Construction Information Technology Blog

Construction Technology Outlook 2012

Posted by Dave Robertson on Dec 13, 2011 6:30:00 AM

As we draw near the end of 2011, there are many predictions around the IT industry trend for 2012. The recently published "Nucleus Research Top Ten Predictions 2012" places emphasis on the rise of cloud computing (prediction #2). According to the article, cloud computing was proven to be nearly five times more productive than the traditional development in 2011. Furthermore, the article also states, “When companies do have money to spend, their two main choices are technology and people. A recent Nucleus survey found technology is winning hands down, with 50 percent of US companies planning to increase their technology spend in 2012 [Nucleus Research l106, Nucleus 2012 IT spending survey, September 2011].” Thus, many firms will look into increasing their productivity via technology adoption next year.

Another 2012 outlook by M/C Partners published in the TechJournal South titled “Top ten communications, tech, and media industry trends for 2012” also acknowledges the emerging enterprise adoption of cloud-based services (prediction #2). Consequently, this will “drive demand for network-based managed services that will provide critical monitoring and management of application and service performance across LANs, MANs, WANs and the public Internet.

IT predictions 2012

So the trend is clear. Businesses are moving towards cloud computing to take advantage of its many benefits including increased productivity, cost savings, accountability and sustainability. In today’s construction industry, online document control, online planroom, and online bidding are examples of cloud computing technologies that are increasingly adopted.

Topics: Construction industry, Online bidding, Electronic document management, Online planroom

P3 Datarooms and the Internet

Posted by Dave Robertson on Oct 14, 2011 8:00:00 AM

There is an increasing trend in North America towards the Private Public Partnership (P3) model for the construction of public infrastructure. Typically the processes used to select the successful proponent include Requests for Expressions of Interest, Requests for Qualifications and Requests for Proposals, all followed by some sort of evaluation and selection process. The projects themselves typically tend to be large ones as they need to meet the market test of being “interesting” enough financially to be worth the significant risk and expense of participating in the selection process.

The organizations that compete for these opportunities are usually joint ventures of companies who do finance, design, construction and operation of the asset or facility. The consequence is that these are highly collaborative efforts requiring large teams of people to access and work with large amounts of data and documentation. That is where the Dataroom comes in. In order to provide all the proponents with equal access to the large volume of background documentation necessary to the process, Owners need to assemble it in a central location that is secure yet still accessible by those involved in the response.

dataroomsWe have been fortunate enough to have been involved in a large number of these types of projects and have been able to identify a few critical requirements for datarooms. They have to be absolutely secure with controlled access. They need to be easily accessible with minimal administration, which rules out many network dependant options. They require an easily reviewed audit trail that can quickly demonstrate exactly who saw what and when. Finally, they need to be able to support virtually any type of file format to make sure everything necessary is shared. Given these criteria, a web accessible document control system that meets these critical requirements is an obvious solution.



Topics: Construction documents, Online planroom, Online prequalification

A whole lotta shakin goin on

Posted by Dave Robertson on Aug 9, 2011 6:55:00 AM

Lately, I have been doing a lot of traveling and meeting with a wide range of companies involved in the construction information technology sector.

This is a sector that barely existed 10 years ago, now it is expanding and changing very quickly. It is not a surprise that this is happening as construction is the largest single industry in the world and represents huge business opportunities. The surprise is how long it has taken to get to this stage.

construction information technology worldWhen we deployed our first application over the Internet in 1997 ( now more elegantly described as cloud computing) there were many onlookers questioning why on earth we thought the Internet would have any place in moving and working with construction documents. Today it is well along in the transition to being the industry standard. Two key factors are driving this exciting transition. The current economic conditions are forcing companies to look for business efficiencies and an overall change in the trust level within the management community that the Internet is a safe and sensible tool to rely on, even for core business processes.

We recently merged our USA operations with Barryhund Administrators, a great new partner who were, like us, one of the pioneers in this sector of the construction industry. We are excited about the synergies and collective depth of experience we will be bringing to this dynamic and fast growing sector. As the industry moves into the Internet 'cloud' we will be there continuing to help lead the way.

Topics: Construction industry, Electronic document management, Online planroom

A Planroom is a Planroom is a Planroom

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jun 27, 2011 6:00:00 AM

Everybody knows what a planroom is whether you call it a planroom, plansroom or plan room. It is a central repository where prospective bidders go to access documents and information for construction project opportunities. Groups of Contractors through Construction Associations and Builders Exchanges that they established were the historical originators of the practice of using planrooms some 100 or so years ago. Over the years some private enterprises got into the business and built up substantial physical infrastructure across North America to service this market.

