Apr 28 2017

Chapoo builds on Bricsys BIM expertise

In the Bricsys headquartersThis week’s Bricsys Insights press event showed off some of the capabilities of the Chapoo AEC collaboration platform and underlined the growing importance of BIM.

This week, I attended a Bricsys Insights event held at the headquarters of the Ghent, Belgium-based engineering software developer. Much of the event focused on the company’s BricsCAD and BricsCAD BIM applications, plus a sheet metal modelling application, but the business also has a sister company, Chapoo, spun off as a separate business in 2012, that offers cloud-based collaboration.

While it is a separate company, it is co-located with and shares many of the same developers involved with Bricsys’s core products, and it uses the same internally developed (and impressive!) customer relationship management system, BOA, deployed to support BricsCAD. Both Chapoo and Bricsys are privately held, so I couldn’t glean revenue figures but was assured that Chapoo is profitable.

Pre-Chapoo days

Bricsys logoIn the opening session, Bricsys CEO (architect turned software developer) Erik De Keyser gave a very brief history of Chapoo. In his pre-Bricsys days, De Keyser led the the expansion of the somewhat over-hyped Bricsnet business around the turn of the century (I have written about Bricsnet’s early days and more recently covered its rebranding as ProjectCenter and the 2016 establishment of its joint venture with Germany’s think project!). After he resigned from Bricsnet in 2002, De Keyser established Bricsys to develop CAD software (competing directly with Autodesk’s AutoCAD product, but much more keenly priced and more open – Bricsys is proud of its international membership of BuildingSMART and is developing IFC export and import tools); the DWG-based BricsCAD application has over 250,000 users worldwide, and has won converts disgruntled by Autodesk’s software licensing approach (read some of the comments on this Blog Nauseum post by Steve Johnson).

chapoo-logoBricsys also launched a cloud-based document management platform (which employs the same SQLite architecture as BricsCAD). Since the early 2000s, this has had at least three different brands: Vista (c. 2005), Vondle (c. 2007) and, from October 2012, Chapoo. In 2012, it was spun-off as a separate company, partly, De Keyser said, to underline that its platform could be used in non-engineering environments to share different types of files created by other applications as well as BricsCAD.

Chapoo has become widely used in its domestic market (see case studies), with Brussels Airport one of its biggest AEC customers (Chapoo also targets customers in other sectors: legal firms, government agencies and medical device manufacturers, for example). In a briefing from De Keyser and COO Mark Van Den Bergh I was told that Chapoo’s principal customers are main contractors, property developers, asset owner/operators (BNP Paribas was mentioned) as well as construction industry consultants.

International adoption

A rarity, Brussels Airport hosts Chapoo itself, having accumulated some 200TB of data and a substantial supply chain user base of over 2000 users. The vast majority of customers – Chapoo has “over 500” (and a total user base of over 30,000) – use the company’s own Software-as-a-Service hosting, delivered via data centres in Europe, Asia and the US; these provide resilience in case of data centre outages while also overcoming any latency between server and end-user. Chapoo pricing is based on storage (with unlimited users); a single project with up to 5GB of storage will cost €1500/year, while a 25GB project would be €3960/year; enterprise pricing (25GB, unlimited projects) starts from €5000/year.

As a software development business reliant on regional sales and support partners plus its website (Bricsys has no direct sales team, helping keep overheads low), Chapoo has expanded where Bricsys has developed its CAD reseller network, as well as in its Belgian and Dutch heartland. BIM is also helping widen the attraction, I was told: “BIM needs collaboration”. The group has opened an office in Hong Kong, is eyeing Japan (Bricsys’s “second market”) and the US, has a partner office in London (with KeyTERRA-FIRMA Ltd), and is also expanding in Scandinavia, said De Keyser.

Bricsys workflowDemonstrated in the Bricsys Insights event, Chapoo opens quickly in a browser without need of any plugins, presenting authorised users with a dashboard view that project administrators can tailor (in terms of folder access and functionality) to particular user group needs. It has incorporated its own 2D viewer supporting over 70 file formats and which provides preview, annotation and markup facilities, plus user-friendly graphical workflow and form creation engines and reporting tools.

There are dedicated mobile apps for users of both Apple iOS and Android devices. In addition, third-party apps can also be integrated with Chapoo (it has a third party API), including progress checking app AproPlan (March 2017 post), time management tool TIQ, property inspection app SmartCheckups, project imaging and timelapse platform C-Site (also Ghent-based), and ReproNet, a reprographics business.

Bricsys is continuing to invest in Chapoo and its BIM capabilities, and further announcements can be expected in the run-up to its 2017 user conference scheduled for Paris in October.

