I recently did a GoToMeeting session with Eric Law of EADOC to get a clearer understanding of this US-based Software-as-a-Service construction collaboration platform.
The system is mainly aimed at construction project teams operating in north America, and has been around since early 2006 (I first wrote about the business in late 2007). It was developed, said Eric, to address some of what he saw as the deficiencies of competing approaches; lots of teams were still managing projects using Excel Spreadsheets, or were using e-Builder, Meridian Prolog or Constructware. Discussing the latter, Eric felt it was eventually likely to be discontinued by Autodesk, despite the protestations to the contrary when speculation about Constructware’s future emerged in May 2009 (post), and he said he knew at least one major construction organisation with a large installed base of Constructware users that was looking to move them across to EADOC.
Supply chain information management
While some vendors were selling their systems using per-seat or per-user licensing, Eric shares my view that the best approach was for the system to be licensed per-project with unlimited users. “While our target is usually the ultimate owner or the construction manager, this approach usually means we get the entire team involved, including sub-consultants and sub-contractors,” he said. “One unique feature of EADOC on the collaboration side is each organisation can add and manage their own subs. For example a general contractor can add sub-contractors and manage their subs with EADOC. Likewise with architects and engineers; they can add their subs and control which documents like RFIs and submittals go to the subs and which comments go back to the clients and contractors.”
EADOC uses user- and company-based security to manage what individuals can see, with document access rights based on the document workflow process, and EADOC tries to make its users as self-sufficient as possible by building extensive context-sensitive support into its SaaS-based tools.
Document and finance management combined
Comparing EADOC with some of the UK-based vendors’ platforms, it differs insofar as it is more oriented towards detailed management of financial elements of project delivery. Yes, there are also features to manage construction documents and design drawings, but from the initial “start” page the focus is plainly geared towards managing cost-related aspects of project delivery. Erid says: “I would say we are more 50% document management and 50% finance management focused.”
Buttons on that home page allow the user to instigate various routine activities, checking memos or the daily log, reviewing the project calendar or meetings schedule, etc. One entire module is devoted to Finance, and Eric said EADOC could also be integrated with back-office financial systems using web services.
Drilling into work activities managed on EADOC, users can see a full audit trail of the history of different types of process-related documents (eg: RFIs, submittals, inspections, punch lists, permits, etc). Eric also showed me EADOC’s extensive in-house developed live reporting tools (a library of over 75 standard reports), plus custom modules to manage safety, environmental issues, and bid documents. Comments about any item can be made by attaching an electronic “sticky note” to the document, form or drawing. One particularly interesting feature in the reporting module was a “relation view” that lets users see how different documents (drawings, specifications, submittals) are related to each other, so that you can get a complete picture of all the items associated with a particular process.
Eric was optimistic about the future for EADOC, and dismissive of the threat of low-cost file-sharing or planroom-type tools, particularly in the current economic climate in the USA. “The low-cost solutions have been mainly focused on the residential market, and there is a lot of price pressure in that sector at the moment,” he said. “But we are seeing growing demand in the US market for tools to manage larger commercial and industrial development projects – and that’s were EADOC is targeted.”