Catching up with recent announcements in the world of construction collaboration technologies, I see that Sword CTSpace has launched a new Software-as-a-Service application, FusionLive, that looks like it will eventually replace both the BuildOnline and Citadon applications inherited when Sword acquired CTSpace in December 2007 (post).
The 7 April news release quotes Gert-Jan de Kieviet, Sword CTSpace’s global operations director:
“As a new state-of-the-art Cloud-based engineering collaboration solution, FusionLive stands to revolutionize the content management industry with its combination of easy and quick implementation, advanced yet simple-to-use interface, absolute data security, and an array of outstanding document management, business process management and project collaboration features.”
The release says the product will provide “a truly revolutionary user interface unlike any other in the current market”, delivering greater flexibility and more extensive personalisation, by combining “enterprise level business logic with state-of-the-art web 2.0 technologies.” (Such flexibility is long overdue – only last month, at the Collaboration Cafe Symposium (post), I was critical of the relative dullness of most current collaboration applications when looked at from a web 2.0 perspective.)
Looking at the FusionLive web-page (and watching the YouTube video), the stand-out items for me include:
- A new user interface: with drag-and-drop, resize panels, multiple windows, tabs and user-based configuration of columns
- Dashboard and reporting functionality: a customisable, widget-based dashboard summarising the various messages and activities within a user’s workspace
- API and add-on applications: FusionLive as an open platform includes a set of web services APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that enable integration with other software products
I asked Sword-CTSpace about some of these developments and got the following responses back from business unit director John Pomeroy:
The release of FusionLive represents the first clear visible step of a significant re-alignment and development process that has been worked on behind the scenes initiated following the acquisition by Sword. We are very excited about where we are now following this release but even more excited about where we are heading.
Q: It sounds like FusionLive is superceding both BuildOnline and Citadon. If so, I would be interested to know how this migration/upgrade process is being managed (and over what timescale)?
Users of BuildOnline are currently being migrated to FusionLive and we expect this process to complete within the next month or two. Users of Citadon CW can continue with any existing projects through to their completion, but will utilize the new FusionLive for any new projects.
Q: Will CTSpace be allowing third party developers to develop gadgets to sit on the FusionLive platform?
Right now gadgets are only internal but, yes, it is the plan to let any external gadgets sit on the dashboard (like Google or Netvibes gadgets). More generally, one new aspect of FusionLive is to let any external customers, partners or developers, develop and or integrate application with FusionLive. A couple of projects are currently in process for Cad Software, iPhone and a couple of customer specific applications….
For me, the development of an application merging the project-oriented document collaboration aspects of BuildOnline and the enterprise-oriented business processes of Citadon has been long overdue.
When these two firms merged in December 2006, they talked about “a standardized software platform that is zero-risk and can be rapidly deployed on a global scale” (see my post CTSpace dissected), but the nettle clearly wasn’t grabbed straightaway, and the business continued with two increasingly dated platforms. Credit, then, to Sword Group for taking the step and investing in the creation and development of a single SaaS platform that will eventually replace both systems (leading, of course, to savings through not having to maintain and deliver two different platforms, etc).
The more flexible, configurable user interface, and the gadgets, will provide some short- to medium-term product differentiation in relation to competing products, but I expect other vendors will already be working on their own improvements in this area. As noted several times over recent months, several of the leading providers active in the UK (see: Bentley and Autodesk post; Incite post; Aconex post; Asite‘s Appbuilder post; Business Collaborator; 4Projects post) already provide APIs, and it is about time some of these vendors also delivered more than just a cosmetic overhaul of their user interfaces.
A small plea
Can we be consistent about the difference between gadgets and widgets? As I understand it, widgets are generally pieces of HTML code that can be copied and pasted anywhere that HTML is used (eg: on websites, blogs, social networks, etc), while gadgets cannot be copied and pasted anywhere, being used only on the specific website or operating system they were designed for.