My view

De Keyser has long experience of growing construction software businesses, but is also wary of too tightly linking design and collaboration (we briefly discussed the early days of Autodesk’s Buzzsaw platform, often sold as part of a ‘bundle’ to designers, but missing the key targets of contractors and asset owner/operators). However, it has an advantage over many of its AEC SaaS competitors insofar as its developers share huge experience in delivering BIM authoring software and think nothing of incorporating data properties as well as graphical information.

For some users dismayed by recent changes to Autodesk’s commercial terms, Bricsys’s BIM solution will be a viable alternative (though it may struggle while Revit is widely seen as a de facto cross-project standard). Bricsys’s ‘open BIM’ philosophy combined with Chapoo may well be attractive to those keen to have a ‘common data environment’ (though I didn’t hear CDEs mentioned at all in Ghent) that explicitly supports integration with other tools and international interoperability standards such as IFC (COBie got a brief mention but only as ‘a subset of IFC’). Future marketing of Chapoo as a BIM platform in markets like the UK will therefore need to reflect some of the these commonly cited requirements.

[Disclosure: I travelled to Ghent as a guest of Bricsys who paid my transportation, overnight accommodation and meal expenses.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/04/chapoo-acts-as-bim-model-server/

Apr 27 2017

Aconex launches Connected Cost

It’s taken nearly two years, but Aconex finally announced the launch of Connected Cost earlier this month, potentially heralding a move into construction payment management.

Aconex logo 2014With its July 2015 acquisition of US-based Worksite, a project cost management solution developed at ARES Project Management LLC, the Melbourne, Australia-based construction collaboration vendor Aconex started working towards integration of project cost management into its core SaaS platform, filling a gap in its product portfolio compared to several competitors, particularly in its strategically important north American market. In a February 2016 financial update (post), Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper said: “We’re already starting to see benefits from the Worksite acquisition. We’ve won a number of deals because of it and some customers are looking for that cost functionality.” The rationale for the March 2016 acquisition of Anglo-German rival Conject also partly underlined this shift (the former BIW Technologies business had added project cost control functionality to its UK platform more than ten years earlier), and Aconex was then talking about the commercial launch of its connected cost module later in calendar year 2016.

This apparently happened in November 2016, but was presumably a ‘soft launch’. Just over a year after the Conject deal, Aconex finally announced its Connected Cost solution earlier this month (read 5 April news release), providing cloud-based cost control across the project lifecycle. According to Aconex, it addresses the problem of disconnected teams and data:

  • Siloed information – teams must chase information across organisations and applications, which slows the discovery of issues that can drive up costs and delay schedules.
  • Manual updates – typically made via spreadsheets, these introduce errors and duplication that can jeopardize both data integrity and version control.
  • Poor visibility – lack of accurate, real-time information makes it impossible to measure performance against budget in a meaningful and proactive way for a single project, much less a portfolio of projects or an enterprise.

Guy Barlow, global commercial director, Connected Cost, at Aconex claims: “only about 5% of projects meet best-in-class predictability in terms of cost and schedule. Approximately 80% run over budget, and the average cost overrun is 70%.”

Aconex’s SaaS Connected Cost solution is said to address industry challenges with collaborative project controls that provide a complete view of cost information across both individual projects and project portfolios. Each organisation using the solution can budget, forecast, track progress and performance, manage entire programmes, manage contracts, and process claims and payments. For example, with earned value management (EVM) capabilities, owners can forecast and report earned value using Cost Performance Index (CPI), Schedule Performance Index (SPI) and other tools.

Aconex to move into CPM

Rob PhillpotAccording to an interview in the Australian Financial Review, Aconex is planning to expand into financial services by using operational data about subcontractors and their projects to help lenders price credit to them. Director and co-founder Rob Phillpot, right, says the business is also looking to develop a payments function on the back of Connected Cost product. This would see them competing with, among others, Textura (the leading player in the construction payment management (CPM) market in north America which also expanded into Europe from 2014, and was acquired by Oracle in April 2016 – post), Australian vendor ProgressClaim (post) and UK-based OpenECX (post).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/04/aconex-launches-connected-cost/

Apr 13 2017

VPO: Microsoft 365-based project management

Microsoft moved to the cloud somewhat grudgingly, but its Office 365 product suite has enabled firms to offer cloud-based Sharepoint for construction collaboration.

A prolonged and unremittingly poor experience with Microsoft SharePoint in the early 2000s probably prejudiced me against any notion of using SharePoint as the basis for a construction collaboration platform. This proposal was something that I occasionally heard from in-house IT teams who were presented with the idea of an externally-hosted project extranet (Why not SharePoint?) – rather than see their empire eroded, they tried to convince their project team colleagues that they could replicate all the necessary functionality on their own servers (such projects were usually rejected or, if they proceeded, simply failed to live up to the IT team’s promises).

