Is it the beginning of the end for the 4Projects brand? UK CEO Richard Vertigan steps down, and the US SaaS collaboration product is launched under the Viewpoint branding.
Sunderland, UK-based SaaS collaboration vendor 4Projects, acquired by US construction ERP specialist Viewpoint in February, appears to be going through some significant changes. From my UK perspective, its announcement yesterday of the North America launch of Viewpoint for Project Collaboration (and its sponsorship of a London BIMnet event last night), was somewhat overshadowed by an almost simultaneous announcement that 4Projects founder and CEO Richard Vertigan is leaving the company at the end of September.
In an email sent to customers yesterday, Matt Harris, since the acquisition senior vice-president and general manager of 4Projects, says:
With Viewpoint’s acquisition of 4Projects and the investment we are making in the product, the organization, and the business overall, Richard Vertigan [right], the founder of 4Projects believes he has found a good home for his company, so will be leaving his role effective 30 September, 2013. We have the utmost respect for Richard and the company which he helped to build and would like to place on record our thanks to Richard for his support during the acquisition process and beyond, wishing him all the very best for the future.
The role of Managing Director will be filled on an interim basis by Steve Spark, currently 4Projects Commercial Director and Vice President of Business Development. Steve has been with the company for seven years and has played a leading role in much of the company’s recent growth. He is passionate about 4Projects’ customers and its products and is active in the UK construction software market.
The rest of the email reiterates Viewpoint’s intention to continue to invest in the 4Projects business – recruiting new employees (a process it started in March) and moving the team to a larger new office in central Newcastle-upon-Tyne – and enhancing the 4Projects product.
Viewpoint for Project Collaboration
Viewpoint yesterday also announced the availability of Viewpoint For Project Collaboration for the North American market, with videos from Viewpoint CEO Jay Haladay and about the product. The news is significant on two levels. First, it amounts to a relaunch of an enhanced 4Projects solution to US customers; second, it appears to mark the end of the 4Projects branding in North America.
Viewpoint For Project Collaboration is available on a project by project basis or on an enterprise subscription basis, and interfaces with other construction accounting and project management solutions as well as Viewpoint V6 Software. Integration with V6 provides users the ability to invite contacts from V6 Project Management to projects, eliminating duplicate entry and administration. A new U.S. data center [post] using Amazon Web Services (AWS) was recently opened providing unfailing performance, as well as additional flexibility for data hosting options.
Rob Humphreys, Viewpoint’s vice-president of product management says the product has been tested by US and Canadian customers during an early adoption program that started earlier this year.
Richard Vertigan has been a key figure in the development of not just 4Projects but the SaaS construction collaboration market as a whole, initially in the UK but eventually also internationally. He is also passionate about the potential of building information modelling (BIM), having worked on BIM application at Taylor Woodrow in the late 1990s, and he helped spearhead 4Projects’ ongoing research and development investment in its BIM capabilities – a strategic decision which, arguably, has today set 4Projects apart from most of its competitors (critical reaction to the 4BIM solution presented at yesterday’s BIMnet event was broadly positive – encouraging given the amount of “BIMwash” that often surrounds BIM products).
The Viewpoint team members that I have met have all been very committed and driven, and, having made a significant investment in acquiring 4Projects, it was no surprise when they quickly asserted themselves – Matt Harris has been the principal spokesperson for recent 4Projects-related announcements, for example. I note Steve Spark may only fill the MD role on an interim basis; if the business successfully expands in the US, could we see an American heading up the global business before long?
The launch of “Viewpoint for Project Collaboration” is not unexpected. Viewpoint is a significant player in the North American construction market, particularly in its core enterprise resource planning (ERP) market, and it says it has been growing rapidly, winning work away from rival vendors such as Sage (Timberline). The brand is therefore increasingly familiar to many construction businesses in north America and – speaking as a marketeer – it makes sense to build on this brand awareness, extend the brand into collaboration, and also begin to develop an integration between its ERP system and the collaboration platform.
However, it also suggests that the 4Projects brand (already “A Viewpoint Construction Software Company”) could also eventually also become simply Viewpoint. We have seen it happen in Europe already, after all: Germany-based Conject acquired UK vendor BIW Technologies in December 2010 and some 16 months later the UK business was rebranded. As I said then, it obviously is not efficient marketing-wise to maintain and deliver a portfolio under two different corporate identities (names such as BuildOnline, CTSpace and Business Collaborator have also disappeared – see Reflections on the 4Projects acquisition). Moreover, if and when Viewpoint launches its ERP capability into Europe, its erstwhile 4Projects collaboration customers will at least already be aware of the parent company’s name.