EADOC founder Eric Law is optimistic about the future market for Bentley’s newly acquired application, combining document and cost control, and growing its progress reporting capabilities.
Exactly a month ago (13 March 2015 post) Bentley Systems announced it had acquired the California, USA-based Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration technology vendor EADOC. I spoke on Friday [10 April] to Eric Law, EADOC founder and former CEO, now Bentley’s Senior Director, Product Management, Portfolio Development.
PW: It would be useful to have some EADOC metrics – number of users, number of companies, number of projects?
EL: EADOC has about 100 customers, ranging from owner/operator organisations to programme management and construction management businesses; our licensing model is two-fold: many programme management and construction management firms opt to use EADOC on a per-project basis, while we offer an annual subscription model for owner/operators wanting to use the platform across all their projects. In total, we have about 13,000 registered and currently/recently active users, and they are working on about 1000 projects. These range in size from small $50,000 projects up to $1.5bn in construction value.
PW: How big is EADOC? Are all the staff joining Bentley?
EL: EADOC had 11 staff, all based in California, and all have been retained with Bentley following the acquisition.
PW: In 2010, you broadly described EADOC as 50% document management and 50% financial management. Are these still the core areas?
EL: They remain our core strengths, but we’ve started to add more time and progress reporting. Our view of project management is that it needs to address document management, cost control and time management, and we will continue to invest in developing our progress functionality and our reporting tools – in two years time, I would say 25% of the EADOC toolset will relate to accurate capture of progress data for comprehensive performance reporting.
PW: Did EADOC add the promised (2010) CAD file viewing capability? And later (as discussed in 2012) BIM data management and model viewing?
EL: We looked at a lot of CAD file viewing tools, and also a range of PDF viewers (many of our projects were sharing PDFs rather than native CAD files), but they all involved the use of plugins, and we were keen to provide a pure browser-based experience without ActiveX or Java, and we’ve been making great steps forward using HTML5.
There were relatively few BIM viewer tools and a couple of those we looked at were acquired by other vendors and so got closed off to us. However, the Bentley deal will see us working with its iModel technology, which enables model viewing in the browser and is plugin-free.
PW: EADOC clearly sits comfortably next to Bentley’s collaboration platforms like ProjectWise and its SME-oriented SaaS offering, ProjectWise Essentials (post). How will it fit into the Bentley product portfolio?
EL: We have been working with Bentley since we joined its technology development programme in 2012, so we have a good understanding of its products. Bentley offers a lot of design tools, Microstation and the like, and it is also extending its reach into the construction process with products like ProjectWise, and to support building information modelling. I think the EADOC team brings a lot of cost management expertise to the Bentley business and I expect we will be helping add cost data into BIM tools, both for design and then on into construction execution and project management. We will also be part of Bentley’s CONNECT strategy, delivering more data over the web via Software-as-a-Service while also connecting with existing client side applications.
In the nine years since I founded EADOC, it is surprising that it is still unique in being the only US product to combine document collaboration and project cost control functionality [post].
PW: How will the product be branded? And what are the product development plans?
EL: EADOC was both the name of the company and the name of the product. Now the company is part of Bentley, but the product name will continue, as Bentley EADOC. We’re excited about the opportunities this brings for us – we have sales colleagues ready to start marketing EADOC outside the US, in the Middle East, south-east Asia, and Europe.
Last year we started a complete refresh of the EADOC toolset. Six months on, we were acquired by Bentley and now have more development resources to devote to that refresh. We will be releasing a more responsive design, sharing a common look and feel across all the main devices – desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones – with a completely new user interface and updated middleware. [This echoes the cross-device “app-lication” message I heard at Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure conference last November: post. Eric will be attending this year’s Bentley Systems conference in London in November.]
PW: How is the competitive landscape for SaaS-based collaboration and project management changing?
EL: It’s a challenging space. There are a lot of players, all working in an industry where its difficult sometimes to get fragmented teams to collaborate. There have been some interesting moves – Viewpoint acquiring 4Projects, other acquisitions, a provider [Aconex] going to an IPO – and we now have a slightly smaller group of mainstream providers. But we also have a new wave of simpler, Dropbox-type solutions, with VC-backed start-ups like Plangrid offering ‘freemium’ model platforms. But they are competing at a different level of the market to us.
We also need to be thinking about data standards to help share data, from the design stage, through construction and on to management of the finished assets. Greater BIM integration will help on this, but its still a confusing international landscape when it comes to interoperability, and even within the US we have different BIM groups and different BIM approaches being promoted by major US clients, and some software companies aren’t as active as they could be in improving interoperability standards. [With Eric’s Bentley colleague Nicole Stephano, we also briefly discussed how the iModels technology might contribute to greater interoperability of data, including cost and estimating information.]
There is also widely varying knowledge and experience of BIM. Some designers have been using BIM to produce visuals to market their designs to the client, but there’s no data behind the design; delivery will still involve traditional 2D drawings. And some US firms are simply forwarding these 2D designs to agencies in India and southeast Asia and getting them to turn the information into building information models.
Bentley Systems has acquired a mature SaaS technology with proven expertise in supporting both document management and cost control on commercial and industrial projects or programmes. There is a good ‘fit’ with the existing Bentley SaaS collaboration products insofar as they lack the cost management functionality that has long been a differentiator for EADOC in the US (as I have previously discussed, this is also one of the differentiating options of Conject’s platform in the UK/Europe), and integration of file viewing and BIM-related capabilities will enhance the value of EADOC. And both organisations were on a similar trajectory regarding their cross-device development strategies. With Bentley’s marketing machine now also supporting EADOC, it looks set to expand beyond its US heartland.