However, given the widespread use of Microsoft Server and Office applications, it perhaps wasn’t surprising that software vendors also looked to provide some level of integration with SharePoint. Bentley ProjectWise and Citadon were offering this in 2006 (post) and viewer provider Cimmetry also offered an integration with its AutoVue product (post). In 2008, Sword Group (now Maclaren Software) offered SharePoint integration through its C2Share product, and Wennsoft (rebranded now as Key2Act) was doing something similar. And in 2011, I talked to Cadac’s Gert-Jan de Kieviet about his business’s SharePoint-based Organice product (de Kieviet thinks SharePoint is the future). SaaS construction collaboration vendor Conject (now part of Aconex) was one of several AEC SaaS vendors also offering integration with in-house SharePoint systems.

Clearly, SharePoint would not work straight “out-of-the-box” as a construction collaboration environment. It needed substantial adaptation to emulate even some of the construction-specific functionality of the cloud-based systems which commanded a growing market share during the 2000s, and the folders-based architecture was not always as intuitive to use compared to a platform built on a relational database.

With Google Apps racing ahead in the cloud-computing sphere, Microsoft eventually realised that it could no longer rely on revenues from selling on-premise software and operating systems, and began to explore parallel cloud computing opportunities, trialling a web-based Office product (c. 2008), as part of a “Software plus Services” strategy. This culminated in the launch of Microsoft Office 365 in June 2011, with a range of packages for consumer, education and enterprise customers incorporating various online services including email, SharePoint and Lync, subscription-based access to familiar tools such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc, and cloud-based storage in what is now branded OneCloud. Microsoft’s cloud embrace has also, of course, seen it invest in a global network of data centres to support its Microsoft Azure service – used by, among others, Bentley Systems (2013 post, 2016 post).

VPO Cloud

This shift from reliance on internally-hosted applications and storage to a more cloud-based architecture has opened up new opportunities for businesses to create SharePoint-based environments. A US business, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Simplex Group, for example, provides VPO Cloud (‘virtual project office’) to customers wanting (in its words) “The #1 easiest construction management software in the Microsoft Cloud.” The Simplex Group has extensive professional services and project management experience as a Primavera reseller, and developed VPO Cloud to enable its architecture, engineering and construction customers to work more collaboratively with teams outside their organisations by sharing documents and streamlining construction processes like RFIs and submittals.

SharePoint, hosted in the Microsoft Cloud, is at the core of the system. Where a customer company already uses Office 365 as a managed services solution, VPO will be installed in its Office 365 environment. If the customer does not have Office 365, VPO will provide a unique Office 365 environment. For speed, a templated instance of the VPO system is normally deployed with core functionality to support RFIs, submittals, meeting minutes, daily reports, plus bid, document and drawing management capabilities, but the template can be customised to suit customer or project needs. This blog post from CEO Laura Nee, Can you use Microsoft Office 365 for Project Management? gives a flavour of what can be accomplished with VPO Cloud, as does the video below (note, it’s 15 minutes long).

I am not sure how well VPO Cloud will cope with the demands of BIM and creating a common data environment, but given that many organisations are still working predominantly with traditional 2D drawings and other construction deliverables, this platform will support their immediate needs. I did a quick search of the VPO website for “BIM” and returned just a single hit: a post looking at Microsoft’s development of VR tools such as HoloLens. For solution providers still predominantly focused on supporting “electronic paper”, the shift to a data-driven, model-based process is likely to throw up some major challenges.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/04/vpo-microsoft-365-based-project-management/

Mar 23 2017

Aconex shares plunge then plateau

Brexit uncertainty has affected Aconex’s projected growth, with the company’s share price tumbling as a result.

Aconex logo 2014It’s been an interesting couple of months for the Melbourne, Australia-based SaaS construction collaboration vendor Aconex. At the end of January, the company provided a half-year trading update and 2017 financial year forecast; there were changes to the executive team, and then it revealed its results for the six months to 31 December 2016. Market sentiment towards the business has changed: the company’s shareprice has more than halved from its July 2016 high, settling below Au$4 for most of February and March.

Shares plunge into a ‘tailspin’

In the 30 January update, Aconex revised down its operating profit forecasts from between 62% and 84% growth to between 10% and 32% growth, blaming lower-than-expected first-half sales in the UK and Americas. Uncertainty around Brexit was partly to blame for the UK performance it said, while delayed decision-making ahead of the US presidential election had affected US sales. A higher proportion of long-term contracts had also resulted in lower short-term revenues, while currency movements in the British pound (which plunged following the June 2016 referendum result) and the Euro had been unfavourable. And CEO Leigh Jasper also talked of some “one-off impacts associated with bringing the Conject business into Aconex.”

