Dome Technology is looking to build on adoption of its Dome Connect portal and iSnag app and compete in the SaaS collaboration and asset management market.
Just over a year ago, I wrote about London-based commissioning management consultancy Dome and its iSnag app. Last week, Dome’s IT director Nick Hutchinson invited me to meet and learn more about the business and its expanding range of software.
Today based in a former school building, shared with BuroFour, near London’s Rosebery Avenue, Dome was established in 1995 by two engineers: Neil Miller and Steve Harvey, and specialises in commissioning management and validation, covering all aspects of as-built compliance, including operation and maintenance manuals, asset registers, health and safety files, etc. The company worked primarily for ultimate client organisations – for example, developers such as Hammerson, Stanhope, British Land, Standard Life and Land Securities – but has since expanded its consultancy offering to work for main contractors, helping with O&M documentation, technical authoring, etc.
Nick told me the group’s Dome Connect software services grew somewhat incrementally out of frustrations often associated with traditional production of O&M information (its retrospective collation after practical completion of a project, concerns about completeness, documentation being kept up-to-date, etc).
Echoing the online compilation of Health and Safety File information developed by BIW Technologies in the early 2000s (post), and by Grazer (acquired by Aconex), Dome developed an O&M delivery tool that could also be used by clients for asset management. “As clients discovered the benefits of electronic delivery of O&M information, they also began to wonder about using the system for full project collaboration as a SaaS alternative to 4Projects or BIW,” Nick said. Adding Oracle’s AutoVue redlining tool to the service enabled it to be used for collaboration, and some clients (eg: British Land on the North-east Quadrant at Regent Place) have adopted it, encouraging Dome to develop more workflow functionality into the Dome Connect portal application.
Dome’s iSnag mobile defects management app was a logical extension of these capabilities to support its commissioning management, and was formally launched in mid-2012. The first iPhone version immediately attracted interest from UK main contractors including Mace (apparently frustrated by Conject’s by then dated BIW defects tool), Lend Lease, Sir Robert McAlpine, ISG, Overbury and Canary Wharf Contractors (it’s being used on 20 Fenchurch Street – the so-called Walkie-Talkie – for example), and the second major release (“iSnag2”, today also available for Android and Microsoft Windows 8) now forms part of a bigger suite of modular software tools that Dome is progressively rolling out during 2014.
Nick says Dome Connect (hosted by Navisite) is effectively being re-engineered to offer four core modules to cover the whole project life-cycle:
- project collaboration – including support for BIM, augmenting authoring tools with asset/equipment databases
- defects management (iSnag2) – available for single users, as well as those managing workflows and reporting via the Dome back-end
- commissioning management – integrated with scheduling tools including MS Project, Primavera and Asta PowerProject – and
- post-completion asset management and FM – including APIs to building management systems, and to FM tools such as Maximo
iSnag is licensed on either a per-project basis, or through an enterprise license (customers can buy ‘user bundles’ as their needs grow), and while the initial interest was from main contractors, small and medium-sized businesses have also shown considerable interest in iSnag2, so Dome has created license arrangements suitable for the SME market. The product is also attracting international interest, and opening opportunities for Dome Consulting in new markets – Nick said the business is now working on a $2bn Australian hospital project in Adelaide that grew out of initial interest in iSnag (we discussed different international definitions of defects, snagging, punchlists, quality, etc and common branding challenges – ‘snag’ is Australian slang for sausage!). Partly as a result, the group has established a separate specialist subsidiary, Dome Technology Ltd, to manage its software services.
It is not unusual for a construction business, particularly in the consulting sector, to develop its own software expertise and turn it into a profit centre (Arup’s OAsys is a well-known example), but it can take time for products to become commercially viable (in addition to being useful differentiators and value-adding services to existing customers) and to be effectively marketed as distinct products. This has been Dome’s experience as it has incrementally developed its software services without, to date, really “hard selling” them (some website work, a little PR and two Construction Computing Awards apart).
The incorporation of a new company to develop and market the applications suggests the Dome group now feels it can make these profitable, while also wanting to protect/distance its core consultancy work from its software delivery. Dome Consulting will, of course, remain the spin-off’s major customer in the short-medium term, as the software will often previously have been bundled with the main consulting offering. However, over time Dome Technology will be looking to attract and, importantly, retain new customers who are purely interested in its software solutions.
This will be a tougher challenge, as it will be a new kid on the block – particularly for its project collaboration offering – facing experienced competition from vendors like 4Projects, Aconex, Asite, Conject, McLaren Software, etc. These companies’ existing customers include several of Dome’s – for instance: Mace and LendLease are long-time partners of Conject, Asite has an enterprise deal with Canary Wharf Contractors, and Sir Robert McAlpine and 4Projects go a long way back. And they are all looking to compete in the market for long-term SaaS asset management and facilities management revenues as well as design/construction collaboration. The commissioning management module, therefore, could be an interesting differentiator, built as it is on the consulting expertise of the Dome group.