Constructware’s future questioned

I’ve seen a ConstrucTech Newsflash and a couple of blog posts (eg: EADoc, Jeff Yoders (BIMboy) – since updated) suggesting that Autodesk may no longer be developing its Constructware Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) construction collaboration product.

Writers seized on a statement by Tim Douglas, Autodesk’s industry segment manager for construction:

“Autodesk, like other companies, has been evaluating its product portfolio and has had to make some difficult decisions. And one of those decisions is to reduce the resources for Constructware.”

According to the ConstrucTech piece, Autodesk is committed to supporting the product for current customers and will maintain and support customers who need to complete current projects. However, Douglas said, the company did not plan to do any new feature or capability development for the product going forward. In a comment posted on Jeff’s blog, another Autodesk executive Rick Rundall tries to clarify the situation:

“… ‘ends development’ is a mis-characterization of how we are handling our Constructware product.  … It is not true we are ending development of this product. In fact, we just released a new version of Constructware this week that includes enhancements including such as new aggregate custom reports, the ability to rename additional modules, and new routing recall options. … we are dedicated to [our customers’] success, and will work hard to make sure that our plans for this product are consistent with that.”

What’s happened since 2006?

Autodesk announced it was spending $46 million to acquire one of the pioneers of on-demand collaboration, Constructware, in February 2006 (see post), and at the time it appeared Autodesk intended to take some of the more sophisticated features of Constructware and add them to its existing SaaS offering, Buzzsaw. However, over the past three years there has been little sign of any convergence between the two solutions and the two brands continue to be marketed as separate but complementary collaborative project management offerings: Buzzsaw is positioned as a document and information management service, while Constructware was described more as a process and budget control system. From contacts in the US, I understand that neither product has made any significant inroads into the other’s markets: Constructware remains popular with general contractors and with government and education clients while Buzzsaw’s document management capabilities are popular with house-builders and retail clients. And Constructware is mainly focused on the US market, while Buzzsaw has significant presence in European markets (among others), partly due to the marketing efficiencies of selling the service to existing users of Autodesk’s widely used AutoCAD products. Constructware founder Scott Unger apparently left Autodesk last autumn, and the business’s other personnel will also have been pruned following Autodesk’s announcement of 750 job cuts earlier this year (see post).

Competitor reaction

North American competitors, almost inevitably, have looked to take advantage suggesting now is the time for Constructware customers to consider migrating to other solutions. Jon Antevy of e-builder says, for example: “It leaves all of those existing clients to basically run out their projects and then make a decision — either migrate to other Autodesk products or look elsewhere.” CMiC‘s Bassem Hamdy tells ConstrucTech of a firm in the middle of a Constructware implementation that contacted CMiC asking about its project management and costing solutions. And EADOC’s Eric Law (busy posting comments on blogs, including Ralph Grabowski’s WorldCAD Access and this blog – “It looks like Constructware in the US will be following Asite as a casualty of the economy and poor acquisition execution”) invited facility owners and engineering firms interested in replacing Constructware to contact them, while heaping scorn on Autodesk’s product strategy:

“Autodesk despises the web and collaboration and prefers proprietary software sold on a per seat license. Autodesk has always focused on design and never paid much attention to the Construction side of AEC. Combine this with Constructware targeting Contractors, Owners and Designers with a rigid product that offered very little flexibility and you have a recipe for failure.”

“Despises” may be a little over-the-top, particularly as Autodesk has continued to invest in developing a number of on-demand design-related services and products, particularly in its Autodesk Labs. But I do share Eric’s view that it is difficult for firms which have historically relied upon selling proprietary software on an up-front per-seat license basis to accommodate and/or make the transition to selling software on a service subscription basis.

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  1. […] to the contrary when speculation about Constructware’s future emerged in May 2009 (post), and he said he knew at least one major construction organisation with a large installed base of […]

  2. […] system (and largely focused on the US market). In May 2009, there were strong industry rumours that Autodesk was discontinuing Constructware, quickly denied, though the rumblings of uncertainty persisted, particularly when Autodesk laid off […]

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