Last week, I had lunch with a long-time friend in the construction collaboration technology sector, and we talked about low and no-cost file-sharing. It is, we agreed, easy to take a generic file-sharing system and claim that it is invaluable for users in the architecture, engineering and construction industry, but a lot harder to actually show how such systems will specifically add value to AEC users. Too often, the systems include no CAD file viewers and storage capacity constraints can quickly erode their perceived value. I wrote about box.net (among others) earlier this month; another candidate identifying AEC as a potential market is US-based Filegenius.
I found Filegenius’s landing page for AEC by chance, and its talk of saving AEC firms “hundreds, even thousands of dollars per month in recovered reprographic and delivery costs” is depressingly familiar. These are the kinds of claims that technology vendors have been making to the AEC sector for a decade and more (conveniently overlooking that email is often used instead of physical delivery).
The real benefits come from integrating file-sharing into construction processes (workflows), from enabling context-sensitive collaboration, from avoiding time-wasting searches and rework, and from avoiding disputes and litigation. In my view, creating ‘electronic planrooms’ has some value when dealing with small projects and/or small teams, but for more ambitious projects employing bigger, more fragmented teams, you need something more sophisticated which supports industry-specific processes and protocols.