Aconex forecast full-year revenue (to 30 June 2017) of Au$160-165 million (c. £98-101m, US$122-126m or €113-117m) compared to the prior forecast of Au$172-180 million. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the full year was forecast to be in the range Au$15-18 million – down from the Au$22-$25 million previously forecast.

The news sent Aconex’s shares into “a tailspin” (reported The Australian), tumbling 45% from Au$5.65 to $3.10 by the close of trading – a marked reverse for a company previously regarded positively by most market analysts. The company’s shares last traded at this level in mid-2015, six months after the December 2014 IPO. In July 2017, the shares were trading above $8.40, some four months after its acquisition of the Anglo-German Conject Group, a deal which helped its 2016 revenues to jump 50% (see Conject deal boosts Aconex revenue growth). Share sales by Aconex founders Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot in late 2016 also hit the company’s share price.

These forecasts were the last made by an Aconex team including CFO Stephen Recht, who was succeeded by Paul Koppelman at the end of February. Also in February, the company announced the appointment of a new chief technology officer, Craig Fulton, reporting to Rob Phillpot. Fulton, formerly at Australian telcoms giant Telstra, is now responsible for all Aconex product engineering and cloud hosting functions.

First half results

On 21 February, Aconex reported its first half FY17 results, revealing revenues of Au$77 million (c. £47m, US$59m or €55.5m), up 38% on the Au$55.7m for the same period in 2015 (buoyed by the first full half-year contribution of Conject, of course). However, the figure was affected to the tune of Au$4m by negative currency movements (Au$3m of this attributed to the pound’s plunge after the Brexit vote). Profits from core operations for the half year edged up 9% from Au$6.8m to Au$7.4m (c. £4.5m, US$5.6m or €5.2m), with acquisition and integration expenses of Au$3.546m associated with the Conject deal.

Attempting to reassure investors and analysts after the share slump, CEO Leigh Jasper said he expected business to pick up in the next six months, and planned to keep investing in the business:

Leigh Jasper“We will continue to invest in product, sales, marketing and customer service to capture the large global market opportunity. This investment will further consolidate our market leading position, underpinning our growth for years to come and enabling Aconex to deliver on its mission of connecting teams to build the world.”

However, the results, and Jasper’s forecasts of 20% mid- to long-term growth in a still under-penetrated market, failed to excite investors. Aconex shares fell 6% to Au$3.50 on the ASX (a month later, the price has barely moved – they closed today at Au$3.55), with some analysts concerned about the continued impact of Brexit uncertainty on Aconex’s British operations. Australasia remains Aconex’s most important market but revenues from the region grew just 6% in the half-year (UK-based Asite has seen revenues slide in this market – post), while US revenues have been impacted by a client deals agreed on a per-user basis rather than the project-based (and enterprise agreement) approach usually favoured by the business.

Brexit impacts

The Brexit uncertainty perhaps needs further exploration, as the June 2016 referendum decision not only affected currency exchange rates but reflects continued UK construction industry concern about skills shortages, and has caused doubts about some future projects.

Many projects, particularly in London and the south-east, are heavily reliant on migrant workers, from site-based labourers and tradespeople to architects, engineers and other professionals. The indigenous UK workforce is also ageing, with many existing workers set to retire, and only a limited pipeline of UK-domiciled replacements coming through. As a result, skills shortages are reported across many trades and professions, and industry organisations are calling upon the UK government to exempt some key roles from any Brexit immigration constraints. Moreover, skills shortages are pushing up labour costs on some existing projects, and could affect the economic viability of future projects. And the impact on pound/Euro exchange rates has made the UK less attractive as a workplace to some would-be migrant construction workers, who are now seeking work in mainland Europe markets, deepening the skills gaps and adding to potential inflationary pressures.

The Brexit vote has also caused some client organisations to review where their businesses should be located, with some financial institutions, manufacturers and other organisations considering relocation to other EU states so that they can continue to work effectively within the European market, while EU funding will no longer be available to support some future UK projects. As a result, some decisions about built asset investments have been either postponed or cancelled, affecting the future workload of construction businesses reliant upon these new projects.

This was a contributing factor to the relatively poor performance of the Conject operation in the first half of the current financial year. In his investor presentation, Leigh Jasper described it as “below expectations”, talked of “some softness” in core markets such as the UK, but expected the UK “to rebound off the back of the shock Brexit result”, adding:

The Brexit uncertainty certainly slowed new project decisions and … we saw a significant drop off in UK construction starts in the months after the referendum.

Aconex and its rival construction collaboration technology providers are, of course, heavily dependent upon there being a continued pipeline of new projects. If they have strong relationships with the ultimate clients, their SaaS platforms may still be deployed upon projects which have been relocated from the UK, but – depending upon where these schemes were relocated to – they could find themselves competing with other SaaS vendors (think project! in Germany, for example) with strong client, contractor or consultant relationships in their local markets.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/03/aconex/

Mar 17 2017

Asite profit jumps 31%

SaaS collaboration vendor Asite grew its 2016 revenues 14% to just over £6m.

