Two independent industry insiders in the increasingly competitive Australian SaaS construction collaboration technology sector have both told me that Leighton Holdings‘ subsidiary Incite continues to experience problems, 17 months after firing its senior team (post). The perception is that Incite Keystone is unreliable (with work focused on stabilising the platform and bug-fixing, not adding enhancements), amid rumours suggesting the company is considering switching to a rival AEC software platform – possibly Aconex.
And is it possible that Incite could be sold? Leighton has been divesting itself of non-core businesses, including HWE last year and, more recently, Thiess Waste Management, amid speculation that some of its high-tech operations could also be sold (see The Australian) to reduce debt and rebuild its balance sheet. Financial analysts are speculating that Leighton may sell off its Nextgen telecoms business, its property operation, its Metronode data centre business, its cloud services business, Infoplex, and John Holland Aviation Services.
Infoplex and Metronode are inextricably linked with Incite, providing infrastructure which supports Incite’s services – though the latter are increasingly focused on supporting Leighton Group projects. In the past, I have argued that construction businesses should be focusing on construction not on running IT systems, and many contractors and consultants adopt similar approaches, outsourcing their construction management applications from specialist external vendors.
In my view, it is a shame that Leighton stopped investing in its Incite business. If it had persevered with the Keystone innovations being developed by Michael Baker and his team, and if it had grown an external (non-Group) market for these tools, then today we might have been talking about a lucrative spin-off (as I suggested last October) rather than a fire sale.