The Docia interview

Denmark-based collaboration vendor Docia is growing and has appointed a UK-based partner, MPS, to market its AEC solutions in the UK.

From time to time, I talk to established construction collaboration technology businesses about which I know relatively little and it has been useful to conduct online interviews to learn more (see my conject and Bricsnet interview posts for example). The latest business I wanted to profile was Denmark-based Docia, and CEO Mads Bording kindly agreed to answer some questions for

1.     I first heard of ByggeWeb – is this the same as Docia? – in the early 2000s. Can you give a brief history of the company from its early days?

Our company – Byggeweb A/S – was founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1997. The name Byggeweb means (Bygge) to build and (Web) referring to it being web-based. Our mission ever since the launch of our first generation projectweb has been to offer productivity enhancing tools to the construction industry deployed from the Cloud or as SaaS – neither of the two terms were broadly used in 1997.  Even with rather low internet penetration in the late 1990s and a vertical focus on the construction industry, we soon found our software being used outside our home markets of the Nordic countries. This is why we introduced the name Docia as our international brand for use outside Denmark. Today, 15 years later, we still have the same focus and offer a full product suite to the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector including a third generation projectweb.

2.     Have there been any mergers or acquisitions along the way?

From early on, we decided not to expand through M&A activities as a primary source to growth. We want our products and services to be truly modular, which requires two things:

  1. an open-minded philosophy towards being capable of integration with other systems, and
  2. developing our products and applications ourselves.

We are open to forming partnerships with other companies where they have a similar business approach and a market presence that will allow our services to be integrated with their solutions and sold to their customers. We are marketing solutions for Infrastructure Lifecycle Management – across the construction market.

3.     Can you describe the scale of Docia’s business?

Docia Denmark’s 2010 turnover was £3m in product sales. We have 21 employees in our Copenhagen HQ and are steadily growing.

Currently, our software is being used in about 16 countries, we are involved with over 850 construction projects a year, and 10 million square metres of space is being managed using our facilities management (FM) modules.

4.     Is the Docia business generating a profit, and how has it grown in recent years?

Yes, we have been a AAA credit company and profitable for more than ten years and currently operate with 35+% EBITDA.

5.     Where does Docia have offices? In which countries are there significant Docia user communities?

Our HQ is in Copenhagen, and we have offices in Aarhus, Denmark, plus Oslo, Norway, Ukraine and the UK. We are also attracting new attention due to our recently launched Docia Partner Program.

On communities, our corporate strategy is to be very close to our customers, to focus on innovation in the market and be able to co-create new products, applications and features with our customers. In short, we are very customer-driven in our approach. Our products and services must create substantial value to our customers and deliver easy cost savings. We see our products as easy-to-use, low-cost, with high impact: easy-to-use as a result of close relationship with our customers, low-cost relative to the cost of the assets and ROI, and high impact based on significantly fewer deficiencies, increased productivity and much better collaboration for all involved.

This is working well for us. It reflects a general realisation in the marketplace about collaboration in supply chains, about the scalable and flexible benefits from “in the cloud” solutions, and about web services that enable inter-systems communications. This is our generic approach to our markets, but as part of our Docia Partner Programme, we also have annual meetings with Docia Partners and have specific Customer Communities in the respective markets to ensure that all input is collected.

6.     What types of organisations are your principal customers?

We have a strong track record across all segments of the construction industry. In recent years we have been very good at creating deep integrated solutions for asset owners, developers, public organisations and consultants, but have also won business with architects and contractors [see Docia’s customer lists]. I think the key to this growth in almost all segments is the breadth of our modular product suite, which offers tools and applications that will enhance productivity or reduce costs no matter what your part of the industry is. We have been very good at creating a platform for construction projects that supports process requirements from design, tendering, construction management, commissioning and then FM. A very attractive benefit for the many types of organisations in these process operations in that our solutions are fully integrated and create value for our customer – no matter the size of their organization or their role in the construction and FM industry.

7.     What has been the reaction to SaaS-based solutions in the Scandinavian market? Has that view changed in recent years?