Asite logo 2012London, UK-based SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor Asite has this week filed its annual report and accounts for the year ending 30 June 2016 with Companies House. The report shows revenues up 14.3% to £6.047m (2015: £5.289m) – at today’s rates, that’s around $US7.47m or €6.93m. Operating profit for the period increased by an impressive 31.1% to £0.993m (2015: £0.757m).

vendor revenues March 2017

As in 2015, the revenue growth lag a little behind those of competitors. For the same period, global market leader Aconex last year announced underlying organic revenues up 31% (and inclusion of figures from its March 2016 Conject acquisition ramped this to 50%). In October 2016, Viewpoint for Projects reported its 2015 EMEA revenues were up 48% with 2016 “double digit” revenue growth “very encouraging”.

Asite chief executive Tony Ryan writes in the report:

Tony Ryan (Asite CEO)“When taking into consideration the cost of opening up new operations, I am particularly buoyed by the operating profit result of the business. This gives the Group great scope for growth to the top line going forward. Our cost base is now so well structured that almost all of our investment will be focused on Sales & Marketing and M&A activity.

“We continue to expand into new markets while expanding our product and service base in line with our growing number of clients and the requirements they bring. We have continued to invest in new offices, namely in Africa and the Middle East, to boost our global footprint and revenues.”

International performance

Nonetheless, Asite remains heavily reliant upon the intensely competitive UK market which still accounts for 78% of its revenues. Revenues from Asite’s second biggest sector, Australasia, continued to slide (down from £519k to £439k – “After the reporting date, Asite Limited incorporated a new subsidary [sic], Asite Australia”), but North American revenues continued to grow, from £377k to £424k. Europe, at £242k, is Asite’s next largest market.

A year ago, Ryan blamed a slowdown in Australia’s natural resources market but said “we have a decent pipeline out there, particularly in civils and infrastructure, which we expect to grow.” This plainly didn’t happen, but his confidence regarding the US market appears to be borne out.

Asite staff numbers continue to grow, with the India-based technical team accounting for the largest number – up 40 from 155 to 195. Total Asite headcount grew from 181 to 227, with six additional professional services and sales and marketing staff making up the balance.


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/03/asite-profit-jumps-31/

Mar 14 2017

AproPlan eyeing AEC integration opportunity

Established in Belgium in 2012 but now spreading its European operations more widely (the UK, Germany and the Netherlands are among the early targets), AproPlan markets itself as “the construction software that lets you keep track of your progress and collaborate with your team.”

I met AproPlan’s CEO Thomas Goubau when he visited London in January, accompanied by experienced UK sales manager Nick Pruce (ex-4Projects and Docia). Goubau has a consulting background, including time at BT, and started out by trying to create “Outlook for the construction sector.” He soon realised this was “completely wrong” and decided to focus on what he saw as the industry’s key needs: open and transparent communication via a simple interface.

Mobile process management

Local competition relating to process management or workflow tools was limited (he mentioned France’s Finalcad, US-based Plangrid, and the UK’s SnagR), and AproPlan didn’t want to enter the feature-rich document collaboration space market then dominated by players such as Conject or ThinkProject, so Goubau’s business is focused on workflow in the field. In my view similar in some respects to KyKloud (post), maybe also Dome’s iSnag/Dome Connect and Zutec (post), AproPlan supports asset owners and managers and their professional teams engaged in repetitive data recording tasks; Goubau cited the example of a pharmaceutical business which has now integrated AproPlan with its SAP system to help manage asset management and compliance processes.

However, it can also be applied by contractors and professional services businesses (the company’s website highlights processes or reports for architects and engineers, for example) and to subcontractors to manage common checklist-based processes (Goubau repeatedly summarised the offering as “What, where and when”) such as snagging, health and safety, security and environmental inspections, as well as some basic document management. Firms can also manage access rights so that some process information might only be viewable by employees of their business.

Contractors BAM and CFE were among early AproPlan adopters in Belgium, Goubau said (“BAM use us for process management, checklists and snagging”). Such customers can then invite members of their supply chains to use the cloud-based system (hosted in Europe on Microsoft’s Azure platform), but he is keen to build relationships with asset owners/operators (like the ‘big pharma’ corporate) who might make AproPlan mandatory across their projects.

