Two emails arrived overnight: one from a generic collaboration provider and one from a small construction micro-business looking for a low-cost SaaS-based project delivery solution that could be used to manage numerous small domestic projects and support all the back-office, contact management, time-sheet and project accounting needs of the business.
As I read this second email (from a writer in the southern hemisphere), various packages initially sprang to mind only to be discounted as I read further requirements. I have looked at various simple low-cost SaaS collaboration solutions (eg: Collabor8online – post; Woobius – post), but, apart from the US-oriented MyOnlineToolbox.com (post), few that I have seen also offer the in-house administration functions. In the end, I suggested the writer have a look at intranet-type applications such as Union Square’s Workspace, as the company also offers a Workspace Mini version aimed at SMEs (in September 2010, Union Square acquired Archetype, which focused on providing email, drawing, job costing and fee management solutions to SME firms of professionals; post). However, this is not a hosted, SaaS system – the SME would need to deploy it on an appropriately resourced server, etc; and Union Square suggests the package would cost from around £10,000 to implement a 10-user set-up (more than half this figure is consultancy support).
Another alternative might be to use Microsoft SharePoint, and there are various packages that support the needs of architecture, engineering and construction project team members (Cadac Organice, for example – offered by AEC Docuflow in Australia; post).
Which brings me to HyperOffice (“Collaboration Made Simple”). It makes no pretence to be a construction industry solution, but it offers SaaS-based document management, intranet/extranet workspaces, shared calendars and project management. Sadly, no integrated financial management tools, and I suspect its ability to manage collaboration on construction drawings will be limited, but it is relatively low-cost: enterprise collaboration packages start from $15/user/month.
Have I missed a SaaS product that combines good levels of construction collaboration functionality for dispersed SME teams with back-office administration functionality – and is low-cost? If you know one, please let me know or comment below.