RIB Software’s Scandinavian development team in Copenhagen has been extending the capabilities of the former Docia toolset, applying an ‘open BIM’ approach to delivering new Connex BIM functionality.
Stuttgart, Germany-based RIB Software, now part of the French Schneider Electric group, has expanded through a series of acquisitions in recent years, while also growing its Software-as-a-Service capabilities. A lot of the corporate focus has been on RIB’s enterprise solution, MTWO. However, the group has also continued to invest in its existing product portfolio, developing building information modelling (BIM) and other capabilities that will, in due course, be extended to the MTWO ecosystem.
The Docia ByggeWeb back story
In July 2014, RIB acquired Docia, the Copenhagen, Denmark-based provider of a SaaS collaboration platform, ByggeWeb (see this 2011 EE interview) for around €20m (c. £16m). This helped RIB grow its SaaS earnings (previously also boosted by the 2012 acquisition of Australia’s ProjectCentre – post). It was also exploring ways to extend cloud adoption among contractor customers of its on-premise iTWO enterprise resource planning solution.
In 2018, Extranet Evolution talked again to Mads Bording, right, former Docia CEO now COO of RIB, about the next steps in RIB’s software development (RIB plans further cloud expansion). Docia and iTWOcx (the former ProjectCentre) remained part of the “iTWO ecosystem”, Bording said, supporting document management customers in their respective regional markets. He then described how the the company had invested in re-coding its core client-server iTWO 5D platform so that it could also be deployed as a cloud-enabled platform. In May 2018, the company had engaged with Microsoft as a development partner to offer RIB via the Azure cloud, as MTWO (rather than iTWO), with hybrid on-premise hosting as an option where customers required more stringent security.
The long-term vision, according to Bording, was to consolidate everything into the core platform. All software development would be focused on the same technologies, creating a Platform-as-a-Service capability, with an ‘open BIM’ philosophy and open APIs to connect to complementary applications. In 2018, RIB Group revenues grew 26%, boosted by its SaaS operations, with the Microsoft partnership expected to grow its SaaS user base ten-fold in 2019. Fourteen M&A deals were completed in 2019, a year in which RIB grew revenues 57% and increased its MTWO/iTWO 4.0 user base from 3,000 to 69,337.
RIB’s Connex BIM
However, other parts of the RIB product portfolio have not been starved of R&D investment. Nicholas Holst, chief product officer of RIB’s Denmark-based operation, talked to Extranet Evolution about its new Connex BIM platform. Complementing the Byggeweb platform (aka RIB Project), the new Connex tools include a a process management platform, BIM capabilities and mobile device functionality designed to break down data and inter-disciplinary silos within and across project teams.
According to Holst, construction project teams typically use numerous different applications, many of them point solutions which lock users into proprietary data silos. These hamper information sharing inside projects, and also prevent companies from exploiting data across multiple projects. His team (which includes Pavel Antonov, formerly at Kapio – post, and Lucas Graversen) has developed Connex process management, a workflow engine that ‘out of the box’ provides various standard workflows, plus the ability to customise these workflows and develop new ones.
The user interface features a dashboard view of tasks related to an individual’s role and responsibilities. From the top-level view, users can drill into individual projects, with the status of different tasks evident from PowerBI pie-charts
In parallel, Connex BIM has been developed using open IFC standards to provide rich BIM functionality, including support for BIM-related processes (Antonov explained how an IFC model could be imported and then used to propagate workflows related to particular zones in the model, for example). The team is also developing ISO 19650-compliant processes that will provide RIB with a ‘Common Data Environment’ product in 2021; as part of this work, the platform will also support BCF open standard-based workflows.
The RIB strategy of open APIs is also evident: Holst described how various RIB ‘micro-services’ can be used to connect to third party solutions (similar to Autodesk’s Forge approach), allowing easy export and import of data, and outputs to other project solutions including Trello, BIM 360, BIMCollab, and SharePoint. And RIB’s platform-based approach also means that Connex tools and micro-services will be capable of incorporation into its MTWO/iTWO systems.
September 2020 launch
Much of the new Connex functionality is being made freely available (subject to some caps on certain features and on usage volumes), as RIB seeks to foster pan-project collaboration by a community of users. Usage is not confined to computer web browsers, as RIB has also developed mobile applications (Apple iOS and Android) to encourage site-based use to manage individuals’ tasks.
A Connex BIM 3D mobile viewer has also been developed, and is set to be launched on 1 September (register for the online launch event), with a browser viewer scheduled for release in late 2020.