Viewpoint subsidiary 4Projects expands its mobile functionality by acquiring ‘best-in-class’ Mobile Computing Solutions Priority1.
4Projects, the Newcastle, UK-based SaaS construction collaboration subsidiary of Viewpoint Construction Software, has acquired, for an undisclosed amount, Swansea-based construction mobile technology specialist Mobile Computing Systems, developer of the Priority1 site solution. The acquisition was announced to staff and customers yesterday (1 December 2014) and made public today (see 4Projects news release).
The deal may come as little surprise to many of Priority1’s current customers, particularly those who have attended MCS’s last two user conferences. At the November 2013 conference, after hearing how MCS was building a SaaS reporting capability, 4Projects commercial director Steve Spark talked warmly about how the two companies were looking to develop complementary capabilities to satisfy mutual customers. And at the 2014 user event, on 13 November, Steve spoke again, describing the convergence of desktop SaaS and mobile computing environments and how the future would see richer data sharing from the ‘common data environment’ (CDE) to and from the field.
The two companies share several customers (Carillion, for example) so integration of what ViewPoint’s EMEA MD Alun Baker called MCS’s “best in class” site functionality strengths (quality, health & safety and environmental reporting forms, site permits, daily logs, etc) with 4Projects’ information management and project control functions will be a logical step forward for them. And, as with other complementary technology acquisitions, there will be scope for 4Projects to extend its reach to MCS’s other customers and for the MCS technology defects management (aka: ‘snagging,’ ‘punch-listing’) and form-creation technologies to become more widely used across 4Projects’ user base.
This will also potentially put the MCS toolset in the hands of users well beyond its existing UK heartland, with Viewpoint also extending the product’s reach to North America and Australia. Longer term, the anticipated expansion of BIM to support future asset management will also underline the value of mobile tools for planned preventative maintenance and other asset-related tasks. Currently MCS’s core customers are mainly main contractors, but, over time, Viewpoint will be putting its mobile data-sharing technologies into the hands of more and more owner-operators, and aiming to help them extract business intelligence from their aggregated data (MCS had started doing this in 2013 using Yellowfin reporting tools hosted on its recently developed SaaS back-end, but with 4Projects’ SaaS know-how I think we can now expect this capability to grow more rapidly).
In an email to customers, Viewpoint CEO Jay Haladay said it will be “business as usual”:
“You will not see changes in the people, quality of product or support you receive from MCS. In fact, I would say with confidence, you can expect more product opportunities and enhancements to Priority1 now that MCS and Viewpoint have joined force.”
He also said:
“… By combining another UK based best-in-class construction software company under the Viewpoint umbrella, Viewpoint is further reinforcing its commitment to the UK market for construction software. When 4Projects first became part of Viewpoint, we knew the UK market was an area ripe for our investment and expansion, and this is further evidence of our plans.”
4Projects plans to invest in and build the Swansea-based team – Steve said it will become Viewpoint’s “mobile centre of excellence for collaboration” – with MCS MD Richard Scott taking on a new role as director of market development. Richard said:
“… It has been clear from the beginning of the endeavour that our principles and values are aligned and after seeing the vision, energy and passion shared by everyone within the Viewpoint Team I have no doubt that this is a unique opportunity to join an exceptional organisation. Viewpoint are committed to the roadmap we have set out for Priority1 and by working together we gain access to unprecedented, industry leading technical capability, resource and experience that will allow us to accelerate the delivery of the products and services that our customers want.”
This is the second mobile acquisition by a SaaS construction collaboration technology vendor in the past 12 months, following Conject’s deal to buy the French mobile business WAPP6 which was signed at the end of 2013 and announced in January 2014. However, the two deals differ in at least three respects:
- 4Projects already offered some mobile functionality, having launched its 4Mobile app in July 2013, whereas Conject had none until the Wapp6 purchase.
- The Priority1 application already has an established user base in the the UK market, and shares several customers with its new parent (as well as some of 4Projects’ competitors). The Wapp6 apps had little traction outside of France, and it was four months before the first English app was shown to UK Conject customers, and another four weeks before ConjectMI became commercially available.
- The Wapp6 acquisition did mean Conject was catching up with key SaaS rivals 4Projects, Asite, Aconex, plus less well-known names such as Dome Connect/iSnag (February 2014 post) and Newforma (April 2014 post) – all of whom had their own mobile or field apps, but none of these, in my view, offered comparably diverse functionality to Priority1. This deal means 4Projects pulls ahead of its competitors again.
This deal also adds further substance to 4Projects and Viewpoint product roadmaps aired at its May 2014 user conference. Then I heard much about BIM, about a gradual shift to enable even ERP “in the cloud”, and mobile was a third strand. I thought then that Viewpoint/4Projects might be eyeing a strategic acquisition to enable a step change in its mobile data delivery capabilities, and so it’s proved.
In addition to this deal and Conject’s Wapp6 buy, 2014 has seen the announcement of several acquisitions involving SaaS vendors (Trimble acquired GTeam in September; Newforma bought SmartUse in October and Nemetscheck bagged BlueBeam, also in October), an MBO at Business Collaborator last week, and the folding of Cadweb, Woobius and SmartBuilder during the summer. So, while there is clearly strong investor support for some AEC SaaS businesses, others have not shared the same appeal. There appears to be some polarisation between those offering a robust and diverse portfolio of capabilities to support future AEC and asset owner needs, and those offering narrowly-based document collaboration or related ‘point solutions’.
A bigger test is coming soon – next week (9 December), in fact. Aconex’s long-anticipated IPO (covered repeatedly in this blog) will be watched very carefully by existing and potential competitors, investors, acquirers, aspiring startups, and customers. The initially optimistic flotation was downsized, and last week investors were being advised (by Tim Boreham in Australian Business Review) to judge the IPO “on its merits”, not expect sentiment to deliver “stag profits,” and “given the signs of IPO fatigue, … see how it fares on debut.”