AproPlan pricing

Like many mobile SaaS solutions, the application’s pricing model starts with a free ‘taster’ option; beyond this, Pro and Expert plans are priced at €29 and €49 per user per calendar month respectively, with Enterprise plans priced according to customer needs and including API facilities for integration with other enterprise solutions. Goubau described the 30-strong company’s product strategy as “Mobile and API first,” with support for iOS and Android devices; AproPlan is also working on back-end integrations with vendors of what he regards as complementary tools – for example, Denmark’s GenieBelt (post), fellow Belgian businesses Chapoo and ProjectLibrary, and FM solution Archibus – and potentially with the providers of common data environments used for managing building information modelling (BIM) data.

In January, Goubau said AproPlan had 48,000 users from 3,500 different customer organisations, many of whom started with a modest level of adoption, but then grew in terms of both functionality and number of users (he called AproPlan’s adoption strategy “Land and expand“). Total project value he put at around €10bn, with AproPlan currently generating around €1.5m in recurring revenues, and moving “from startup to scale-up” with a funding round in progress (underlining this transition, AproPlan last week finished second in the “Scale-up of the year” category of Belgium’s Tech Start Up Day Awards).


Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/03/aproplan/

Mar 13 2017

Collaborative announcements

Catching up on some construction collaboration technology news…. from Konstru, 3DRepo, TenderSpace, Earthcam / Procore, STACK / Dodge Data, and Holobuilder.

Konstru – web-based 3D BIM interoperability and version control

I have long been interested in the potential of the web to help overcome issues relating to poor interoperability. Being able to share construction information in common formats via a browser was an early win for the SaaS collaboration vendors, but much of the authoring still takes place offline, with version control a continuing headache.

However, January 2017 saw the launch of the beta version of Konstru, a web-based version control and interoperability software for 3D BIM models for structural engineers. According to co-founder Kevin Sandlin: “We created Konstru because, as engineers, we didn’t want to keep building models in different software packages over and over again and continue to get lost in different file versions.”


Speaking of web-based version control, collaboration and BIM … the UK’s 3DRepo’s online platform, BID4Free, recently won an Award at the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) International Innovation & Research Awards (reported BIM+).

The application is based on ‘version control’ software developed by Jozef Doboš as part of his doctorate at University College London during a collaboration between 3D Repo and the Association of Interior Specialists & Federation of Plastering and Drywall Contractors (AIS FPDC). According to Jozef (when interviewed two years ago):

“We are building an open source web-based tendering software as an extension to our online BIM common data environment. This will allow anyone to tender on a BIM project, on any machine or tablet in any browser, without having to download or pay for software licences.

“Everything we create at 3DRepo is open source so there will not be a charge to use the software. All Tier 1 contractors will pay for is hosting on the 3D Repo server. It can be hosted in the cloud, or on their own servers. We expect to support ourselves through selling services as well as maintaining and hosting the application. What is certain is that the end users, the subcontractors, will not have to pay to use the application.”


Speaking of tendering…. Last year, I met David Stapleton, founder and CEO of UK-based TenderSpace. From the name, I assumed it would be an online service helping construction businesses tender for work (an area I have blogged about many times in relation to tools such as AskTobi, Darley eTender, RICS eTendering, Aconex’s BidConTender, and Australia’s EstimateOne, among others) but David told me: “we are rather more than e-tendering  – it’s a name that we could perhaps improve upon in due course.”

Soft-launched in the UK in early 2016, the TenderSpace platform provides several tools aimed at connecting construction at different stages of projects. These include work, team and product finders, a profile builder, a finance checker, a cost analysis tool, a quick quote tool and a project hub (“though not at the level of, say, Aconex,” David said). Full functionality of the work-winning tools likely to be most attractive to construction businesses starts from £280 per annum for up to two users.

STACK estimating teams up with Dodge planrooms

Speaking of tendering again, or ‘bidding’ as it is better known in the US…. American subcontractors can anticipate quicker and more comprehensive access to plans and specifications for commercial building projects, while general contractors can expect quicker and more accurate bids thanks to a new partnership between New York-based Dodge Data & Analytics and Ohio’s STACK Construction Technologies. Dodge provides plan rooms holding blueprints and specifications that users of STACK’s cloud-based takeoff and estimating tools can use to plan, bid and execute projects.

Earthcam teams up with Procore

I got a strong sense of deja vu last week when I saw an announcement, made at the ConExpo trade show in Las Vegas, by Earthcam that it had formed a strategic relationship with US-based construction project management software vendor Procore to offer their users live streaming video and megapixel webcam imagery to document construction projects.

In the UK, I recall my then employer BIW Technologies (later Conject, now part of Aconex) forming a similar strategic partnership with Camvista to offer a similar facility to BIW customers in the early 2000s.

