I visited the Woking office of SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor BIW Technologies recently and there was a very tangible sign (literally! – right) of an impending change. As anticipated 15 months ago when Munich, Germany-based conject acquired BIW, the UK business is – like previous conject acquisitions – being rebranded as conject. The process actually started around May 2011 when the BIW company logo started to carry a small endorsement: “BIW, a conject company,” and reflects a broader re-alignment of the people and products within the conject group.
My Woking trip included a briefing from BIW CEO Colin Smith, now also CEO of the group’s parent company, conject Holdings GmbH, where he explained the logic behind the rebranding process (the company has also posted a video interview with Colin).
The name-change is perhaps the most public sign of the merger, but there have been other significant shifts in the operations of the group’s companies, Colin told me. He highlighted past management changes such as the departure of Martin Reents and the appointment of Cesar Flores as CEO of the German business conject AG, and the appointment of himself and long-time fellow BIW director Steve Cooper to the board of the holding company.
Governance of German-based businesses is much more rigorous, so Colin’s role has come under greater scrutiny from its shareholders including VC companies EarlyBird Venture Capital and Seventure. Alignment of the combined business’s operations has seen one or two of conject’s old products sidelined, but BIW’s flagship Project Control platform remains a core offering in the conject portfolio, alongside all its related modules such as NEC3 contract change management and the recently upgraded Commercial Management. For most BIW customers, therefore, the only immediate perceptible differences will be a new logo on the application, some amended email addresses and – from April – a new look to the company’s website and collateral.
Product and growth strategy
Longer-term, the benefits of the acquisition will become clearer to existing customers and end-users, Colin said. The larger group (employing 145 people and with annual revenues in excess of €18m [£15m]) is now building relationships with new technology partners who wouldn’t previously have considered cooperation, and there will be more cross-selling of the product portfolio across the previously largely separate markets. UK users, for example, can look forward to developments in BIW’s support for building information modelling (BIM) and a broader offering to support facilities management (expect a new SaaS FM product in late 2012) and other operational aspects of built assets; the BIW commercial management tools are also being enhanced to support central European construction management and accounting practices. But it won’t just be about portfolio extension and organic growth – the video and the conject rebrand FAQs document also talk about potential future acquisitions.
As the mainland Europe operation currently generates most revenues and employs more people, it seems logical to rebrand BIW to conject rather than vice-versa. However, from a personal perspective, I will be sad to see the BIW branding disappear. I was part of the team that developed, implemented and managed it a decade ago, but it obviously isn’t an efficient use of marketing resources to maintain and deliver a portfolio under two different corporate identities.
[Disclosure: I worked for BIW Technologies from 2000 to 2009, and have since undertaken occasional consultancy projects for the company, including some PR support for the rebranding programme.]