London-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor Asite is officially launching version 17 of its cloud-based platform at a user group conference and ‘Hooley’ being held at Shoreditch Town Hall in London’s ‘Tech City’.
I will be live-blogging highlights during the day (and tweeting; hashtag #Adoddle17 – see also Storify stream). I got an early update from chief operating office Nathan Doughty in late January, but, following a further briefing on Friday, I know today will see a more detailed picture emerge.
Adoddle 17: systems integration-as-a-service
11.00am update – Asite staff are conspicuous in their red shirts, with the morning event involving about 60 people. CEO Tony Ryan (right) outlined the company’s “false start” in the UK construction industry, the turn-around in the mid-2000s, and says v17 is a “fundamental step change” in Asite’s history that puts it “light years ahead of our competitors”.
COO Nathan Doughty says version 17 of Adoddle is a significant update of Asite’s core “corporate collaboration” platform, Adoddle, with a major upgrade of the user interface to replace a software experience that hadn’t been fundamentally changed since Asite first launched its own SaaS system in 2004. He stresses, however, it’s a service – successful collaboration is 80% people and process, 20% technology (a familiar refrain, of course!).
Growing information volumes across disparate information platforms is a major challenge; “Adoddle17 is built from the ground up to manage big data, and it’s in the cloud.” Adoddle aims to bridge the data gap between corporate systems and project (design) teams – “it’s a systems integration-as-a-service platform“, “a translator”, and a connector to back office systems (COINS, Sage, SAP, Oracle, etc).
It is more than a “new skin” – the aim is to make it more intuitive to use for first-time users, to align it more with contemporary ‘sharing’ technologies (eg: social media), to help highlight the breadth of functionality available across the Asite eco-system. Keywords:
- federated search/”big data management” (spanning customer data held in Asite data centres in the UK, US and Australia)
- “no more than two clicks to the data you need”
- no plugins – HTML5-based interface, also allows right-click support to access additional functions; the new Asite viewer no longer requires a plugin, so is much quicker.
- a complete Infrastructure Lifecycle Management (ILM) platform (“all in the cloud”)
- a clear step towards collaborative ERP (enterprise resource planning) for the capital asset industry (AECO) – something that will interest UK-based competitors such as 4Projects and Unit4 Collaboration whose parent companies have strong ERP interests.
Key features include the search capability across an entire data set, quick links on each page to find key information, user-set favourites, a new Adoddle Navigator App, drag and drop upload support, tablet support for files and models (Adoddle Field is now available on the Apple iStore – Windows and Android apps will follow, in that order), improved user interface for cMOB (“fat finger friendly”), and ability to easily share links quickly with non-Asite using colleagues (email-oriented still; not quite ‘social’ – yet – but Nathan told me he didn’t rule this out in the future). Discussions are presented in a more social-style view.
Basic BIM in the browser is delivered in Adoddle 17, making it easy to add/edit project models online, while the separate Adoddle cBIM application is retained for richer BIM-related functionality.
New customers will be rolling-out v17 almost immediately, while existing users are being briefed (both today and in a rolling programme of client meetings) and will be able to make a controlled transition from the “Classic” version to v17 when they are ready (Nathan earlier told me he expected the migration could take anything from six months to two years depending on the client’s use of the system and the extent of supply chain adoption – some Asite customers have user-bases exceeding 1000; currently, Asite has some 105,000 active users, and over 125 ‘significant’ customers, including contractor Laing O’Rourke and the recently won Russian giant Gazprom).
Adoddle v17 interface tour
11.30am update: Professional services director Chris Peter co-presented the new Asite interface with Nathan. Users can, if permitted, flip between Asite “Classic” and v17 (same data available “under the bonnet”). The conventional document register view is completely customisable – columns can be moved around, etc. The Drag and drop is seamless, with information “dropped” from a hard-drive straight onto the Asite folders. Right-click functionality includes sharing ability: to send emails giving time-limited access to a file or form to users outside Asite. Simple page-top tabs allow users to find different types of data (files, forms, models, discussions, reports, etc).
Asite cBIM offers a flexible BIM support environment (a Common Data Environment) that can be configured to support common BIM protocols (eg: BS1192). Models can be viewed in worksets (a la Revit), helping segregate discipline information, while also supporting coordination activities. BIM authoring tools are not required on the desktop to review or discuss the model files. Model views can be saved as “tiles” which can be associated with comments or design queries for collaboration purposes. Lists of information can also be created (eg: door schedules).
AppBuilder to App Library
12noon update: Product manager Denis Antony told the user conference about the Asite apps. AppBuilder has been part of the Asite eco-system for some years (see August 2010 post) and allows users to design their own online forms, to gather, share and reuse information, and connect securely to multiple web services. The Designer tool is built using Microsoft Infopath (a click and point form editor), and it is intuitive to use, he says, and it’s easy to include user company branding, or import Word or Excel files (no infrastructure or IT team required). It will help provide centralised business intelligence from across Asite tools and other repositories, encouraging reuse of data. And, Nathan added, if companies don’t want to design their own forms or processes, Asite can do it for customers.
Denis described the different apps in the Asite App Library (most of these are currently web-based, with some being “app-ified” to run offline outside a web browser). The project management tools included contract management (eg: supporting NEC – “used by Transport for London across the board,” says Tony Ryan; other products are, of course, available), project portfolio (track multiple projects), and a finance manager. Procurement and sourcing apps included a pre-qualification application, bid manager (secure online tendering across multiple parties) and procurement management (integrating to supplier catalogues where required). Field management – the first to be launched as an Apple app – covers site management, work orders, and health and safety. Supplier relationship management included tools to manage expenditure with suppliers, and a directory of potential suppliers. Asite also includes some simple tools including task management following meeting minutes, a HR timesheet app, and general project correspondence tools – and Denis said the range would continue to grow.
3pm update: After lunch and individual product workshop sessions, Denis Antony told the meeting that Asite’s strategic product development priorities are the simplified interface, mobility (no plugins; functionality across multiple devices), and collaborative ERP (a single platform to meet all business demands). Quarterly scheduled releases are planned going forward, and Denis invited feedback from the user group about what they want to see in the product set. He gave a taste of ongoing development threads: plugins to additional desktop systems, photo gallery and video support, more support for offline working, and support for native BIM and mechanical formats.
The company has been surveying users about what they like and dislike about the platform, and their wishlist, and they will continue this consultation work, through future user group meetings (bi-annual), newsletters, online workspaces, an online forum, product surveys, etc.
Tony Ryan closed the event by announcing that Bombardier had signed a deal to use Adoddle 17 for all projects in Australia (“so the product seems to have hit the nail on the head”). Its first projects will be up and running in two weeks, he said, reflecting that the company’s ongoing relationship with TfL positioned it well to win further work on rail infrastructure projects in the UK and beyond.