RedSky launches project collaboration platform, Project Connect, claiming potential 30-60% total cost savings against competing solutions.
UK-based RedSky is set to launch a cloud-based construction document and process management platform, Project Connect, targeting its core market of small to medium-sized contractor customers.
Formed in 1978 and based in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, RedSky (until 2005 known as Ramesys – post) is a long-standing provider of on-premise and hosted software solutions – mainly integrated financial and contract/project accounting solutions – to the construction sector in the UK and the Middle East. It was acquired by Canada’s Explorer Software Group in 2007.
RedSky is today part of the portfolio of Vancouver, Canada-based JDM Technology Group, a brand created in August 2014 when Explorer was rebranded. JDM’s current North American brands include: construction management tools Explorer Software, Computer Guidance and JOBPOWER and Maestro Technologies; maintenance management software Mpulse, MICROMAIN, EPAC and Teamworks; and estimating tools ConEst, Vision InfoSoft, and IndustrySmarts. In Europe, as well as RedSky, JDM includes Integrity Software, Estimate and Rendra AS (provider of StreamBIM software), while Australasian group companies include more construction management software vendors: CSSP (acquired in 2011 – post), LEVESYS, Nimbus, Plusfactor and CostCon.
RedSky Project Connect
The RedSky product range includes a Project Information Management module intended to complement other RedSky software. However, Project Connect can both complement existing applications and offer a rapidly implemented solution for any business wanting to heighten project information visibility. According to managing director Phil Kent, right:
“Built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, RedSky Project Connect offers an affordable, light-touch way for companies to integrate key business management applications with information from ongoing projects, sharing best practice and avoiding ‘double-handling’ of data. … We hope that project teams will reduce time and costs by replicating best practice across their entire project portfolio and reap the often small but incremental and cumulative gains from digital transformation.”
Commercial director Mohammad Daudi (who was at 4Projects/Viewpoint from 2010 to 2017) says Project Connect is intended to be “a robust, standalone, multi-tenanted solution that will offer project collaboration out of the box” (register here to be updated on the product’s launch).
Appraising the UK market, Daudi believes many small to mid-sized contractors are deterred by high-end ‘Common Data Environment’ (CDE) platforms geared to the needs of Tier 1 firms. Project Connect provides a simple-to-use platform that can be used intuitively by anyone used to working with a Windows Explorer-type interface via a standard web-browser.
Once logged-in, authorised users are presented with an initial landing page (with a sub-menu of Approvals, Project Documents, Forms, and Project Tasks), a dashboard showing various headline reporting modules as well as Today’s Documents. By clicking on a document or drawing, the user is able to open it in a viewer for comparison to another version, annotation or red-lining, and any changes are then tracked. Usefully, the viewer also displays a thumbnail view of the file displaying relevant metadata: tags, notifications, security settings, etc.
The browser-delivered platform can also support use via tablets and smartphones, with a responsively designed interface reshaping according to the device’s screen-size and orientation. This makes it a platform that can help connect site, site office and company back office, says Daudi.
Knowing contractors’ heavy reliance on forms to manage expenses, site incidents, new starters, observations, snagging/defects, site diaries and – of late – COVID-19 safe operating procedures, Project Connect can also be used to quickly replicate any paper-based or spreadsheet-based forms or templates. Fields can quickly be configured to help end-users capture site data that can then be reported and summarised (eg: number, open, closed) by the platform’s reporting tools.
Project Connect pricing
As well as believing over-complex CDE products often deter SME contractor customers, Daudi also believes their subscription pricing approaches – often based on a fixed percentage of the customer’s turnover or a percentage of a project’s capital value – can also be off-putting. Project Connect is set to be offered to customers on a model allowing all system users, including subcontractor users, to access any number of projects for a fixed monthly fee which, after 12 months, will be significantly reduced (just 25% of the first year cost) to reward continued use. Daudi, right, says:
“We think that a lower total cost of ownership of the platform will be an irresistible offer to our customers. If project managers believe that they must have a collaboration system and budgetary constraints exist, then being more selective and taking a closer look at lower-cost offerings like RedSky Project Connect could make sense.”
Extranet Evolution perspective
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated adoption of digital platforms across the construction sector, particularly where many previously office-based staff have had to work from home. Solutions which can be quickly deployed via the web and which are accessible on mobile devices will therefore be a key part of many companies’ business continuity strategies.
RedSky’s Project Connect therefore fills a SaaS gap in its offering to its core UK, Ireland and Middle East contractor customers, while also potentially appealing to new customers. The pricing model avoids large up-front costs, and the long-term reduced fee may well appeal in a market renowned for its low profit margins; construction project leaders are often keen to keep IT overheads low. Some contractors’ workloads will also be affected by the pandemic-induced forecast downturn in some parts of the construction market (eg: retail, leisure projects), and UK construction output is not forecast to return to pre-COVID levels until at least 2022, so the reduced price offer may be something to consider as project leaders look beyond the next 12 months.
The application’s Windows-like interface for the desktop will not win any design awards, but the folders-type navigation, along with the capability to easily design and incorporate familiar-looking forms (even complex ones), will reduce user training, familiarisation time, and aid end-user adoption – and the mobile forms look very intuitive. However, RedSky is also competing against other SaaS vendors with solutions arguably also geared to the needs of SME contractors, including Procore, BuilderStorm, Fonn, LetsBuild and Sherlayer.