Whobius? Woobius

WoobiusWoobius is a new name in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) construction collaboration, and appears (from, among other places, the company’s Scribbles blog) to be the work of three UK-based people: Make architect Bob Leung, technologist Daniel Tenner and user interface specialist Cliff Rowley.

While not a construction professional, one of Daniel’s Woobius Scribbles (Document Control – how hard can it be?) shows that he appreciates the challenge of sharing files between the numerous companies involved in a construction project, but on another blog he dismisses generic file-sharing solutions and lambasts industry-specific solutions:

There are some industry-specific solutions, but without exception they’re slow, bloated monsters that try to control every aspect of the project, and end up pretty much requiring full-time staff just to deal with them. They’re very hard and slow to use, so people end up bypassing them at every corner. And they’re extremely expensive, too.

woobius pricingWoobius, by contrast, he says is “designed to be intuitive and easy to use, automates most common tasks to save time, and is more than an order of magnitude cheaper than the competition”. Daniel said (February 2009) it has over 2000 users – most recruited by recommendation by other users. How much cheaper? Well, the pricing page explains that, currently, Woobius is completely free to use, up to 200MB, and then just £10 per Gb per month.

There are, of course, reasons why industry-specific collaboration platforms “try to control every aspect of the project” – most of them to do with the lawyers and contracts involved, and with an intensely risk-averse industry culture that seeks to make sure every contribution to a project is securely recorded and auditable. And yes, there are people who work full-time at document control. On many projects, they are just as much a key part of the project team as architects or engineers, keeping a finger on the pulse of information flows across the team. As for “slow” – depends on your connection speed, of course; and people do not “bypass them at every corner”, particularly if the client/project manager/main contractor is rigorous in ensuring that the collaboration platform is the only place to exchange project-related information.

However, I think Woobius’s strength – simply file-sharing – is also its weakness. The leading UK solutions, such as [my employer] BIW and its NCCTP competitors, are increasingly focusing on managing complex AEC business processes (see my October 2008 post, The new ‘extranet’ battleground). Documents and drawings are part of the issue, of course, but they are usually associated with a wide variety of industry-specific workflows, both simple (requests for information, architects’ instructions, etc) and more complex (eg: supporting the requirements of the NEC3 suite of contracts). What Woobius might regard as “bloated” is down to the mainstream solutions’ support for this critical facet of many project team’s day-to-day working requirements. Also, all the mainstream solutions provide tools for users to collaborate upon drawings and other documents – ie: to create comments and redline mark-ups on CAD files; this doesn’t seem to be available on the Woobius system.

The US market has quite a number of simple file-sharing or plan-room solutions targeted at the AEC sector (I’ve noted Procore, Corecon, Coreworx and EADOC, among others, on this blog). Woobius seems to fit into the same cohort. Great for sharing documents on small projects perhaps, but falling short of the sophisticated workflow and collaborative capacities required for bigger, more complex schemes.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2009/04/whobius-woobius/

1 comment

9 pings

Skip to comment form

    • bob@woobius.com on 22 April 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I’m Bob Leung the co-founder of Woobius. You are right that Woobius is designed specifically for small to medium projects. We see that players like BIW and 4Project are in a completely different market to us. And for reasons that you’ve outlined, they demands more complex solutions. In our research, large projects makes up a very small percentage of the planning applications submitted.
    Our mission at Woobius is to help the other smaller projects to enjoy the benefits of web-based collaboration tools – namely reduce overheads & increase efficiencies, while keeping the cost base down.
    Hope your readers will find benefits in the systems as our users have.
    Bob Leung (Woobius co-founder)

  1. […] one of the first things that drew it to my attention as a provider of collaboration technologies (post). All of the key people in the company tweet regularly on their own account, which is probably why […]

  2. […] has been looking to differentiate itself from competitors by virtue of its simplicity (see posts 1, 2). It still believes this is the right approach (albeit less overtly) and while most of its […]

  3. […] ← Whobius? Woobius Engineering the future of SaaS […]

  4. […] talking about the principles that had driven development of the Woobius collaboration application (post), emphasising simplicity and ease of use, particularly where such platforms are used for projects […]

  5. […] wrote about the low-cost simple collaboration application Woobius earlier this year (first here, then here), and they’ve remained on my radar ever since, partly because of their […]

  6. […] From the look of the new website, Chapoo’s launch is imminent (“Coming soon”), with the platform offering pretty much the same Vondle functionality albeit under a new branding, aiming to offer simple collaboration – file upload, sharing (notably via Facebook and Twitter social platforms), viewing and annotation – and all free (reminiscent of UK vendor Woobius‘s aims some three years ago – post). […]

  7. […] of Woobius, the ‘simply simple’ SaaS construction collaboration solution launched in early 2009, is now applying his architecture (ex Foster + Partners, Make) and his user experience design […]

  8. […] one of the later arrivals on the UK SaaS construction collaboration scene (in April 2009), also appears to have closed down: the website is no longer available, and there have been […]

  9. […] launched, in 2009 (post), a web-based service aimed at architects and other designers involved in construction […]

Comments have been disabled.