At this morning’s NCCTP marketing meeting, Nathan Doughty (Asite/Free Collaboration) and I talked about today’s news regarding Autodesk’s $46m acquisition of US on-demand extranet provider Constructware (see news release; something also picked up by AEC bloggers Ralph Grabowski and Randall Newton).
Since the merger-mania of the post-dot.com bust era, this is perhaps the first major consolidation of the collaboration sector, and while largely focused on the US market, its ripples will no doubt spread much more widely (the news certainly caused a few eyebrows to rise among the NCCTP members’ marketing people – which for the first time included Aconex’s Rob Phillpot and Yuval Attias).
When I first saw the headline, I wondered how Autodesk planned to manage Constructware alongside Autodesk Buzzsaw, but it seems from the news release that Autodesk plans to take some bells and whistles from Constructware’s application and add them to Buzzsaw:
“the acquisition enables Autodesk to rapidly expand its collaborative project management solution, Autodesk® Buzzsaw®, with Constructware’s industry leading cost, bid and risk management capabilities…”
“Autodesk plans to invest in supporting, enhancing and integrating the Constructware products with Autodesk’s collaborative project management solution, Buzzsaw, and design applications including Revit and Civil 3D…”
The strategic rationale is that:
“[Constructware] is well established in the construction industry with general- and sub-contractors and has demonstrated significant traction in the public sector among government and education organizations. This is complementary to Autodesk Buzzsaw’s customer base in home building, and the retail and hospitality segments of the commercial real estate market.”
Further to my recent musings on how many users the two vendors had, the Autodesk news release says Constructware had “over 29,000”, while Buzzsaw had over “137,000 users” (so, if nothing else, Autodesk will at lleast be able to add a few thousand users).
Reading Autodesk’s FAQs document, it seems the long-term plan will be to absorb Constructware’s branding into Autodesk, presumably within the Buzzsaw offering:
“Autodesk recognizes the value Constructware has established in their product brands. Over time, you will likely see an integration of the brands under the corporate brand identity of Autodesk.”
What do I think this means for the UK AEC collaboration market? Not a lot at the moment, but, in case this is the first of a series of Autodesk acquisitions, some vendors will no doubt be considering what – if any – strategic fit there may be between their solutions and user bases and those of Autodesk Buzzsaw in the UK.
If Autodesk’s European operation was looking for an acquisition target on the same basis as in the US, several of the NCCTP members could offer a strategic fit so far as their user bases are concerned. Buzzsaw’s UK user base has grown partly through the marketing opportunities afforded by Autodesk’s high profile among the AutoCAD design community (it is a tool favoured by some architects, such as Broadway Malyan, for example), but it is does not tend to feature quite so frequently among contractors, project managers and client organisations.
Assuming Autodesk is successful in integrating Constructware’s ‘industry leading cost, bid and risk management capabilities’ into Buzzsaw, then perhaps we might also see new fronts opening in the battle for hearts and minds in the UK construction collaboration market? Such process management capabilities will certainly broaden Buzzsaw’s appeal in the UK marketplace – if (and it may be a big ‘if’) the Constructware functionality can be adapted to suit the business processes commonly employed in the UK AEC market. Alternatively, perhaps Autodesk will look for a UK equivalent to Constructware with similar but UK-oriented capabilities and seek to acquire them?
(Posted from a favoured Dobo wifi hotspot – see post – in London Bridge railway station)