Asite does enterprise deal with Canary Wharf Contractors

Asite seeks to differentiate its collaboration offering through its own definition of ‘pure SaaS’.

According to a news release earlier this week, London-based construction collaboration vendor Asite has signed a five-year enterprise deal to provide its SaaS platform to support Canary Wharf Contractors’ projects. I don’t normally write about new deals, but there were a couple of things about this announcement that grabbed my attention.

“… pure Software as a Service model”

First, to me, the Asite release includes a couple of slightly puzzling comments:

“The deal sees Canary Wharf Contractors replace its legacy project extranet software with Asite’s pure Software as a Service model.

“Tony Ryan, CEO of Asite commented ‘It was clear from the outset of our discussions with CWC that they were seeking a future looking technology, with a pure SaaS model….‘” [emphasis added]

I talked to Tony about this and he gave me his personal perspective on what constitutes ‘pure SaaS’:

“For me, pure Software-as-a-Service is about being multi-tenanted. It has to be to give purity and clarity of service delivery across all your customers and end-users, with no need to provide different versions of your platform for different groups. Using cloud-based services should be about being able to turn up or turn down the service according to users’ needs, whether they are paying on a per-user basis or so much per-project. I don’t think the old £1000/month model meets every project’s needs. There are plenty of projects that just have 50 guys, and they just want to pay for how much of the service they use for as long as they need it.”

I pointed out that his definition would be challenged by rival SaaS vendors targeting the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) space. Tony accepted this, and pointed out that Asite was also expanding into non-AEC markets, where he expected customers and end-users would increasingly buy, configure and use Asite SaaS applications without direct contact with Asite sales people or consultants. This self-service element is also another characteristic of what other SaaS commentators define as ‘pure SaaS’.

While Asite’s model is clearly attractive to some customers (Tony enthused about relationships with Transport for London, the Environment Agency and Health for Scotland, for example), the focus on ‘multi-tenancy’ – where multiple clients’ projects are hosted on shared hardware – will also not appeal to every client. There are some collaboration clients (particularly, but not exclusively, financial institutions) that are very exacting in their hosting requirements and insist on having their data hosted separately. This obviously leaves part of the market open to Asite competitors who offer that capability.

“The company formerly known as…”

Finally, a small point: in its news release Asite didn’t mention the incumbent technology provider it replaced (BIW Technologies – who agreed a three-year deal in 2006; BIW release*), but it decided to use Twitter to gloat a bit, and to suggest that BIW has been renamed following its acquisition by Conject last week – plainly wrong, as anyone who read BIW’s news or this blog last week will have realised.

I asked Tony about this. He said he could see the marketing logic behind this (well-established brands with wide brand recognition within their existing markets), but he argued that a financial perspective would focus on driving costs down, meaning that eventually they would need to merge corporate identities. OK, it may be wrong in the short term, but he believed we would one day be talking about a business formerly known as BIW.

[* I worked for BIW from 2000 to 2009 (and drafted that BIW news release); my consultancy Ltd has since undertaken PR/marketing projects for the company.]

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