Re-energised following its November 2014 MBO, UK construction collaboration vendor GroupBC is growing revenues and increasing profitability.
Reading, UK-based GroupBC (previously known as Business Collaborator) is one of the longest-established SaaS construction collaboration technology providers in the UK. It started as part of the software solutions arm of the Enviros environmental consulting and software group in the 1990s, and (as outlined in November 2014, when its current managers bought the business with backing from YFM), went through several changes of ownership (CodaSciSys in 2003, Coda in 2006, Agresso Unit 4 in 2008) before establishing today’s independent business.
The 2008-2014 period also saw various brand changes – from 2010 until the MBO the company traded as UNIT4 Collaboration Software Ltd – but the core SaaS platform remained ‘Business Collaborator’ throughout. The business also learned a lot about integration of its system with other products during the UNIT4 years: several GroupBC customers were using other UNIT4 solutions as well as its collaboration platform. GroupBC also has some strong owner-operator relationships in the UK retail sector (Monsoon, Primark, and the SSP retail and catering outlet provider), in local government, the water sector (notably Thames Water, Southern Water and United Utilities), with leading contractors including Balfour Beatty and Costain, and consultancies including CH2M, Atkins and WSP.
2016 revenue growth
While trading under the UNIT4 banner, the business did not report its financial performance. However, it has resumed publication of its audited annual report and accounts, with the latest detailing the year to 30 November 2016. The figures are not comparable with the company’s pre-2010 reporting – at the time of the MBO, CEO Sanjeev Shah told me GroupBC would be switching to a SaaS subscription approach. The recently published report shows total revenues of £3.795m (c. US$4.9m or €4.33). This showed sales up 33% from £2.857m in 2015. The business also increased profitability (EBITDA) from £0.445m to £0.797m (c. US$1.029m or €0.908m) – a 77% year-on-year increase.
The upward revenue growth is in line with that experienced by other vendors recently:
- global market leader Aconex last year announced underlying organic revenues up 31% (post)
- in the UK, Asite reported its revenues up 14% in 2016 (post)
- in May 2017 Viewpoint for Projects’s Steve Spark said its 2016 EMEA revenues were up 24% (post)
- Munich, Germany-based think project! reported 2016 revenues up 35% (post)
In all these cases, businesses cited adoption of building information modelling (BIM) as a contributing factor to their growth, and this is certainly the case with GroupBC. It has been investing in its platform’s ‘common data environment’ capabilities to support teams working to UK BIM Level 2 and beyond, while its research and development into “semantic BIM” (Connected BIM) recently saw it launch its GeoConnect+ service at the GeoBusiness event in London in late May 2017. Developed by GroupBC following joint and ongoing research with consultancy PCSG and Ordnance Survey, GeoConnect+ connects BIM information with geospatial data in a way that helps large asset owners and operators manage large, disparate estates better; datasets include OS open data, OS mapping data, land and property data, flood, river, and road network data (read PCSG’s blog post).
The core platform has not been neglected. BC7 has just been released with a couple of clients (including Thames Water) already using it ahead of a wider roll-out in September 2017. Enhancements include a streamlined interface, cross-browser and device access (using HTML5) with a zero-install redline/markup capability, and security improvements including two-factor authentication and e-signatures.
New GroupBC customers won during the year include retailer Sainsbury’s (now hosting its OneProperty asset management platform on BC) and fellow retailer JD Sports, along with Jarvis Construction and the Houses of Parliament (UK hosting and an ISO27001 accreditation were factors in the decision on BC). A differentiating factor for some customers is that the platform can be set up on a dedicated server in GroupBC’s UK hosting facility, allowing clients to flex the system and benefit from localised development and systems integrations. This hosting and software flexibility helps retain customers; Shah, right, is proud that GroupBC’s ‘churn rate’ is under 5%.
While growing its customer base, GroupBC is also expanding its team. During the year to November 2016, its headcount grew from 20 to 45, with further expansion planned through to the end of 2017; one appointment was a new sales and marketing director: after more than 10 years at Union Square (prior to its July 2016 acquisition by Deltek), and before that at Eque2, sales director Stuart Bell joined GroupBC earlier this year, “excited by the opportunities at the best kept secret in the CDE space!” The company has also established a graduate training programme with Pareto, with the first two graduates progressing well.
[Disclosure: While I have provided marketing consultancy services to GroupBC, this post is unconnected with that work.]