4. Recession to have impact upon the collaboration technology market
With gloomy economic predictions almost daily at the moment, it is pretty safe to predict that any UK recession will have impacts upon the construction collaboration technology market, though not always negative ones. For instance:
- The flow of projects may slow down, some projects may be mothballed, with a consequent reduction in opportunities for owners’ supply chains, including technology vendors.
- However, project teams may become keener to manage their project overheads. More efficient management of communications is one way in which teams can trim their costs and help maintain a margin.
- In the same vein, IT services delivered on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model will also become more attractive to customers deterred by the high upfront costs of conventional software (see SaaS will soar). Low expenditures spread predictably across the life-cycle of a construction project will be a significant benefit for some hard-pressed finance directors.
- The market may also become even more competitive price-wise. Speaking to a couple of other UK vendors before Christmas, we had all already noted very aggressive pricing by some providers in order to win work, perhaps as loss-leaders to establish new relationships, or to prevent a customer falling into the hands of a competitor (of course, if the screws tighten further, prudent customers will need to certain that the provider’s pricing is not suicidally low). It is also worth repeating that most of the main UK vendors have already survived one market downturn following the dot.com bubble burst in 2001; today, not only do they have the experience of weathering a storm, but they are also, in most cases, financially more resilient.
- One way to survive a UK recession is to expand into other, more buoyant markets. Vendors with established bases in the Middle East, for example, will be able to cushion the blow of any drop in UK incomes.
- Recessions can also affect companies’ R&D investments. Software development is not cheap and any drop in revenues may cause some software providers to slow down their R&D activities. The result could be less frequent introduction of new features and functionality.
5. Social networking and other Web 2.0 application features begin to overlap into construction collaboration
I remarked late last year on an analogy made by a user between Facebook and the BIW project extranet. The more I have thought about this, the more I have come to the view that there are opportunities for teams to expand their communications using a variety of tools – some structured and formalised, others more ad hoc and informal. Perhaps we will see some of the latter, Web 2.0-type features – blogs, wikis and folksonomies – begin to trickle into the former?
I have read about project managers using blogs as project diaries; wikis have been used within architectural practices as repositories of experience and best practice; and tagging is, of course, already used to an extent in creating meta-data relating to drawings and other documents. Microsoft’s SharePoint already offers blog and wiki tools, so any extranets created using that as a foundation will incorporate some Web 2.0 features. I look forward to further blurring of the dividing lines between formal and informal, structured and social.