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Jul 17 2015

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New look Newforma

Newforma’s transition from on-premise PIM software provider to being also a developer of SaaS and mobile applications looks set to continue.

Newforma-logoNewforma logo 2015Newforma has been busy reviewing its business, its customers’ and end-users’ needs and the markets in which it operates (I’ve had a couple of conversations with its marketing team along the way), and the New Hampshire, US-based project information management software provider has just launched a new website (with versions for each of its main regions), a new logo, and some new messages.

Newforma ind-team-enterprise image

CEO Ian Howell has written a blog post (The new Newfoma: evolving by intention) in which he talks about “a new chapter in our evolving Newforma story”. He says project information management – and information in particular – remains a driver, but there is now more data, and it’s more distributed, making collaboration ever more important. He continues

Ian Howell, Newforma CEOBut perhaps the most complicating factor influencing collaboration and project information management has been the now-widespread use of apps on smartphones and tablets. They create more places for information to hide or be lost, more ways to collaborate, and higher expectations of how software should work.

To keep up with evolving technologies, methods of collaboration, and project information needs, Newforma has offered new products for the cloud and on mobile devices. Our new look is one way of showing the world we’re rededicating ourselves meeting our customers ever-changing business needs.

Ian says the new Newforma is marked by three emphases:

  • We’ll provide more apps to make individuals more productive as they quickly and easily capture and consume project information away from their desks.
  • We’ll expand our use of the cloud to enable project teams to share and collaborate for more timely, informed decisions.
  • We’ll enrich our enterprise software’s ability to connect disparate sources of information for the purpose of optimizing organizational performance, analyzing data, and managing information for greater compliance, transparency, and accountability.

My view

For a business where some senior managers were once deeply dismissive of Software-as-a-Service (in 2006 Bob Batcheler described extranets as ‘digital landfills’, while Ian Howell said the ASP experience – ie: Software-as-a-Service – had “no positive traction in AEC”) the business has clearly come a long way. It has, indeed, had to adapt to the growing positive traction of cloud-based AEC applications and customer and end-user demand for mobile access to data, and I have written regularly about its progress from its launch as an on-premise software provider to one offering conventional, SaaS and mobile applications.

Newforma acquired a small US SaaS construction collaboration vendor and finally embraced the cloud in August 2012; at the same time it bought an app developer to help it expand into mobile tools, and began to look at building information modelling as the UK market in particular pushed forward with BIM adoption (BIM, SaaS and mobile driving Newforma developments, October 2012). By 2014, it was actively expanding its mobile and cloud functionality, later (October 2014) acquiring SmartUse.

The market is continuing to evolve and Newforma is clearly keen to continue to evolve too. BIM is likely to have a continued big impact, particularly as projects make the transition from design and construction and into operation and maintenance mode, and I expect there will be an emerging demand for technology providers to take on long-term data management roles for owner-operators. Technology businesses like Newforma which have largely to date marketed themselves to AEC consultancy and contracting firms to support relatively short-term project delivery may need to evolve into businesses geared up to support industry clients’ long-term built asset data needs.

(By the way, one ExtranetEvolution.com reader reminded me that sometimes a brand overhaul can be a precursor to a new investor push. Almost exactly a year ago, for example, Aconex rebranded and the following day the Australian newspapers began to talk about a possible IPO. Not sure that will happen here, but you never know….)

Update (14 August 2015) – I just noticed a 1 July COINS announcement that it had recruited Newforma’s EMEA operations director Tim Bates to oversee new business opportunities following COINS’ recent investment in Fulcro Engineering Services. Good luck in your new role, Tim.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2015/07/new-look-newforma/

6 comments

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  1. Jon Antevy

    Paul – this was a great post and my colleagues and I who have been in the business for 20 years can attest to the continued move away from on-premise towards SaaS. However, there has been little focus within the construction space highlighting the marked differences between Single Tenant vs. Multi Tenant SaaS. The benefits of multi-tenant over single-tenant are well documented and the largest construction owners around the world have agreed.

    https://www.southtech.com/news-a-events/blog/item/190-cloud-applications-done-right-part-1-why-multi-tenancy-matters

    If you look at the acquisitions in the last 2 years, most (if not all) all of those firms who sold had single-tenant solutions. Why did they sell? Firms who have both multi and single tenant solutions discovered that they were running 2 completely separate businesses and it became a costly endeavor that doesn’t scale.

    Years ago we walked away from business when the prospect insisted on self hosting. Our competitors laughed and we questioned if we were making the right decision. Staying the course with a multi-tenant solution allowed us to maintain ONE VERSION of e-Builder and our clients have benefitted immensely. The continued development and refinement of mobile apps, BIM, data benchmarking, etc are all happening at a faster pace with superior support.

    Owners who are educated on the differences see the benefits in an instant and they don’t ever look back. The next 20 years will be even more exciting than the first 20!!!!!

