On the same day last week that I swapped emails with Knowledge Architecture’s Chris Parsons (see post), I read in AECcafe.com that New Hampshire, USA-based AEC software vendor Newforma was forming a user community in the UK (see Newforma Users Form Community in United Kingdom). Newforma hired former Excitech executive Tim Bates as a new director of EMEA operations earlier this year and it appears to be planning a major push into the UK market with its UK reseller partner, Océ (UK).
I was somewhat critical of Newforma’s philosophy when I first wrote about the company soon after its commercial launch more than three years ago (see post). As I said at the time, it appeared to be attempting to justify an on-premise network-based approach by making some alarmist and inaccurate statements about web-based construction collaboration platforms.
The core product, Newforma Project Center, remains an on-premise Project Information Management (PIM) system. Developed on the Microsoft .NET platform, and running on either Vista or XP operating systems, it is compatible with both MS Office 2003 and 2007, while its email management tools are designed for Outlook 2003 or 2007. Each user needs a client application loaded on his or her PC, while two server applications support multiple corporate sites connected by a wide area network.
It therefore differs from Software-as-a-Service, SaaS-based construction collaboration platforms designed to enable access from any internet-connected computer, and I think many of my comments from 2006 remain just as valid today.
In a UK context, Newforma Project Center perhaps has more in common with Union Square Software‘s Workspace solution, another AEC-specific product that has been designed for on-premise hosting and has powerful email management capabilities. I expect Union Square will be looking closely at how they can differentiate their offering from what Newforma brings to the UK table.
Looking at the customer listing on Newforma’s website, it is dominated by US firms and only HOK and SOM stood out to me as international design practices with substantial UK profiles (the news release also mentions Steffian Bradley Architects, another US-based firm, which opened a London office in 2002). These are certainly good companies to have as reference clients, but the extent to which the solution has been deployed on UK projects is unclear, and I suspect potential customers might be looking for a track record of use in the UK by UK-based clients and contractors as well as by designers. A 15-strong UK user community is a start, but this is dwarfed by some of the user communities developed by long-established UK vendors such as BIW, 4Projects and Asite (among others).
Update (29 October 2009): A news release published on AECcafe.com says that Newforma Project Center PIM solution is now being used by Marshall Construction in the United Kingdom.