Union Square Software‘s Workspace solution has been reviewed by Bloor Research‘s Simon Holloway in an article, Collaboration for Construction with Union Square Software, on IT-Director.com. Three points struck me as I read the analysis.
First, a minor point, but Simon writes:
“After years of being slow to change, the construction industry has finally started to appreciate the importance of information technology as a tool in the construction process.”
Such comments will irritate many construction industry professionals. Word-processing and other office software arrived in construction at much the same time they did in other sectors, and we started using computer-aided design tools over 20 years ago. Construction collaboration solutions have been around for at least ten years, and the UK construction industry is among the world’s leaders in its adoption of such technologies. The industry can be slow to change, but in some areas, including adoption of mobile telecommunications, and – since the late 1990s – extranets, it has played a leading role.
Second, the initial focus of the article seems to be on sharing information across a construction supply chain, but as Union Square’s own website, and indeed the comments by Union Square’s Stuart Bell, suggest: Workspace is primarily an enterprise portal solution supporting employees’ information needs within a business.
Unlike other ICT solutions in the construction market, including UK providers like BIW [my employer], 4Projects and Asite, the Australian Aconex, and US Autodesk‘s Buzzsaw solution, Workspace is not expressly focused on enabling collaboration across a multi-company, geographically dispersed construction project team. These competitors also tend to deploy their solutions on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis, rather than leaving one company managing the risk of hosting mission-critical data for multiple companies (a major problem if, as unfortunately often happens in construction, parties end up in dispute).
Third (though related to the previous), Simon says “Union Square Software Workspace has a number of well-known competitors that include Microsoft SharePoint Server, Documentum and Automony [sic].” I am not sure if this list reflects Union Square’s perspective or is Simon’s analysis, but, to me, this underlines the point that Workspace is regarded as an internally hosted portal, EDMS or intranet solution. Union Square also faces very stiff competition in the collaboration or extranet space from the afore-mentioned SaaS businesses – some of whom have far more substantial user bases (UK market leader BIW, for example, has over 110,000 registered users in well over 10,000 organisations) and who are also looking to break into other project-oriented industries (4Projects, for example, is now targeting the energy sector as well as construction).
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