Autodesk buys BuildingConnected

Autodesk’s December 2018 acquisition of the BuildingConnected bid management platform for US $275m embeds Autodesk in the US pre-construction sector.

BuildingConnected LogoOn 20 December 2018, just over a month after announcing it was acquiring US-based SaaS construction management developer Plangrid, Autodesk announced it was also acquiring another US company: BuildingConnected, for US$275m. This San Francisco-based company specialises in pre-construction processes including bid management and risk analysis, and Autodesk believes its network of over 700,000 construction professionals presents an opportunity to create a robust digital marketplace for construction goods and services.

BuildingConnect WorldFounded in 2012, BuildingConnected helps real estate owners and general contractors find and hire qualified contractors for their projects, and claims to be the largest and most active digital network of construction professionals, though the vast majority of its users are based in the United States. Customers include Turner Construction, McCarthy, Mortenson, StructureTone, Skanska, Clark Construction, Ryan Companies and AECOM.

BuildingConnected CEO and co-founder Dustin DeVan said:

“Bid management is a critical step in preconstruction, since bidding is the genesis of construction projects. Our game-changing suite of preconstruction tools are saving customers time and money. We’ve helped thousands of owners, general contractors and subcontractors streamline their businesses and communicate better. Together with Autodesk, we can expand the platform’s capabilities and scale globally.”

Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost said:

autodesk logo“We are investing in digitizing and automating construction workflows. Autodesk’s goal is to connect construction processes across design, build and operations. BuildingConnected has proven to customers the tremendous value in moving from traditional rolodexes, whiteboards, emails and spreadsheets to an easy-to-use digital bidding platform. BuildingConnected, along with Autodesk BIM 360, Revit, AutoCAD, and our acquisitions of PlanGrid and Assemble Systems, gives us a comprehensive construction offering and go-to-market capabilities. We look forward to integrating our recent acquisitions and making construction Autodesk’s next billion-dollar business.”

Jim Lynch, Vice President and General Manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions said:

“This acquisition provides an opportunity for Autodesk and BuildingConnected to connect every business in the construction industry, becoming the definitive source of information throughout the sector. Our tools empower all stakeholders with greater visibility and better information to make immediate decisions. We’re excited about creating a robust digital marketplace for the global construction industry, helping to boost productivity, while lowering cost and risk.”

In addition to its BC Pro bid-management platform, BuildingConnected offers TradeTapp, a subcontractor risk analysis platform, and Bid Board Pro, a platform that helps subcontractors manage bids.

The Extranet Evolution view

The deal will strengthen Autodesk’s position as a service provider in the north American contracting and subcontracting market, but – if it intends to do so – extending this capability to new markets will be challenging. Different countries have different approaches to procurement, and the process of bidding – or tendering – for contracts is generally quite complex, sometimes highly regulated, and has proved slow to change.

In the UK construction industry, for example, e-tendering has been offered by various vendors since the early 2000s. I was at SaaS collaboration vendor BIW Technologies (today part of Oracle Aconex) when it launched a tendering option, and UK rivals, including 4Projects (today part of Trimble’s Viewpoint business), Asite and now-defunct BuildOnline, were soon doing the same. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors published guidance on the area and, in 2007, jumped into the marketplace too, with, and there were other stand-alone tendering solutions too, but use of online e-tendering tools long remained a minority pursuit – most tenders were still sent and returned by post or email.

In Australia, e-tendering was also something developed by Aconex (initially through its Bidcontender service) and by regional competitors such as EstimateOne (July 2014 post).

Bentley logo 2017And BuildingConnected is not the only player in the US market. In October 2017, Bentley Systems announced it was acquiring eBid Systems, developer of the ProcureWare solution. Bentley claimed eBid Systems provided procurement solutions to “hundreds” of organisations, collectively managing over 270,000 vendor accounts.

Scaling BuildingConnected to become a global platform for bid management will involve extensive internationalisation of the solution to suit different legal, financial and industry prequalification and procurement regimes, as well as multiple language support. So far as the core solution is concerned, this Autodesk deal looks likely only to have an impact in the US, at least in the short-to-medium term.

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