I have talked in this blog several times about the potential for collaboration to be expanded and improved by incorporating communication approaches that don’t just emulate traditional paper- and email-based processes (see, for example, my discussions about FieldLens, about GenieBelt and Comindware), and how some existing vendors of construction collaboration software have dipped their toes into more social and mobile approaches (Asite, for example).
Separately, I have also noticed how some mainstream enterprise content management, ECM, systems such as Microsoft’s Sharepoint are gradually incorporating more social media aspects into their functionality (building on Microsoft’s 2012 $1.2bn acquisition of Yammer, as well as recognising growing corporate desire for social networking tools). However, particularly in the architecture, engineering and construction industry where Microsoft has long dominated the corporate IT stack, adoption of social media still tends to lag behind other industries; the highly specialised and/or SME-dominated nature of the sector also constrains choice when it comes to internal collaboration; and AEC investment in ECM, ERP, CRM, HR and other corporate systems was also slowed by the recent recession, of course. Meanwhile, analysts such as IDC are predicting demand for social collaboration to outstrip sales in traditional enterprise software.
So, how could vendors of conventional construction software capitalise on this trend? One way would be to add a social and/or cloud layer to modernise or augment their existing applications, so that they become social intranets, with social networking-type functions not currently found in AEC-oriented platforms such as Newforma (post) or Union Square (post). For example, last month I talked to France-based Patrice Lamarque, chief product director of eXo, which has just announced an OEM programme so that independent software vendors can add social collaboration, mobile and cloud capabilities to their existing solutions.
First, who are eXo?
eXo, now some 10 years old and with 120 employees, delivers enterprise social media applications. Its customers include international insurance, banking, telecommunications and government organisations, ranging from businesses with six people to multi-nationals creating portals serving customer bases measured in millions. Its applications are delivered:
- through on-premise installations (its enterprise collaboration software is licensed at $27,000 per CPU core)
- through Platform-as-a-Service – with differently priced variants ranging from $1200 (25 users) to £8000 (500 users) per annum
- through a pure cloud-based solution costing $30 per user per year (prepaid, or $3/user/month), and
- as mobile applications, with the platform accessed via free iOS and Android apps.
According to Patrice, the eXo solution is considerably less expensive than rival solutions from Microsoft, IBM or Jive, while its integrative capacity means the solution will not become a stand-alone IT solution. It can also be implemented very cost-effectively by small and medium-sized businesses which would not be considered by its main rivals. Our talk of Sharepoint also reminded me of AEC-oriented providers such as Cadac – post).
eXo’s programme supports four different scenarios:
- Front-end portal development – eXo is leveraged to build a front-end portal that unifies one or several software suites
- Vertical solution development – eXo provides the backbone for social collaboration needs particular to a specific industry or niche market (construction, for example), allowing vendors to build a new product around their deep understanding of the precise needs of their audience.
- White labeling of eXo Platform to complete an existing offering – Instead of developing a SaaS application from scratch, OEM partners can – using eXo Platform UXPaaS – also accelerate delivery of their products as scalable SaaS offerings using eXo’s underlying cloud technology.
- Reuse of specific layers of eXo Platform to augment or complement existing products – Partners take advantage of eXo’s APIs to augment their own software offerings while maintaining their own interface designs.