Launched in the US at the recent Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) conference in San Diego, California, is a new cloud-based project budget management application, Budget4cast.
Denver, Colorado-based CEO Bryan Carruthers (a career project manager turned AEC software entrepreneur) believes it’s something of a unique product, which he says generated a lot of interest and excitement at the CMAA event. He told me:
“the application is solely for managing project budgets and is geared mostly towards owners, developers, or owners’ representatives rather than contractors. We are not trying to be a complete extranet but are instead focussing on providing the best platform for a specific task.”
“We have a robust ability to forecast costs (as well as, of course, track actual incurred costs) and some unique features allowing documents to be linked to line items, customized ‘one click’ reporting and an ‘auto balance’ feature.”
According to the Budget4cast website, the application allows users to:
- Customize, change and reorganize budget codes easily
- Track all forecasted costs (committed, uncommitted, potential changes, and changes)
- Attach supporting pdf’s to all line items for easy future reference.
- Track actual costs and tie to commitments, changes, or direct to budget line items.
- Reallocate between lines with a full audit trail of When, Why and Who made a change.
- Collaborate with your team and stakeholders by inviting them to participate on your project with edit or view only user.
- ‘Auto Balance’ lines you know will be spent through toggling on or off our feature that will automatically create an uncommitted placeholder and update it as you update other costs.
- Filter all of your data to quickly find exactly what you’re looking for.
The product also has a “clean and minimal user interface so navigation is intuitive and efficient,” while the product is competitively priced (at least for this launch phase) – at US$49 per calendar month “no matter how many users and collaborators you have”. A free 30-day trial is also offered.
I have previously discussed other project cost control applications in the cloud, but they have tended to be integrated with collaboration solutions and focused on the needs of contractors and project managers. For example, the UK’s BIW Technologies (later Conject, now Aconex) was one of the first to move into this market in the early 2000s, providing a project financial control module to support some key contractor customers, including Lendlease and Mace. California project management consultancy ARES developed a cloud-based project cost controls platform, Worksite, launched in November 2014 and acquired the following year by Aconex. At the time of this latter deal, I also identified a handful of other vendors with interests in this field (including Viewpoint, e-Builder and Bentley Systems’ EADOC).
It is good to see a simple, SaaS-based solution launched for the construction industry that allows a customer to buy and start to use the service almost immediately, and at a price that encourages trial usage (this contrasts with many of the multi-function construction collaboration platforms which typically involve negotiation with a direct sales team, then implementation and training consultants before a project can even properly start – and with a timelag and hefty price tag to match). In a technologically astute world where customers increasingly expect to start using cloud-based services as soon as they’ve signed up and paid for them, that software sales process introduces friction.
Bryan’s business, and ‘mobile-first’ vendors such as Denmark-based GenieBelt (post) and the US’s Plangrid and FieldLens (post), get this. In short, I like Budget4cast’s straightforward marketing approach: doing one thing really well, targeting that niche, and then making it quick, easy and inexpensive for people to start using it.