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May 12 2008

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Projectcentre.net

Earlier this year, I started looking in a little more detail at the Australian construction collaboration technology market. Aconex, being active in the UK, obviously feature regularly in my thoughts (I believe their shareholder dispute may finally yield a judgement in the next month or so); I have written about Incite (here and here); and I linked to a review of Australian tools in February, which included today’s subject: Sydney-based Projectcentre.net.

(Projectcentre.net should not to be confused with UK transport consultancy Project Centre or the UK government project delivery initiative within BERR. There is also another projectcentre.com.au, offering timber and hardware in Australia).

According to its website, ProjectCentre is owned, managed and developed by CADX Pty Ltd (CADX’s other products include a simple document management system (Chronicle), some file management utilities and a weather service). Two months ago, CADX acquired BANGitUP.com, an Australian construction materials goods and services exchange, intending to integrate it as a service alongside ProjectCentre.net (CADX also has, or had, another web-based application, TenderCentre, so this may form part of that offering too).

CADX itself is a subsidiary of the 120-strong DES group, an Australian provider of integrated digital imaging solutions for the professional printing industry (group is said to have annual sales exceeding Au$35 million [£17m]  and capital exceeding Au$15 million).

  • The ProjectCentre website says it was first released as a web-based project management system in 1997. This makes it among the earliest systems of its kind – a couple of years after Jonathan Antevy launched e-Builder in the US.
  • Australian client case studies include Westfield, McConnell Dowell and Baulderstone Hornibrook.
  • In addition to offices in Sydney and Melbourne, ProjectCentre.net has representatives in New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the US (Phoenix and San Diego). In the early 2000s, ProjectCentre.net was resold by consultants such as Queensland-based Buildon Technologies and Carr Consulting in South Australia.
  • There is no clue as to just how many staff are employed by CADX.
  • It is not clear from the website if the software is delivered on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) basis or if it is locally-hosted by ProjectCentre customers (or both). However, Jodie Miners, a recently recruited product manager (and fellow Twitter user), says in her blog that it is “offered as a SaaS / ASP model”, CADX’s standard terms and conditions certainly suggest this is so, and I have an old academic paper that mentions hosting by “PPS Technology in Sydney”.
  • CADX charges a one-off initial site start-up fee of AU$500 [£240], then a AU$100/week [£48] “to maintain the availability of the Internet Service for this project”; the service includes hosting, back-up, software upgrades, up to 1Gb online data storage and a maximum of 100 Mb/week data transfer traffic. I think these figures apply regardless of the number of users, but it is not clear whether the initial agreement with a customer would include users from supply chain companies working for with that customer (or do they, for example, have to enter into a separate agreement with CADX to use projectcentre.net?).

If anyone can shed any light on the grey areas in my understanding, it would be much appreciated.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2008/05/projectcentrene/

3 comments

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  1. Jodie Miners

    Paul,
    Thanks for the post about ProjectCentre.net, I hope I can fill in some of the blanks for you about what ProjectCentre.net does and it’s advantages over some of the other construction collaboration systems (both here in Australia and in the international arena). Your previous post mentioning ProjectCentre.net you quoted Anthony McPhee saying “email is BAD, email is EVIL. … Basically, email creates a huge, disparate, amorphous mess”. We agree entirely and it’s the principle that ProjectCentre.net is founded on.
    ProjectCentre.net is a forms based solution; This harks back to the “olden days” of construction where systems were entirely paper based. Back in the “old days” (and yes I can almost remember those days) we would hand write up a form in triplicate with the carbon paper inserts, issue it to the different people it needed to go to and then file the last copy which was just about unreadable, into a filing system that meant we would never see that document again. But people knew that they would never do anything without a copy of that form or instruction or request, signed by the appropriate person and stamped with a received stamp the minute it was received. No matter what it’s difficulties people trusted and relied upon the system.
    Then along came email, and we all thought great, this will make things faster and easier, so we transferred all our paper based forms into Word or Excel documents and then filled out the word documents and transmitted them via email. Things were OK then, the information was being transmitted, but people did not like the idea of no signatures on the documents. Eventually things just degenerated, and rather than filling out a form and emailing it we decided it would be just as easy to issue the site instruction as an email itself – it still says Site Instruction in the title of the email, and it still has the same content as the site instruction, so why isn’t that enough? But this is where it all starts to degenerate into this “disparate, amorphous mess” that Anthony so wonderfully described in his article and all of a sudden we have no control.
    So ProjectCentre.net takes the best of both of the analogue and digital worlds for construction documentation and has electronic forms, that look and behave just like the old fashioned paper based forms, but that are managed within the collaboration system, maintaining the security and integrity of the forms. One of the main features of having form based electronic communication is that forms have fields and fields are easier and faster to search on than free text email. Eg if you want to know that a site instruction has a possible cost impact on the project then we can fill in the Cost Impact field and then search and report on all site instructions issued and their potential cost impact. Most importantly there is only ever one copy of each form. This makes the workflow easier because you don’t need to coordinate multiple responses from multiple people – they are all there in the history of the form – no tricky versioning and numbering to worry about.
    Therefore with the forms-based approach of ProjectCentre.net it has many cost management features built-in such as;
    * Design Development – If the design development is not managed against the contract brief and Contract cost, the builder will lose money. ProjectCentre.net has design management and design / cost approval processes to give the builder the appropriate controls for good cost management.
    * Contracts Management – The change process requires negotiation of Head Contract and Sub Contract Variations. A collaborative platform allows visibility of the change and negotiation process and allows the implementation of approval procedures built into the forms to ensure all cost impact changes are approved by the Project Manager.
    * Site Management – The ability to manage the areas where site management can issue instructions that may have cost implications through the forms workflow processes, which ensures the Project Manger maintains appropriate controls.
    From this first level of cost management built into all ProjectCentre.net forms, we then take it one step further to include a fully integrated Contract Administration module with full budgeting, forecasting, contract and variation management and claims and payment certificates. Having a collaboration system to enable on-line and instant negotiation capabilities for all contract documents including variations and claims is a great advantage for any project team. No more emailing spreadsheets between subcontractor and head contractor or between head contractor and quantity surveyor. Everyone is working on-line on the same document with full audit tracking and full history of all correspondence dealing with that document.
    Other modules that are included in ProjectCentre.net are TenderCentre, Defects Management, OH&S, Site Diary and Meetings – all of this on top of the traditional project collaboration tools of document management and distribution.
    ProjectCentre.net is fully web-based SaSS or ASP delivery model with all users accessing the projects via the internet. There is also Windows Mobile limited version for off-line usage on-site for defects and site instructions etc, that is synchronised with ProjectCentre.net once the device is back in the office.
    ProjectCentre.net has over 40 staff based in it’s head office in Sydney and the other offices around the world. We have full 24hrs / 7 days “follow the sun” help desk support by our own staff in our offices, and full training is provided to all users on the projects via face-to-face or live on-line meetings.
    The ProjectCentre.net project is usually owned by one party of the project such as the Client, Project Manager or Managing Contractor and all companies involved in the project that need it can be given access to the project and receive support on the project for no additional cost.

  2. David Turner

    Thanks Jodie, that was very informative. One question however: how accurate is Pauls comment with regards to the SaaS pricing model;
    “CADX charges a one-off initial site start-up fee of AU$500 [£240], then a AU$100/week [£48] “to maintain the availability of the Internet Service for this project”;”
    David

  3. Jodie Miners

    Hi David, the answer is that it entirely depends on the size and duration of the project. We would be happy to provide a proposal for your specific project. Please contact us and we would be happy to answer your specific questions. http://www.projectcentre.net/contact/details.aspx

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