Through an email in early May, I got news from Australia featuring a familiar UK name in construction collaboration technology: 4Projects.
Milton Walters, formerly at Aconex and general manager of TeamBinder at QA Software, has formed his own Melbourne-based company, Project Collaboration, to sell the 4Projects solution in the Australasian market. Colleagues pre-sales director Josh King and sales director Michael Tonov also worked with Milton at QA Software.
In addition to Aconex and Teambinder, the Australian construction collaboration sector also includes ProjectCentre (post) and Leighton Holdings’ imploding Incite (post), and my correspondent asked: “Is there room for a fifth player in the Australian project collaboration industry?”
I would add that it’s not just five. McLaren Software (post) is also starting operations in Australia, having appointed Michael Cawsey in December as VP Asia-Pacific [Update – 14 October 2012: Cawsey left Idox/McLaren last month to join Sydney-based Active Navigation], and BIW (now conject) is part of a portfolio of products marketed by Sydney-based Zavanti. Like McLaren, this 4Projects partner will be targeting the booming Australasian energy and natural resources markets as well as construction.
Talking to the Project Collaboration team
Having previously exchanged emails with Milton Walters when he first started researching potential UK technology partners, I talked to him in May this year and then chatted via Skype to him, Josh and Michael two weeks ago.
Earlier this year Milton and Josh visited the UK to meet 4Projects and learn more about the company and its application. The UK trip, Milton said, had been vital as it underlined how the 4Projects’ culture and philosophy differed from those of other firms they knew. “The 4Projects executive team, led by Richard Vertigan, is experienced, innovative and has been running a profitable company – these are factors that are important to our target customers in Australia.”
From Josh’s point of view, the 4Projects application also differed from the “mainly project- or silo-focused applications” he knew:
“4Projects fills a gap for businesses which want to manage a portfolio of projects…. It helps companies get a global view of their projects, and the folders-style, hierarchically-based interface is attractive to many users we’ve shown it to.”
Josh also liked the 4Projects workflow engine, and the company’s building information modelling strategy – “while BIM is not a big deal yet in Australia, it’s just a matter of when, not if, and with 4Projects we will be at the forefront of BIM functionality and development.”
As part of a ‘soft launch’ of the business, Project Collaboration has been talking to potential customers, including clients in the mining and natural resources market which is booming in Australia. It is still early days, but Milton said they already had two customers using the 4Projects platform on the Australian east coast. These early successes are allowing them to tailor the 4Projects solutions to the Australasian market, and had also accelerated plans to grow the business (they are currently recruiting – something they hadn’t anticipated doing until early 2013). “Being able to provide a full service – consulting, implementation and support – here in Australia is important, and the calibre of people on our front line is very well regarded,” Michael said.
The 4Projects service to Australian customers will be hosted from the UK for the foreseeable future. “We find people are very comfortable with the whole idea of the cloud,” Josh claimed, “and there has been a lot of surprise at how quick the service is – people see better speed from 4Projects than from some locally based solutions. And we can also stress 4Projects’ ISO27001 accreditation, its built-in redundancy, etc.”
I asked about the competition but Milton didn’t want to talk about other contenders in the Australian SaaS collaboration marketplace: “I’m more excited about the opportunity to grow a new, viable business.” In a year’s time, he hopes the company will have expanded beyond its Melbourne base, talking about offices in two other locations, and perhaps regional customers outside Australia.
4Projects partnership strategy
The establishment of an Australia-based partner to sell, implement and support the 4Projects application (see its news release) is part of the Sunderland, UK-based company’s international strategy to grow partnerships in new regional markets. When I met CEO Richard Vertigan and commercial director Steve Spark earlier this year, they talked about the partnership opportunities for businesses with existing SaaS, AEC or related domain experience. Current partners include:
- in Denmark, IKT:KnowHow (run by a former Docia executive, Søren Valentin Christensen)
- in the Netherlands, 4Projects has partnered with Brink Groep‘s IBIS software subsidiary to offer IBIS4projects
- in South Africa, CCS offers CCS4Projects
- isBIM offers 4Projects in Hong Kong [disclosure: familiar to me as a reseller of CodeBook, a client of pwcom.co.uk]
- Callida started marketing 4Projects in the Czech Republic in June (4Projects news release)
4Projects is not the only SaaS construction collaboration vendor pursuing such a strategy. Aconex has been pursuing a similar approach with sales, integration and product partners (post), and UK-based rival Asite has various north American partners through the ReproMAX marketing network and the efforts of its distributor SaaS North America.