It’s over 10 years since my first posts about US-based construction provider Newforma, and during the intervening decade the company has executed a gradual, but now almost complete, about-turn.
In June 2006, Newforma was dismissive of cloud-based applications: senior executives described project extranets as “digital landfills” and insisted that we now call Software-as-a-Service had no traction in the architecture, engineering and construction market. Their dismissive attitude continued through 2007 and the business’s 2009 UK launch in 2009. But by 2012 it had started something of a U-turn, launching its Newforma Project Cloud in October that year. In 2013, it established a relationship with Amazon Web Services to make Project Cloud more widely available, complemented by an expanded set of mobile solutions announced in April 2014.
The company’s latest announcement puts the cloud at the centre of its offering. Newforma Project Center release 11.7 features ‘Newforma Cloud Services’ which, the company says, “frees information from silos created by the use of multiple file sharing solutions” and makes Project Center “the industry’s first truly hybrid platform to integrate on-premise and cloud storage to support collaboration among dispersed project teams”.
A customer, Lyle Lemon, director of digital practice, Bruner/Cott Architecture and Planning, says:
“Newforma Cloud Services has reduced the risk that someone would work with out-of-date files. The software makes server-based files available in the cloud, where access is easy, whether using a browser or a mobile device. It eliminates duplicating files that are on the file server to a file sharing site or application. Even our most technology-challenged partners are able to share files online, and Bruner/Cott people are using the Newforma app to reference files when working out in the field.”
Newforma CEO Ian Howell says:
“Successful project delivery is only possible when project teams can collaborate using the most current information on which to base decisions. The launch of Newforma Cloud Services provides our customers with the option to keep their project information on-premise, in the cloud or in dual locations. What’s more, files are automatically synchronized across the platform to ensure project teams always have access to the most current data in the office, on the jobsite and on mobile devices.”
To me, it seems Newforma is finally now positioning itself as an ‘extranet’, pointing out the challenges of trying to manage project information via email or via generic file-sharing solutions such as DropBox, Box and ShareFile (in much the same way that SaaS vendors ridiculed FTP in the early 2000s). The file-sharing platforms are highlighted in this Newforma blog post, but – not surprisingly, perhaps – there is no mention of construction-oriented extranet solutions (many of which have long offered integration with localised tools such as Microsoft Outlook).
Why no mention? In my view, because this is where Newforma is now, arguably, having to catch up with rivals who not only saw the cloud on the horizon but used it as part of their core offering.