Reviewing 2008

Just as I did last year (see Reviewing 2007), I have been looking back at my five predictions for 2008 (see one, two, three, four and five for more detail).

1. Further polarisation of the UK construction collaboration marketplace.

I do think the UK market has polarised a little further, though the trend may have been slowed by the global financial crisis in the second part of the year with its resulting impact on investment in technology and Software-as-a-Service firms.

The most significant event was Aconex’s funding round (see Aconex gets private equity injection, September), though the November revelation (Aconex reports…) that not all the AU$107.5m – only AU$57.5m – was being delivered immediately took a little of the gloss off. I had hopes that BIW Technologies [my employer] might also have secured a new round of funding, but the market conditions put paid to that – as a report in today’s Financial Times makes clear.

(This may also be a blessing in disguise, particularly as some commentators (eg: Jeff Kaplan) are suggesting there may be less appetite for investment: “Many VCs will be forced to put a moratorium on new investments, others will refrain from making additional investments in current portfolio companies, and some will shut their doors entirely”.)

However, I was correct in forecasting a shift from pure document management towards process management among more of the UK-based collaboration vendors (see The new ‘extranet’ battleground, October).

2. Increased interest in online BIM-based collaboration.

My personal interest in this area has continued to grow (see my BIMaaS post, for example, and this post), but industry demand for BIM-based collaboration has not increased dramatically – at least not in the UK. As I have written elsewhere this week (see UK architects going green but lagging behind US on BIM), UK designers seem more hesitant than their US counterparts when it comes to embracing BIM – a view also confirmed at the BuildingSMART conference in June.

3. Collaboration vendors to push SaaS and sustainability

There has been some signs of this. Of course, on behalf of BIW, I created a blog on SaaS and sustainability (, and Aconex announced it was supporting the drafting of the Sustainable Environment Foundation’s ‘green paper’, but, otherwise, the collaboration technology vendors’ focus has tended to remain on paper savings.

4. Recession to have impact upon the collaboration technology market

Sadly, this was perhaps the easiest prediction to fulfil, and most of the impacts are already being felt.

Certainly, we have seen projects mothballed or even cancelled altogether, and there are signs that recent rapid growth among the colllaboration vendors will not be sustained in 2009, even if cost savings and the efficiency savings of SaaS do help to make SaaS-based collaboration more attractive to cash-strapped clients, contractors and project managers.

5. Social networking and other Web 2.0 application features begin to overlap into construction collaboration

This prediction has started to come true, I think. Again, because I work for one of the leading UK vendors, I have seen at first hand how the range of communications channels can be expanded by Web 2.0 (BIW even has its own Twitter and RSS feeds now – as do several of the mainstream construction industry journals). I’ve noticed a few more collaboration blogs, even an industry wiki, and – as one of the co-organisers of Be2camp 2008, the construction industry’s first ‘unconference’ – I also tried to stimulate some new ideas on how Web 2.0 tools and techniques might impact on the day-to-day lives of architecture, engineering and construction professionals interested in creating a more sustainable built environment.

I notice that Asite has described itself as “a Web 2.0 software platform for the construction industry” (see this YouTube video, for example – was this what Asite CEO Tony Ryan was thinking about in July when he talked about “sales and marketing 2.0”?), but – as I wrote in March – I’m not convinced that construction collaboration platforms can really be described as Web 2.0.

Predictions for 2009

coming soon…

Some statistics….

Despite its focus on a niche area of interest, 2008 has been another record-breaking year for this blog. In 2008 this blog has delivered 43,280 page downloads to 28,546 unique visitors, including 8,978 repeat visitors (up from 36,500, 22,500 and 8,200 respectively in 2007). Peak day for page views was Monday 30 June (290), while 23 June saw the most unique visitors (176). Thank-you everyone.

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  1. Paul,
    Interesting stuff. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on 2009.
    For me the most intriguing trend to watch is number 5. Are we anywhere near a tipping point for the industry to grasp this? Or are we talking about a very small proportion of the construction sector? I was asked the question at a strategy session today – what percentage of our audience gets this stuff – I guestimated low single figures – am I way too pessimistic on this?

  2. I think low single figures is about right. Any straw-polls (unrepresentative, I know) I have conducted at seminars, etc, tend to get, say, a third to a half of the audience saying they use Facebook but most hands drop when you ask if they use it for work. LinkedIn fares a little better, as does use of RSS, but it is still relatively rare to find people who blog, Tweet, use Wikis, etc.

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