This week’s 2015 Viewpoint customer summit conference in London drew over 100 people, all provided with an update to the company’s product development roadmap outlined in Newcastle last May (4Projects: the future is cloud-based everything). One headline announcement has been confirmation of the rebranding of 4Projects; with effect from September 2015, the SaaS construction collaboration application will be known as Viewpoint for Projects, a modification of the US and Australia branding of the collaboration offering: Viewpoint for Collaboration.
More significant than the branding change, though, will be the latest steps in Viewpoint’s migration towards a more unified suite of products largely delivered as Software-as-a-Service. What we currently term ‘document control‘ (will we rename this as we become more model-based? Information control? Project control?) remains a core specialism, but the plans outlined by Jeremy Larsen will also see Viewpoint’s collaborative project management capabilities expanded into areas that are currently strengths of rival solutions.
For example, Aconex is strong on project communications; Viewpoint will be strengthening its RFI, submittal, transmittal, meeting minutes and project email functions. And while Conject has long had a European differentiation by virtue of its commercial management module (formerly Financial Control), Viewpoint will be gunning for customers demanding this functionality with new cost control functions, covering contracts, subcontracts/purchase orders, change orders, estimates, phase codes/cost types, etc.
4Projects’ investment in research and development relating to BIM feature strongly in the future Viewpoint for Projects product suite, with its BIM Manager module (rebranded from 4BIM) complementing document control. And December 2014’s MCS Priority1 acquisition – now branded as Field View (as distinct from Field Share – the former 4Mobile app) – providing mobile data capture for daily reports, health and safety, quality control, snagging, and inspections.
Stressing usability, accessibility, mobility and configurability, the Viewpoint product management team shared initial views of the unified interface to these functions, which users will be able to access through a single login to a personalised view, dubbed ‘My Viewpoint’. The focus to date has been on the project communications area, with Viewpoint recruiting a user experience (UX) specialist to help develop an intuitive-to-use, cross-device interface, using HTML5 technology.
Almost coinciding with the conference, the latest release (15 May) of Viewpoint’s Field View functionality has been more tightly integrated with the 4Projects platform. Today Richard Scott demonstrated how Field View allows 4Projects users to access version controlled drawings, along with all subsequent updates, from their 4Projects containers within Field View. The Field View web app also allow users to reuse COBie output to generate geometry, helping them set up projects more quickly, plotting buildings, zones and spaces in seconds – meaning Field View now links to BIM-based projects.
Progress towards a unified SaaS system covering all Viewpoint project management capabilities will be incremental. For example, just as Field View and the 4Projects external project management functions are being integrated for UK users, in the US the collaboration functions and Viewpoint’s internal project management system, Vista, are also integrated. Over time, this integration will be extended, but the initial steps may require some work-arounds – for example, cost control will initially require the user to have the Vista Windows application locally installed, but in due course this will be migrated to become a SaaS module. New document control, BIM Manager and Field View SaaS modules are all programmed for release over the next 12 months or so.
[Disclosure: I delivered a keynote presentation (fee paid) to the Viewpoint customer summit.]