Oracle has launched a new BIM coordination tool to expand its Aconex platform, now being assimilated into the Oracle portfolio
It is just over a year since Oracle‘s 2017 US$1.2bn acquisition of the Australian Software-as-a-Service collaboration vendor Aconex was approved by shareholders, and since then the US giant has been relatively quiet about its new business/product (now branded as an Oracle Construction and Engineering product offering, alongside Primavera and Textura, acquired in 2016 – post). Recently, however, it launched a new building information modelling (BIM) coordination capability: the Oracle Aconex Model Coordination Cloud Service.
Oracle says (news release) this will help resolve common BIM issues – a lack of collaboration, reliance on multiple applications, and missing integrations – by enabling construction design and project professionals to collaboratively manage BIM models across the entire project team in a true common data environment (CDE). As such, organisations can reduce the risk of errors and accelerate project success by ensuring each team member has access to accurate, up-to-date models.
“Issues with model management means projects go over budget, run over schedule, and end up with a higher total cost of ownership for the client. As part of the early access program for Oracle Aconex Model Coordination, it was great to experience how Oracle has solved these challenges,” said Davide Gatti, digital manager, Multiplex.
Single source of truth
With Oracle Aconex Model Coordination, organisations can eliminate the need for various point solutions in favor of project-wide BIM participation that drives productivity with faster processes and cycle times, enables a single source of truth for project information, and delivers a fully connected data set at handover for asset operation.
The Model Coordination solution enhances Oracle Aconex’s existing CDE capabilities, which are built around Open BIM standards (IFC 4 and BCF 2.1) and leverage a cloud-based, full model server to enable efficient, secure, and comprehensive model management at all stages of the project lifecycle.
The Oracle Aconex CDE, which is based on ISO 19650 and DIN SPEC 91391 definitions, provides industry-leading neutrality, security, and data interoperability. By enabling model management in this environment, Oracle Aconex unlocks new levels of visibility, coordination, and productivity across people and processes, including enabling comprehensive model-based issue and clash management.
Key features of the new solution include:
- Seamless clash and design issue management and resolution
- Dashboard overview and reporting
- Creation of viewpoints – e.g. personal “bookmarks” within models and the linking of documents to objects
- Integrated measurements
- Process support and a full audit trail with the supply chain
Frank Weiss, director of new products, BIM and innovation at Oracle Construction and Engineering, says:
“With Oracle Aconex Model Coordination, we’re making the whole model management process as seamless and easy as possible. By integrating authoring and validation applications to the cloud, users don’t need to upload and download their issues and clashes anymore.
“There’s so much noise and confusion around BIM and CDEs, much of it driven by misinformation in the market about what each term means. We believe everybody on a BIM project should work with the best available tool for their discipline. Therefore, open formats are critical for interoperability, and the use of a true CDE is key to efficient and effective model management.”
Oracle Aconex people and technologies update
Almost inevitably following the acquisition, there have been a number of personnel changes in the Aconex business. Founder and former Aconex CEO Leigh Jasper became Oracle VP, strategy and operations; fellow co-founder Rob Phillpot is global VP, product strategy (both recently invested in an Australian legal technology startup called Plexus; see also this SMH interview with Phillpot).
Chief marketing officer Gabriele Famous joined Trustpilot in April 2019, and Aconex’s ConnectedCost guru Guy Barlow moved (briefly) to Ineight. From the UK team, one-time VP, International Henry Jones left in January, along with Aconex’s longest-serving UK-based colleague Yuval Attias; both are now with a London-based online mental health business called Big White Wall.
UK-based sales director Steve Cooper, left, and colleague Duncan Kneller (who were both part of the BIW Technologies business back in 2000, before it was acquired by Conject in 2010, and before it was in turn acquired by Aconex in 2016),* are now part of the Aconex product team at Oracle – Cooper is VP of Europe while Kneller is sales director, UK & Ireland; another veteran BIW/Conject consultant, Nick Sansome, is EMEA practice director, professional services. The above-mentioned Frank Weiss is another veteran of the business, a co-founder of Conject.
Assimilation of Aconex into Oracle has not been without some hiccups. Industry sources say there have been outages and periods of poor application performance, though I understand from company sources this is a reflection of ongoing work to update Aconex’s software architecture so that it is more compatible with Oracle’s standards (not dissimilar to what I heard this week about competitor Viewpoint’s technology stack needing to be updated). I also understand that plans are in place to transfer Aconex to Oracle hosting (meanwhile Viewpoint is shifting from Rackspace to AWS).
I have also heard industry gossip suggesting Oracle may have lost some deals due to poor flexibility on licensing Aconex. Project deals in this space in particular have generally been subscription-based, often paid by the month or quarter, allowing customers to curtail or extend usage if projects either finish early (rare) or overrun (more common). This, presumably, is challenging to an organisation like Oracle, culturally used to agreeing standard or fixed-term enterprise deals; construction and engineering is also just one of 23 industry segments served by Oracle, and while Primavera is a long-established part of its portfolio, it is an on-premise construction scheduling application, not a cloud-based solution.
(* I was head of communications at BIW Technologies from 2000 to 2009.)