In the marketplace today there are many players in the planroom business. This is particularly true since the major transition to working with digital files has taken place. The new players include software companies with new digital services, reprographic firms who are working to maintain a share of the printing market they have serviced for many years, FTP and other file management services as well as printer and scanner manufacturers. They’re everywhere!

planroom technology solutionsThe critical thing to consider when evaluating what your business is going to do to respond to the changes in the planroom business is to make sure that the solution you select doesn’t simply replace the traditional paper workflow with a digital one. Rather it is essential that you look for technology solutions that can improve the workflow, reduce your overall costs and effort and not the least solutions that reduce the inherent risks in the process. There are few things less productive than winning a contract and then entering into claims battles with Subs and Suppliers over what is actually included in the contract. Having the right technology can help you make sure you get better, more complete bids along with an ironclad audit trail that ensures the claims battles are avoided.

Topics: Electronic document management, Online planroom, Risk management

Construction Software - Buy it or ‘Rent it’?

Posted by Dave Robertson on May 26, 2011 7:48:00 AM

Our company has been delivering Software as a Service (SaaS) since we were founded in 2000. At that time what we did was generally described as Application Service Provider (ASP). The latest iteration incorporates the more ethereal sounding ‘cloud computing’ reference. Whatever term you use the functionality consists of accessing software via the Internet rather than from your local computer or server. So, is this an effective way to acquire and use software applications?

cloud computing saas
In his recent report titled Construction Software State of the Industry Report, Don Fornes who is the CEO of Software Advice concludes that “Software as a Service is in the right place at the right time”. In the report he says, “Software as a Service is gaining momentum in many software markets. In fact, we would agree with other IT prognosticators that SaaS is a major structural shift in software deployment and is here to stay. We’ve seen this model succeed in the project management segment where there is a clear need for the collaborative benefits of web-based software. Moreover, the current recession is making the SaaS model more attractive to contractors because:

  • Subscription pricing can easily be added to a project’s general conditions;
  • Low up-front costs allow project managers to avoid an onerous approval process; and,
  • Faster and less expensive implementation makes the new systems more digestible.

We have not seen much demand for SaaS accounting, estimating or service management, although we do get asked about it now and then. We also have not seen many vendors emerge to deliver that sort of solution. We would not be surprised to see SaaS accounting and/or estimating solutions emerge over the next few years.”

As a company that has been significantly ahead of the wave on this method of delivering useful functionality to the construction industry for many years we can easily agree with Mr. Fornes statements. We already deliver powerful solutions for the estimating community and are experiencing significant interest in some of the latest functionality we deliver online including planrooms, document control, onscreen takeoff, online bid submission and submittal management. The industry trend is definitely moving towards increased use of SaaS.

Topics: Construction industry, Online bidding, Online planroom, Construction software

Planrooms – yesterday and today

Posted by Dave Robertson on Jan 19, 2011 5:32:00 AM

Where I come from it’s called a planroom. Others call it a plansroom or a plan room. Whatever you label it the function is still the same. Planrooms have traditionally been the construction industry’s solution to the problem of sharing and distributing project documents like drawings (plans), specifications and addenda. ‘Blueprints’ and spec’s were expensive to reproduce so some bright person decided to put a set or two in a room and invite all the people who needed to see them to travel to the documents to view them in a common place. Over time the concept evolved to creating one location where contractors and suppliers could view many projects in one location. The result was the origination of Construction Association Planrooms and Builders Exchanges (they were exchanging documents) about 100 years ago.

Despite the evolution of reprographic technology through the years very little changed in the planroom world; that is until the mid 1990’s. At that time the list of projects and project information that was typically distributed as a Bulletin or Project News on a weekly basis began to be available online in some form. In the late 1990’s the online project information was supplemented with the addition of access to view the documents as well. It was early days for sharing documents online and there were very few companies enabling this type of activity. Ours was one of the few at the time. At that time there was virtually no sharing of digitally formatted documents between the design team and contractors. Virtually every document was scanned from paper originals and then made available online.

Since 2000 the trend towards using digital files for viewing and distribution through online planrooms has accelerated to the point where scanned documents represent only a very small portion of the information made available online. Lots of paper is still produced but it is dramatically less than ten years ago and the percentage continues to shrink.

online planroom
So what has been the impact of all of this on Planrooms? It is significant. Digital files are becoming the overwhelmingly common way to share project information. A great many Owners, Design Consultants and Contractors now operate their own online planrooms. They take many forms from simple FTP sites with little control or functionality to very sophisticated systems with tools to help manage various document related workflows. The relevance of the online planroom is changing as this transition to a digital construction world continues. The key benefit of a centralized planroom continues to be the ability for contractors and suppliers to access large numbers of project opportunities aggregated in one location with one single technology.

In my opinion the significant change is not over yet. The introduction of online bid submission technology, online submittal management tools, document control systems and other new products will continue to change the offerings of Planroom operators and Builders Exchanges. The progressive ones will survive and thrive. The others will go the way of the ‘blueprint’.

Topics: Online bidding, Electronic document management, Online planroom, Online submittal, Online tools