iBinder is a company based in Örebro, Sweden, which has developed a simple-to-use project management system based on a ring-binder approach to construction information.
The software, accessed via a standard web browser, mimics the look and feel of a ring-binder using index tabs to denote different sections of information (each sub-section can then be further sub-divided as necessary). A user with several projects is presented with a view of a bookshelf containing a binder for each project. Other users can be invited to open and use project binders, while iBinder also allows certain tabs (for example, contracts or budgets) to be locked, making those sections and their contents inaccessible to unauthorised users. Multiple virtual ‘bookshelves’ can apparently also be created for different types of binders.
iBinder launched in Sweden in about 2010, and its user base has been growing at 15-20% ever since, and it now claims to have over 200,000 users (though I suspect this is a historic total, not the number of currently active end-users), while the company also says customers double their use of the system year-on-year. “Its cost is based on the project’s budget, so you can have an unlimited number of users and uploaded files.”
Use of the system, which is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform, has expanded to customers in Norway and Denmark, while – interestingly – the company is now looking at franchising its platform to open up new markets, including the UK (it is exhibiting at a franchising show in London in April 2019 – see blog post).
iBinder appears to be something that may appeal to small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs), but I would be wary about how easily functionality designed to fit Swedish construction industry standards could be adapted to suite non-Scandinavian markets. Presumably, anyone taking on the role of Master Franchisees for the UK (or other markets) would need to develop some marketing materials to help promote the platform in their territories, to adapt the user interface so that it uses the right language and terminology, and develop some of the workflows so that they correspond to the processes most commonly applied in a particular market.
To me – and despite the ‘simplicity’ sloganeering – iBinder is a useful reminder that most SaaS products launched for construction use have tended to require some kind of direct sales effort. The solutions are generally not something that will be adopted just be finding a solution on the web and then following some software ‘wizards’ (I sometimes contrast the complexity of these AEC solutions with some accounting and timesheet solutions – eg Xero, Harvest – that are marketed to small businesses). Usually new customers and/or end-users need support to set up accounts and to then configure AEC applications to suit their business.
Prepared for BIM?
The company’s website also says the construction product is “Prepared for BIM (Building Information Model).” No further explanation is provided, but, again, the platform might need to be developed further to become a ‘Common Data Environment’ offering the functionality required by a (slowly) growing number of clients and their project teams.