  2. anon

    Jon, what kind of volume of documents and mail do you get through the e-builder system and on a typical project or on a very large project for you? is this something that you can share? I am researching the industry and obviously you are one of the main players and I am trying to figure out how you stack up against Procore and Aconex in ability to volumes of data and in system use.

  3. anon

    Paul, it would be a fascinating blog post, if companies operating in the construction collaboration software industry are prepared to share it with you, for you to put together a comparison of the different companies’ system use. Of course, every project is different, so comparisons are difficult and can’t be directly made but just some illustrative figure for a large project or two. Or even if you can get it, across the whole system and all projects.

    Aconex cite some figures for their Venetian Macau project in their June Investor Presentation, which they say is a large project for them but they also have projects even a few times larger by use. As someone new to this industry and deciding whether and where to put capital to back it (Aconex are talking to a lot of potential new investors at the moment and I’m one) my first reaction is where in this industry and with who would I most like to put my capital, not just with Aconex because they happen to be the ones talking to me. One of my hypotheses about an industry like collaboration software for construction is that while it is very easy to say the word ‘collaboration’ and easy to have a product that has some level of functionality, it is much harder to make collaboration work in practice because there are so many diverse companies involved in building a project and there is so much complex and voluminous data to manage. It follows from this hypothesis, that he whose system is the most actually used on projects is doing the best job at what really matters for success and hence for investors over the medium to long term. I have to say that so far I am quite impressed by Aconex’s figures just for the Venetian Macau project and what that means for the value they must be delivering to the people using their system. But I am also very open minded and would like to know if there is anyone out there doing as good a job or even nearly as good a job on their projects using their alternative collaboration products.

    1. Paul Wilkinson

      Some 10 years ago, as a company representative in the NCCTP (a now-defunct trade association for the leading vendors active in the UK), I recall we did a survey about the use of the different platforms, and there were discussions about cataloguing/comparing the functions of the various systems, and compiling some more reliable statistics about system use (for example, accounting for individuals using more than one platform). As you might imagine, there were a) concerns about comparing like with like – different systems may deliver similar functions but in different ways, or use different terminology – and b) some sensitivities about sharing such user data (even with a neutral third party), and a host of practical questions about defining “active” users (some supply chain employees, for example, may only work on Project A part-time for a few days), or other measures of use.

      Large numbers of users, companies, documents and drawings can sound impressive, but can be influenced by how effectively people actually “collaborate” (and this is as much influenced by contracts, procurement, attitudes and behaviours as it is by technology). By some measures, effective collaboration may result in a “right first time” approach that reduces the number of revisions and versions, it may mean fewer requests for information, fewer on-site quality issues, etc, etc – in short, it’s not just about quantity but the quality of the collaboration that matters. And the emergence of BIM is going to further change the nature of collaboration too, and how we measure interaction and its effectiveness.

      1. anon

        Thanks again for the insights. It always helps to hear from someone who has been around in an industry since its beginnings and knows the history.

        Putting aside BIM for a moment, are you aware of any special technologies or even consulting services that providers in this space have that improve the quality of the collaboration that Aconex does not have? I don’t mean differences in a few features, I mean things that would greatly reduce the need to even use the system so the statistics for mail and document use by participants would not show up in system usage but the users of the system and buyers of the service would still be getting a big benefit from the system . I have had a good look and I cannot find any.

        Regarding statistics for system usage themselves in documents and mail that Aconex has published, taking this one project mentioned in the Investor Presentation as an example, what is your view about the quantity of collaboration achieved on this project?

        Do you think the other providers not publishing these kind of stats for their projects as part of their online marketing (on a disguised client basis) to attract interest of possible new clients is just more of the same kind of the same “under the radar” approach they have adopted in not publishing their news about new project and client wins?

        If there is one thing I am completely convinced of after looking at this industry for a few weeks, Aconex does a far better job than their competitors of marketing and explaining themselves and what they have done and what they do in detail quoting detailed statistics and examples.

  4. Rob Vanderhill

    I’ll give you a viewpoint about the “quantity” of collaboration on that project. It’s of epic proportions.
    290 organisations 7,873 people and 19.9 million mail items and 9.5 million drawings. Just humongous is what that is.
    Check with anyone in the industry who has ever used this kind of system on other projects anywhere which has been provided by other vendors and it is a guarantee there was just a trickle of use and only by some people.
    The T-Rex could swallow its prey in single bites. The Aconex system would swallow up the use on all the other vendors systems in a small bite.

    As for this “right first time” idea. no, no you have missed the point of all this Paul. The people on these sorts of projects are using the system so much to collaborate to do design revisions along way each time in more and more detail to SAVE MONEY and build a better project ahead of schedule which kind of thing can only be done so quickly and effectively with an online collaboration system that easily supports all these people and high use. That is why the Aconex system is so valuable to customers because, pardon my french, it just works so bloody well and so is used so much and so makes money for customers.

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