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Aug 26 2011

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What’s the next disruptive idea for collaboration?

I am indebted to a reader, Pierre-Alexandre Losson of Brussels-based Telio, who asked me a very interesting question about innovation:

“In my opinion all vendors are more or less providing the same toolchain, using the same techniques. What would be in your opinion the next disruptive idea that could or should be pushed in the coming years?”

Over the past decade, we have seen some different technologies come and go, and different terminologies applied (I was reminded about application service provision on Tuesday, for example – ASP is hardly mentioned now that SaaS is more widely used and understood).

Some of the changes have been slow and strategic. In the construction collaboration context, as I wrote earlier this week, document sharing/collaboration is increasingly a commodity – lots of people provide services in this sector, and the savvy SaaS vendor has applied its industry-specific knowledge to manage particular areas of workflow. US-based e-Builder, for instance, has focused on owner/operators and their needs for strong cost control and scheduling and helped push that SaaS vendor into a different niche, but that’s not exactly been disruptive, has it.

More disruptive, perhaps, has been the emergence of building information modelling (BIM). When I wrote my book six years ago, this was on the future horizon, and it has now become a hot topic in many markets, not least in the UK. This is set to change the nature of collaboration and herald a further switch away from paper-based, asynchronous, 2D design towards model-based, real-time, nD collaboration – assuming, of course, that the industry can make the necessary people and process changes to support the technologies involved.

And after a decade talking and writing about SaaS, perhaps we might also see disruptive approaches to BIM provision? Could we see BIM-as-a-Service delivered on a utility computing model, with designers and other project team members interacting with the BIM and each other via the web, with the underlying software perhaps hosted in the cloud, and even developed collaboratively as an interoperable open-source project rather than continued reliance on proprietary BIM tools? Certainly, there are moves in this direction – BIMserver.org is a leader in this field (and Léon van Berlo tweeted me about a rather nice sketchbook offer helping raise funds for the project).

Linked to BIM, I can foresee mobile tools and location-based services (eg: GIS, GPS) becoming increasingly important, and perhaps Comindware (see Monday’s post) hints at another disruptive idea for collaboration with its focus on the semantic web and an increasingly connected world where technologies interface more seamlessly – through the ‘internet of things’ (friends will know of my enthusiasm for Pachube, Usman Haque’s connected environments platform allowing direct real-time feedback from buildings to the architects and engineers who designed them and to the owners/operators running them). With carbon reduction increasingly important, such tools could provide vital insights for the whole cradle-to-grave approach to our built environment.

What have I missed? What other disruptive ideas and technologies might influence collaboration in the built environment? Let me know.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2011/08/whats-the-next-disruptive-idea-for-collaboration/

2 comments

  1. Michael Baker

    I really think the next disruption is the movement away from record keeping to analytics and decision making platform.

    When you think of every Design Record, Request for Information, Concrete Pour, Soil test etc. you have the ‘record’ and you have the data. This data can be used for baselining, deviation from the baseline and prediction and also longer running calculations such as clustering and monte carlo method.

    This takes collaboration away from document management and makes it a decision making platform and also a primary indicator of job health. Millions of records with billions of data points cannot be understood clearly by any human. Analytics will allow the job to be ‘seen’ through simple +, -, % indicators.

    BIM increases the need for analytics because of the explosion of data within BIM models. You can think of traditional form data (the document) within a collaboration system in the same way. When you start to link the context between form data and BIM data you are now managing billions of subtle relationships that can provide important context.

    I think SaaS, Cloud, Web 3.0 is the delivery model of the Collaboration product. At the core ‘Collaboration’ needs to aid in decisions and more effectively wield document and model data to let people make better decisions faster.

  2. John Lockton (SDX ShareMap)

    Paul, your blog post made me think about the convergence of a number of collaboration technologies that I believe is happening – particularly in the SaaS/Cloud space.

    SaaS/Cloud solutions are either established or gaining traction for many specific tasks. For example, the delivery of Document Management (there are many), maps (Google Maps) and communication (email, Yammer and social media), but they are disjointed, and not necessary ‘enterprise’ proof. For example, a project stakeholder may view a project area in Google Maps and then write an email to a colleague whilst trying to describe a location. Or a new stakeholder may try to find a document but he/she may not know the naming convention – and hence spend lots of time or even fail to find what is required.

    I believe the convergence of technologies is now going to assist business processes and decision making moving forward. Solutions are coming to market which bring together enterprise document management, enterprise mapping and enterprise communication into a seamless environment. This will enable users to easily find all the documents say in a given spatial location and then reduce the findings via user friendly tags so that they can locate exactly what they want. It is also possible for users to make design changes and attach their comments which are both then included as part of a fully versioned audit history.

    In most large projects there are often many stakeholders (both internal and external), access to the latest information is hard, communication is difficult and an overall project audit history is often lacking. I believe it is the above convergence of a range of collaboration technologies (not just document management) which will aid transparency of information, communication and business efficiencies and drive the next round of disruptive change in the collaboration space.

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