In general I think the Scandinavian markets have taken to Saas-based solutions with great maturity and now fully understand the benefits and economies of scale. Obviously it has been a journey since 1997 where we led on SaaS for our customers; today our software and service architectures are, we believe, among the best in the world. Over the years, misunderstandings about SaaS and “Cloud Power” have gradually reduced; firms now embrace the inherent benefits of professionally delivered SaaS. I’m excited that we have been a leader; we are now well placed to exploit this growing global movement.

8.     Where is Docia software development undertaken?

All early stage product development is undertaken at our HQ based on the input from the market or innovative opportunities we have cultivated. We have a programming department in Ukraine ensuring short time to market and high quality of the software production source.

9.     Who else do you regard as competitors in the collaboration sector, and how significant are they?

I think that there are many very capable competitors in our niche of the construction industry who also contribute to the way the construction industry works and their efficiency. But few have anywhere near our own long-term experience in the marketplace.

That said, I think that competition should be divided between various providers of hosting and file-servers and more AEC-specific professional solutions that deliver automated workflows, full audit trails, dedicated and secure file hosting and distribution, etc. In recent years, the AEC sector has been moving towards dedicated use of professional systems that manage the entire lifespan of a construction project and which reflect the changing needs of the various collaborative parties; the needs of the architect when designing are not the same as the needs of the contractor during construction. Our early adaptors have chosen systems that will keep create value for all parties involved throughout the entire lifespan of the asset – what we call Infrastructure Lifecycle Management.

We have recently entered into partnership with MPS Process in the UK who have more than 10 years of SaaS and collaboration experience, and we will work closely with them in  the UK [see 9 May 2011 MPS news release].

10.  Has the recent global financial crisis had an impact on your business?

With our markets deteriorating by up to 40% we had to do an assessment in 2008, whether to jump in the trenches for safety or use the crisis as an opportunity to gain new business opportunities. We decided to add to our commercial part of our organization and more aggressively go-to-market, showing existing customers the value we give them and new customers the opportunities in our products and services. With a much more customer-driven instead of product-driven focus we have grown in all aspects consecutively since 2008.

The overall construction market size is still enormous: what is driving the players and thus ourselves is a quest for productivity gains – to do as much but to do it for less. We feel we are ideally placed to help the market respond to this need.

11.  There has been lots of talk about Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the past couple of years. Is this something that you will be incorporating into Docia?

We are highly involved in various organisations working on standards such as BIM, IFC and others. As we firmly believe that our purpose is to develop and deploy efficient tools for quality and productivity improvements for the AEC sector, we cannot ignore the power of BIM. Today our solution is capable of working with model servers and distributes IFC files along with other BIM and 3D files. We are following progress closely to be sure how exactly to integrate this capability in our solution.

For example, we are working on new functionality, soon to be implemented, which will make the location of the file obsolete in the sense that work files in a project can be located locally or in the cloud, but still be a part of the project. This will reduce time used in the creation of working files in the design and allow more cloud power to be added to the collaborative effort in creating shared work files.

12.  And what about mobile functionality?

We have a clear mobile strategy! We want to make it easy to get data out of our solution and easy to put data in. Mobile functionality is an increasingly important and powerful technology platform that provides an interface to collaboration solutions, and we are exploiting mobile technology to deliver customers’ requirements. Both our Project Management and FM products have Docia Mobile apps available in the Android market and Apple IOS will follow soon.

We see great value in being able to use our solution on-the-fly, having mobile access to our products and services when the need is there, whether this is for documentation, error reports, latest updates, access specific documents or to contact key project members via your mobile or tablet.

13.  And finally, any observations on globalisation?

During the past 5-10 years I have witnessed consistent construction “best practice” evolve in local market sectors – eg: Scandinavia, UK, USA – and then get deployed internationally. Contractors such as Balfour Beatty are operating across the world and need solutions that can be deployed to support on any location worldwide, at anytime and increasingly in any language. I believe our solution and the SaaS service delivery capabilities offer key value and will give our customers – eg contractors, developers, asset owners – a home field advantage. Wherever they operate, they can deploy their own best practice through the use of project templates, enabling a fast start-up and proven functionality.  Docia has considerable experience in providing this type of support and in reflecting best practice in its solutions.

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