I, and several of my colleagues, have received emails from Microsoft VAR ICS Solutions about ShareWorkz, described as “a functionally rich, best practice intranet and extranet collaboration platform, based on Microsoft SharePoint technology, that enables you to build a collaboration solution in less than one hour”.
While it describes itself as “a world first”, I guess that depends on the definition; back in January, I talked about BT Workspace – another collaboration product based on Microsoft SharePoint – but targeted at SMEs, and in May 2006 I discussed Bentley’s StartPoint, a more AEC-oriented SharePoint-related product. Certainly, ShareWorkz appears to be more of a generic enterprise product, with pricing to match.
“With a high specification intranet or extranet typically costing upwards of £250,000, ShareWorkz 3.0 costs at least 75% less than a traditional bespoke intranet or extranet project. License costs for ShareWorkz start from just £20,000.”
The price-list shows the cost of ShareWorkz 3.0 Server for up to 25 users as £15,000, excluding implementation and Microsoft platform hardware and license costs, plus an annual 20% maintenance charge. For 26-100 users, additional licenses would cost £70 a head.
From my perspective as an observer of the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) collaboration extranet market, I reckon ShareWorkz may appeal to those organisations which want an ‘off-the-shelf’ extranet and want to retain in-house control over project information (assuming, of course, that appropriate contract mechanisms are in place to manage these responsibilities and the associated risks). The strong tie-in with Microsoft products will certainly allow easy sharing of standard Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, etc, but – as I said last May – will be less of an advantage when it comes to sharing, viewing and collaborating upon core construction project information: most AEC design data is produced in CAD files and exchanged in data formats (eg: DWF) for which special viewing, mark-up and commenting tools are required. Nor will a generic collaboration application be able to emulate the sometimes highly complex and highly contractual construction-specific decision-making processes that are built into today’s more sophisticated AEC collaboration platforms.
More fundamentally, there are already a handful of AEC-focused vendors who, firstly, have extensive experience in managing the legal/contractual issues experienced in rolling-out an extranet to a project team, and, secondly, have solutions ready to tackle the CAD file collaboration and process management challenges. Such solutions are also, of course, readily available as on-demand or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, meaning that customers will not have to be concerned about bespoke development, nor will they have any hardware or maintenance issues to worry about. Some SaaS vendors in the AEC sector also price their services regardless of the number of users, with charges levied by monthly or quarterly subscriptions, so that customers pay regular and predictable set fees for the duration ofthe project or programme – no big up-front licence payment or capital investment requirement.