OpenECX targeting subcontractors

OpenECX and its WebContractor application provides an end-to-end – purchase order to payment – SaaS-based process management platform.

The UK construction e-commerce sector isn’t one I’ve looked at that closely, particularly when it comes to managing buyer/supplier financial transactions between construction businesses. I have tended only to give it a brief mention if it involves a SaaS collaboration vendor, for example: Asite (whose Adoddle platform incorporates a procurement hub) or Causeway (Tradex) – both of which allow interchange with other hubs via the Hub AllianceCoins ETC is another competitor in this sector, as is another UK-based vendor, OpenECX, which is seemingly positioning itself to compete with Textura too.


OpenECX logoThe trading hub technology underpinning OpenECX was, until April 2015, previously marketed as Adaptris ECX (electronic construction exchange), having been launched in 2012 as a construction-specific business within the system integration specialist Adaptris group by former Coins executive Matthew Jones. Earlier this year, it completed a management buy-out, backed by experienced construction software investor Richard Beaton (who, incidentally, supported the November 2014 Business Collaborator MBO – post), and is now growing its sales and consultancy teams.

OpenECX describes its cloud-based trading hub, eHub3, as “the first fully system agnostic and independent cloud-based trading system for the entire construction industry”, and the company is focused on delivering e-commerce and subcontractor solutions to construction businesses. Trading in 20 countries worldwide, 700+ active trading partners include Hilti, Fergusons, Kier Group and John Sisk and Son.


The materials supply trading hub is OpenECX’s core product, but Matthew is particularly keen to talk about its complementing product: the company’s WebContractor applications for payment service. This provides an end-to-end – purchase order to payment – process management platform to support construction customer-subcontractor commercial relationships, including automating self-billing agreements, e-invoices, purchase orders and authenticated VAT receipts for tax purposes.

Webcontractor-screengrabPayment processes in the UK are increasingly tightly governed by the Construction Act (strictly, the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act, to give it its full title, plus the Scheme for Construction Contracts (England and Wales) Regulations). This legislation has been progressively tightened as successive governments have sought to clamp down on poor payment practices. Consequently, commercial managers and directors are under pressure to comply with requirements regarding the timely issue of acknowledgements and of notices and other communications to subcontractors under the Act. Matthew says:

We are seeing rocketing interest in WebContractor from main contractors seeking to de-risk their payment processes. An auditable SaaS-based hub like our’s gives both sides a consolidated view, improves visibility of payment progress and so helps foster trust and collaboration.

The platform has similarities with Textura-CPM (post), but has been developed in the UK for the UK, with extensive input from both main contractors and from financial services businesses who are frequently party to construction transactions. OpenECX also offers optional working capital provision (similar to Textura’s EPP) with London-based financial services partner Woodsford Tradebridge.

Once a main contractor opts to use OpenECX it takes about two months to onboard, during which time OpenECX will also start showcasing the system to the company’s subcontractors. Matthew continues:

We can quickly be taking thousands off a main contractor’s overheads if they become enterprise users. However, we can also be flexible about pricing, setting up across a few projects and allowing contractors to use as much or as little of the service as they need and paying just for what they’ve used. We also make set-up easy; our PDF-to-XML process needs no adaptors or APIs – we can start automating the process using a subcontractor’s standard PDF invoice.


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    • Hamish on 5 September 2015 at 9:16 pm

    It will be interesting to see how the Aconex marketing and legal departments respond to this considering the colours and layout are almost identical to the release 10 update that they did to the Aconex system. I know they have updated recently to a grey and orange layout but the openECX colours and screen shot look at first glance like Aconex before the latest update.

    The orange and blue were very strong colours for Aconex for a long time and will still resonate with a lot of users, so like I say it will be interesting to see the Aconex response.

    1. While the colours are similar, I don’t see that close a resemblance. Arrows tend to get used when talking about exchanges; OpenECX is arguably more of a chevron than an arrow, perhaps, so I wouldn’t interpret OpenECX’s logo as a copy or as passing-off. And blue and orange are a frequent logo combination….

      OpenECX logoaconex old logo

    • Hamish on 5 September 2015 at 9:59 pm

    It’s not the logo so much as the screen shot of the application itself that has the greatest similarity in terms of colour and layout of the menu bar at the top of the screen, the similarity struck me almost immediately, at first glance I thought I was looking at an Aconex screenshot

    1. Ah – see where you’re coming from now!

      Once a business has opted to use a certain colour palette, the look and feel can quickly resemble those of many other platforms, particularly when developers have to work within the constraints of what can be delivered within common browsers. I’ve seen this several times over the years: first with the “spreadsheet-style” document registers common to many collaboration platforms, and, more recently, as firms have developed mobile web interfaces.

      I would guess any similarities between the interfaces of OpenECX and Aconex 10 was/is purely coincidental.

      As for the blue/orange colour scheme, it has often been deployed in the construction industry, including by some other construction IT businesses: COINS, for example.

    • Hamish on 5 September 2015 at 10:04 pm

    I also agree that Blue and Orange are often used in logos the Orange is the corporate colour for Aconex and it was chosen by the CEO and co-founder himself and he is very passionate about the orange – so if he thinks it is going to dilute his brand then that will be the interesting part

  1. […] Founded in the US in 2004 to expedite CPM processes, Textura is now well-established in the north American market and has been gradually expanding overseas, opening an office in Australia in 2012 and – since July 2014 – beginning to expand in Europe (post). Other niche players in this sector include UK-based OpenECX (post). […]

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