software and the latest security protection.”

According to head of marketing, Michelle Mason (who last week blogged about ILM):

Michelle Mason“The new website is key to improving awareness that there are Conject solutions to support any built asset throughout its lifecycle, whether it be plan, build and/or operate phases. … The website provides an up-to-date user experience, and is now also in line with the advanced security provided by our software infrastructure.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/06/conject-website-upgrade/

Jun 02 2015

Render: deployment management

Render Networks’ deployment management application provides a simple SaaS interface to some powerful software that can help improve productivity in infrastructure network delivery projects.

Biarri logoRender logoIntroduced by a mutual friend now working at associated Australian company Biarri (“We help Shape our World with Powerful Maths and Simple Software”), I had a video-chat today with MD Dan Flemming and fellow co-founder and director of innovation Joe Forbes of Render Networks.

The company is applying its knowledge of commercial maths and operations research to scheduling, work allocation and project management challenges in the construction phase of fibre-optic networks (Dan was formerly at Alcatel-Lucent and then Australia’s NBN Co, National Broadband Network).

Deployment management

Joe Forbes (Render)However, the advanced mathematics, scheduling and geo-spatial analysis applications are managed in the cloud; in line with the Biarri strapline, Joe told me end-users of this Software-as-a-Service get a simple, intuitive user interface. This helps them deliver greater productivity in designing and constructing complex new infrastructure programmes; Render Networks was recently selected by TE Connectivity as its core solution for turnkey delivery of broadband networks (see news release; while its initial focus is on rolling out fibre-optic networks, the methodology and toolset could easily be applied to other, highly repetitive linear distribution projects such as electricity, gas, water, etc).

Network build by the numbersWhen faced with the challenges of delivering at scale, Dan explained how he had been frustrated by the conventional delivery of major telecommunication networks, which he saw as unnecessarily time-consuming and labour-intensive, partly due to the traditional delivery models, and the often low-tech, adversarial and inflexible attitudes of contractor organisations (and clients too). Render Networks helps streamline the process, he said, and, “being evangelistic,” demands more progressive approaches from the supply chain (we talked briefly about Constructing Excellence, intelligent infrastructure clients, lean procurement [see 2012 UK government report] and ‘alliancing’ best practice [report PDF]).

First, the Biarri technology accelerates the intricacies of the initial conceptual stages of the fibre-optic network design (FOND). The conceptual design can then be related geo-spatially to the proposed locations for validation purposes, and, once field-validated and optimised, the overall project scope can be broken down into increasingly granular work packages, using Render.

Reactive productivity optimisation

The beauty of the Render Networks platform is that it then provides flexible and responsive real-time allocation of work and change management. “If I could sum it up in a sentence,” Dan said, “this is a new project management approach that is geo-spatially aware and maximises productivity everyday.”

Dan Flemming (Render)He used the example of fibre-optic ‘splices’ – tasks commonly allocated to contractor teams out in the field. Through the SaaS application (readily accessed on smartphones and tablets), teams are sent details of each ‘splice’, and they then report their progress on completing the task. Information is presented in recognisable Google Map-style views, with details also displayed in spreadsheet and Gantt chart views. As tasks are completed and signed-off, the as-built data is then captured for future asset management.

Render screengrabProject managers use Render Networks to monitor and actively manage the task allocations, specifying work options relevant to each team’s location and reacting to how efficiently they work. For example, if a team has 10 ‘splices’ to do in three days but completes them all in two, it can be given suitable additional work nearby, ensuring committed resources continue to be deployed, thus increasing the contractor’s revenues. Dan highlighted how the system provides project managers with real-time reporting and benchmarking on team efficiency, helping them reward the most productive contractor teams by giving them further work.

My take

Having spent some time recently researching how some progressive UK infrastructure clients (eg: Anglian Water) have adopted long-term alliancing approaches to build relationships with their supply chains, incentivising them to deliver year-on-year performance improvements, Dan Flemming’s frustrations with traditional approaches taken by contractors and EPCs was immediately familiar to me. As I have written recently, technology alone will not resolve such issues, new approaches to procurement and reward based on delivering value need to be adopted.

Applications such as Render Networks appear to offer a ‘win/win’ for clients and their supply chain partners (well, at least the efficient ones!), particularly over long-lasting delivery projects involving potentially millions of repeated but geographically dispersed tasks. Network designs are optimised and then broken down into logical discrete work packages and task sequences, reducing time consumed in moving from location to location. After initial allocations of work, real-time progress monitoring and change management can help project managers flexibly deploy efficient teams to additional locations. To me, it embodies the lean thinking characteristic in many manufacturing organisations (indeed, Joe Forbes likened it to production scheduling in manufacturing) which is also being adopted by some progressive construction clients (eg: Highways England) and their supply chains.


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/06/render-networks-geo-spatial-project-management/

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