At the end of August 2016, Dropbox and Australia-based SaaS construction collaboration vendor Aconex announced (Dropbox news release; Aconex news release) a global partnership to provide integrated cloud-based collaboration solutions to the construction and engineering industry.
As part of this agreement, Aconex and Dropbox will deliver better data integration between the two platforms, allowing users to save time and be more productive when managing capital projects of all sizes.
Aconex users will now be able to securely move documents, drawings, photos, and other files from Dropbox to Aconex with a few simple clicks. Once on the Aconex platform, the files can be shared, distributed, updated, tracked, and searched in controlled workflows across many different organizations connected on projects. The Dropbox integration is one of many API-powered solutions that enable Aconex users to exchange data with both internal and external systems.
Chris Dobbyn, senior vice president of the Americas at Aconex, said:
“We saw an opportunity to work more closely with Dropbox to improve the user experience. Many Aconex customers, particularly in the mid-market, use Dropbox for secure storage of project files before uploading them to the Aconex platform for project-wide collaboration. Our goal was to help them drive even greater efficiencies in the project environment.”
The integration will see Aconex join Dropbox’s ecosystem of thousands of API developers, which is helping users to collaborate and work smarter by allowing companies to seamlessly incorporate Dropbox Business into their core IT processes.
Commenting on the partnership, Thomas Hansen, Dropbox global vice president of revenue, said:
“Dropbox’s integration with Aconex builds on our broader aim to engage in partnerships that deliver additional value to our global customers. By investing in strategic partnerships, we are working towards our mission to build the world’s largest collaboration platform that allows users to simplify workflows and work the way they want, anytime and anywhere.”
The integration will be available to Aconex customers on request.
Looking back, I see that I first mentioned Dropbox in the context of construction-related file-sharing in 2010 – two years after the service was launched. In January 2010, I also wrote about its rival Box.net (and about FileGenius) and other free and low-cost cloud-based file-sharing services (including SkyDrive – later OneDrive – and Google Drive) offering an apparently easy way for individuals and teams to share documents, drawings and other files with each other.
Of course, such services are not pre-configured to work seamlessly and efficiently with construction-oriented documentation – they don’t include CAD file viewers, version control is often rudimentary (if it exists at all), there will be little or no support for construction workflow processes, and if large numbers of files are shared, it can be time-consuming to search for specific items.
Nonetheless, they have become a common part of the AEC ecosystem, particularly for small projects or small teams which only need to share files (and will be preferable to network shared folders or FTP). This has prompted some AEC-specific vendors to emulate Dropbox-style file management processes (for example, SME collaboration specialist Collabor8online introduced file synchronisation in June 2013) or provide integration options with the more popular platforms (eg: Newforma included Box.net and DropBox support in a July 2014 update of its internally hosted Project Center product, and in September 2016 announced its Cloud Services Connector extended support for the same two services).
Aconex’s integration with Dropbox is a significant move, with the leading SaaS construction player developing a relationship with perhaps the most well-known of the generic cloud-based file sharing platforms. It potentially provides a migration pathway for Dropbox users to transition to a more fully-featured and construction-oriented platform, while also helping link the Aconex platform to internal teams, individual companies or supply chain groupings that might be using Dropbox for file-sharing and collaboration in advance of issuing their deliverables via the Aconex platform.