Holobuilder raises US$2.25m

Also at ConExpo was San Francisco-based HoloBuilder, a construction virtual reality startup which has just received an investment of $2.25 million in its first year. The German-American startup uses holographic technology to support reality capture and collaboration using 360° views of project sites. Prices start from US$6 per month per editor. Italo Cruz of Texas-based contractor Rogers-O’Brien Construction said:

“HoloBuilder is one of the most efficient methods that we have in documenting as-built conditions throughout the life of the project. It is basically like having X-ray vision for your building.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/03/collaborative-announcements/

Feb 08 2017

think project! attracts new investment

Thinkproject-logoIn January 2017, TA As­so­ci­ates, a lead­ing global growth pri­vate eq­uity firm, an­nounced it has com­pleted an in­vest­ment in Munich, Germany-based think project!, a provider of cross-en­ter­prise col­lab­o­ra­tion and in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment soft­ware to the con­struc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing in­dus­tries. Fi­nan­cial terms of the trans­ac­tion were (unfortunately) not dis­closed.

J. Mor­gan Sei­gler, a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at TA As­so­ci­ates (who will join the think project! Board of Di­rec­tors) said:

“We be­lieve think project! is an ex­cep­tional com­pany that has es­tab­lished it­self as a lead­ing provider in a rel­a­tively unique, yet rapidly grow­ing sec­tor. Under the di­rec­tion of Thomas Bach­maier and his tal­ented man­age­ment team, think project! has en­joyed con­sis­tent growth in its core Ger­man mar­ket and in­ter­na­tion­ally. We are de­lighted to part­ner with a com­pany with such a strong foun­da­tion and wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to sup­port the con­tin­ued evo­lu­tion of think project!.”

think project! CEO Thomas Backmaier said:

Thomas Bachmaier“Since our found­ing, think project! has con­tin­u­ously strived to serve our cus­tomers and to help them achieve their goals by cater­ing to their in­di­vid­ual needs. We would like to thank co-Founder and for­mer in­vestor, WAL­TER Beteili­gun­gen und Im­mo­bilien AG, for their his­tor­i­cal sup­port, and are con­fi­dent that our new part­ner­ship with TA As­so­ci­ates will serve to strengthen our brand and fur­ther our growth. We are thrilled to begin work­ing with such an ex­pe­ri­enced and well-re­spected firm, and look for­ward to ben­e­fit­ing from TA’s valu­able in­sight and sup­port.”

Founded in 2000, think project! of­fers a SaaS, multi-ten­ant plat­form used by more than 100,000 users across over 8,000 pro­jects in 40 coun­tries. think project! de­liv­ers a read­ily avail­able and shape­able com­mon data en­vi­ron­ment (CDE) for con­struc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing pro­jects. Since 2015, its so­lu­tions have been build­ing in­for­ma­tion mod­el­ing (BIM)-en­abled, offering ap­pli­ca­tion pro­gram in­ter­faces (APIs) for close in­te­gra­tion with other busi­ness ap­pli­ca­tions and can be ac­cessed via mul­ti­ple touch­points and de­vices. think project! cur­rently sup­ports asset own­ers and gen­eral con­trac­tors across more than 20 sec­tors, in­clud­ing the en­ergy and au­to­mo­tive in­dus­tries, in­fra­struc­ture and gov­ern­ment pro­jects.

European battleground

The com­pany now has ap­prox­i­mately 200 em­ploy­ees across its Mu­nich head­quar­ters, its R&D cen­ters in Berlin and Szczecin, and, as Thomas told me last October, has been strengthening across Europe – in Spain (it established a joint venture with Madrid-based ProjectCenter in September 2016), Poland, Aus­tria (it ac­quired 70% of Aus­trian sales part­ner i-pm in June 2016), the Nether­lands, France (it acquired 60% of Lascom AEC, France’s market leader in product lifecycle management (PLM) and cross-enterprise collaboration software in September 2015), and in Germany (it acquired domestic competitor Conetics in October 2016).

The think project! news release repeats figures also used by global leader, Melbourne, Australia-based Aconex (who acquired think project’s Anglo-German rival Conject in March 2016) saying the global ad­dress­able mar­ket for con­struc­tion col­lab­o­ra­tion soft­ware is es­ti­mated by Frost & Sul­li­van at $5.6 bil­lion with a cur­rent pen­e­tra­tion of less than 10%, im­ply­ing a pre­sent mar­ket size of roughly $500 mil­lion. Ac­cord­ing to re­search from PwC, the global in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion mar­ket is ex­pected to grow 6.5% an­nu­ally to $9 tril­lion by 2025.

Naveen A. Wad­hera, a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at TA As­so­ci­ates, adds:

“With our focus on in­vest­ing in prof­itable, grow­ing busi­nesses, con­struc­tion soft­ware is a highly at­trac­tive sec­tor for TA. Given its well-es­tab­lished pres­ence in Ger­many and ac­cel­er­at­ing growth in Spain, Poland, the Benelux coun­tries and else­where, we be­lieve think project! is well po­si­tioned as a mar­ket leader in con­ti­nen­tal Eu­rope. We look for­ward to work­ing with the think project! man­age­ment team, build­ing on their suc­cess to date and fur­ther­ing the com­pany’s ex­pan­sion through or­ganic and in­or­ganic growth.”

