ShapeDo targets dispute resolution

ShapeDo’s visual comparison technology is proving particularly popular in dispute resolution, says CEO Ari Isaacs.

ShapeDo logoIn June 2017, I wrote about Israeli-based startup ShapeDo and its software that helps identify and manage design changes. ShapeDo’s software detects differences between drawings. It can be used constructively to help manage associated workflows (change orders, etc) and track the cost implications of changes in contracts and budgets (ShapeDo is now positioning itself as a project controls tool – it exhibited at the November 2017 Project Controls Expo in London), but founder Ari Isaacs tells me their fastest growing market is in the area of dispute resolution.

Construction disputes - lengthConstruction remains notoriously litigious. For example, a UK construction survey undertaken by NBS in 2013 showed that, from a sample of over 1,000 clients, contractors and consultants, 30% had been involved in one or more contract entering into dispute in the previous 12 months. Half of the disputes had a value over £250,000; 13% had a value in excess of £5 million; 70% of disputes occurred during the construction process, the remainder happening after practical completion, with 17% of disputes resulting in work being stopped or suspended. Disputes most commonly arose between the client and main contractor (81%) with the assessment of delay and extension of time and contract variations cited as the primary causes of contention. And such disputes can be time-consuming to conclude, with 2016 data showing disputes in north America taking almost 50% longer to resolve than cases in the UK.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Coincidentally, the same day that I met ShapeDo’s Isaacs in London (10 April), the UK’s Serious Fraud Office announced it had achieved a significant upgrade in its document analysis capabilities using artificial intelligence. The SFO’s technology (from Open Text) can process more than half a million documents a day, scanning documents 2,000 times faster than a human lawyer. According to the SFO’s news release, its AI document review system can recognise patterns, group information by subject, organise timelines, and remove duplicates, helping the SFO to work smarter, faster and more effectively.

Similarly, ShapeDo’s change detection system can also dramatically accelerate the work of those involved in construction disputes: “A dispute is a change not effectively communicated,” Isaacs said. He continued:

Ari Isaacs“Typically, a dispute comes down to the question: what went wrong with the project? Resolving this question often involves expert witnesses reviewing all the drawing changes, which is incredibly manual, labour intensive and expensive. ShapeDo’s ‘track changes’capability can reduce the time spent on each drawing up to tenfold, enabling far faster and better analysis. In addition, Shapedo helps index and schedule drawings to eliminate duplicates (which immediately saves a lot of time and associated costs) and provides a speedier alternative to the manual review of 1000’s of paper drawings.

“Our software is essentially used in three phases. First, it is used in the discovery phase, building a narrative of what happened. Second, we can then analyse the changes to see what was amended and how that affected the programme and budget. And, third, we are used in evidence-building, assembling a timeline of how changes have impacted project scope, schedule and budget.”

ShapeDo marketing collateral includes three brief case studies:

  • In a delayed maritime project with major changes, the contractor’s legal team connected drawing instructions to program delays with ShapeDo. A six months, £17M delay was proven and resolved in weeks.
  • In an oil & gas dispute revolving technical isometric changes, ShapeDo eliminated 96% of drawings disclosed as duplicates, and was estimated to increase expert review efficiency fourfold on the remaining drawings.
  • Approaching final accounts on a medical build with significant quantum change, a contractor’s team reviewed 1,500 drawing updates in 2 days and submitted £480k.

We discussed alternatives to claims, disputes and court cases – new models of construction procurement, pain/gain sharing, collaborative contracts, etc, as well as the use of collaboration software platforms – but Isaacs notes many projects still adopt more traditional contracts, and often do not consistently use centralised platforms. And with ShapeDo’s technology helping expert witnesses review drawings faster, the business’s work in dispute resolution could grow yet further.

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