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/02/think-project-attracts-new-investment/

Feb 07 2017

BC QuickStart launched

Reading, UK-based GroupBC, provider of the enterprise-class Business Collaborator and BC Assure platforms, is looking to command an increased share of the building information modelling common data environment market by launching an SME-friendly version of its CDE platform.

BC QuickStart has been specifically designed, GroupBC says, to help SMEs adopt the standard practices of BIM, ensuring the benefits are attainable for the whole industry and not just those at the top of the chain:

“SMEs make up more than 99% of the UK construction industry, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). With numerous projects delivered by teams of Tier 2 contractors, it is essential that the use of digital construction is encouraged and supported across the industry, collaboratively, so that everyone can reap the rewards that BIM will undoubtedly provide. This includes the improvement in the delivery of digital information – in the right format, to the right people at the right time – meaning that both public and private construction projects, of any size, will benefit from its adoption.

The platform, which costs £14 per user per month and is based on the company’s enterprise solution (to which users can upgrade if they wish), will also help SMEs maintain access to data for future projects, say GroupBC.

“Tier 2 contractors spend many hours using, contributing and updating information for client projects, only to lose access to that information after a project closes. With their own CDE, they can securely work and share that information and re-use it on all future projects.”

GroupBC, privately owned since a management buy-out in late 2014, has been pioneering the use of digital construction solutions since 1998. Its solutions are used by over 20,000 organisations worldwide, including Thames Water, Balfour Beatty, Sainsbury’s and Highways England.

Lower cost collaboration

The cheap, sometimes free, and easy availability of generic online file storage and sharing platforms (eg: DropBox, Box.net, etc) has provided many design and construction businesses with a simple way of sharing conventional, largely 2D project-related information. The platforms may not be particularly sophisticated in terms of commenting, mark-up and/or version control, but in a highly cost-conscious industry they often satisfy an immediate need (and in some cases can be integrated with more industry-specific platforms – both Newforma’s Connector strategy and Aconex’s link to DropBox were launched in 2016, for example), though they won’t easily meet the needs of future projects which are deploying building information modelling approaches.

Competition from low-cost generic file-sharing solutions has also spawned the development of a number of low-cost construction platforms (for example, in the UK and Europe, Collabor8 Online, SherLayer, construct.pm, BuildCloud and GenieBelt; in the US, Jobsite Unite and Skysite, among others). Some of the larger vendors, perhaps most notably Asite with its Key Lite product, have also offered a low-cost (£15/month) start-up version of their main platforms.

[Note: Apologies for the lack of recent Extranet Evolution updates. This was partly due to family and illness issues. I will be tackling the backlog of posts over the next few days and weeks.]

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/02/bc-quickstart-launched/

Jan 02 2017

Corecon completes suite upgrade

Corecon logoCalifornia, US-based Corecon, a provider of SaaS-based construction estimating, project management and job cost software, has announced new features for its Corecon Mobile app and TeamLink Portal. The updates were developed to complement the increasingly SME-friendly version of Corecon’s browser-based software released in August 2016 (post), with Corecon increasingly marketing the suite as a basis for collaboration connecting office and site personnel plus subcontractors (though not targeting subcontractors in particular, like eSUB – post).

Corecon updates

The modernised iOS and Android Corecon mobile apps have a new user interface and navigation functions, making it easier to view and add construction project information from a smartphone or tablet device. Corecon says field staff can quickly enter daily logs, timecards, miscellaneous expenses and view alerts from the app’s home page.

The apps provide tools available in the Corecon browser-based solution, but capitalise on the features of their individual devices, allowing users to take progress photos, use speech-to-text functions and import contacts directly from their smartphone or tablet. And information entered in Corecon Mobile immediately appears in the browser-based version, eliminating the need for data synchronisation across devices.

Corecon customer, David Pratt, chief estimator/senior project manager at Whitlock & Shelton Construction says:

“The Corecon Mobile app serves as the documentation lifeline between our field and office staff. We primarily use the app as a tool for our construction site personnel to submit daily reports and to track the overall progress of our projects, as well as our subcontractors and our own labor force. Because the new interface mimics Corecon’s desktop version, we are all on the same page and can access the information in a similar fashion, whether we are working on-site or in our office.”

TeamLink updates

The Corecon TeamLink Portal is a user-friendly web-based service that enables subscribers to seamlessly connect project team members, providing the project owner, consultants, subcontractors and suppliers with secure, real-time access to project information.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2017/01/corecon-completes-suite-upgrade/

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