July/Aug 2012

Amid a changing landscape, 50 companies stand out.

Have you thought about what your technology department might look like in five years? For many, such a question is a poignant one at the moment your IT department (or the equivalent) may decide to undergo a transformation. Whether it’s due to the confluence of different technologies at play, a demand to lower costs in the form of outsourcing, or the changing dynamics of the market, chances are technology has become a moving target within your company.

That being said, you are probably unsure what IT will look like at your firm in the next five months, let alone the next five years.

Still, it’s a question that needs an answer; maybe not this very moment, but sometime soon. You are operating in a changing industry. Well past the days of sluggishly adopting technology, the industry as a whole has entered into a new realm of embracing technology. Questions you may have previously contemplated related to simple adoption strategy and software selection are now replaced with questions about ‘technology stack,’ mobile strategy, multiplatform security, and cloud computing, to name just a few. As you know, today’s technology approach for construction requires a new level of planning.

Such a paradigm shift requires a different type of partner-evaluation process. Software providers you have grown accustomed to working with now need to be placed under a different microscope. Such a process can seem daunting, yet necessary in the midst of an evolving construction-technology market.

Here is a cold-hard truth: Chances are some of the technology vendors with which you currently work will need to be replaced. But it’s not all gloom and doom, as others will have what it takes to stick it out as part of your long-term IT strategy. Similar to the way in which you may be evaluating the future of technology at your own firm, the construction-technology providers must be going through the same practice on their end as well.

Such a shift has had a profound impact on the way the 2012 Constructech 50 has shaken out. This list of the most influential technology providers in construction mirrors the pattern of a market in the midst of transformation.

Premium Positioning
Some providers are firmly entrenched on this list. You have your tried-and-true technology leaders that have become a staple in their segments. Take a company like MC2, www.mc2-ice.com, Memphis, Tenn., for example. For more than 50 years the company has been the estimating system of choice for contractors of all sizes, and has taken such lineage and applied it to features like Knowledge Bases, which enable customers to apply best practices. Other leaders for estimating include On Center Software, www.oncenter.com, The Woodlands, Texas,—which has been serving construction for roughly 24 years—and BID2WIN, www.bid2win.com, Portsmouth, N.H. Some newer companies have also grabbed a spot on this year’s list. PlanSwift, www.planswift.com, Bountiful, Utah, being a prime example for estimating.

When talking about market expertise, a company like ConEst Software Systems, www.conest.com, Manchester, N.H., has done it right—taking its executive’s strong background in electrical in order to create a streamlined user experience for customers. McCormick Systems, www.mccormicksys.com, Chandler, Ariz., is another with a strong foundation in electrical, and is now extending such reach to include the plumbing market.

For others, 2012 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year with multiple factors at play that could dictate placement on this list for years to come. Some of these factors are under their control, while others are due to the changing nature of technology, and the fact newer, hungrier companies are chomping at their heels. Competition is spry—and that is good for you as customers.

While it takes something significant to knock a company off the Constructech 50, it does indeed happen. Each year, the editors of Constructech go through a rigorous process of evaluating the existing members to ensure they are continuing to meet a set of criteria. Alongside both product development/enhancement and customer service, technology vendors are evaluated based on their overall commitment to the construction industry.

Such a commitment is tested on a consistent basis. Through the years some providers have tried their hand at construction, only to leave the space in order to pursue bigger and better things. What is left is a set of customers that got a taste of what the technology can do for their company, but are left searching for a replacement.

Take the example of Adobe Systems. The well-known leader in PDF technology targeted the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) space for a period of time a few years ago, giving construction companies a taste of how its technology could provide considerable value to their workflow. Yet, for various reasons, that complete vision never quite came to fruition, and while the company may lay claim to still focusing on construction, it is clear the big picture didn’t pan out as planned.

Enter Bluebeam Software, www.bluebeam.com, Pasadena, Calif., which saw an opportunity to transform the workflow within AEC and has since been taking the PDF to new heights, fueled by rigorous development efforts and strategic partnerships.

Another dynamic at play with regards to this trend is the fact contractors themselves are beginning to dictate which technologies are most viable. Take the example of SketchUp. The 3D tool was never specifically intended for AEC, but as the evolution of BIM began to take hold, many thought-leading firms started dabbling in design using this free tool. The influence was so great that it forced the hand of Trimble, www.trimble.com, Sunnyvale, Calif., to acquire the technology from Google, which obviously didn’t see construction as part of its plan.

Companies fall off the list due to acquisition. Two major ones occurred just before the 2012 Constructech 50 was announced. Viewpoint Construction Software,
www.viewpointcs.com, Portland, Ore., continued to solidify its solution set, not to mention its momentum, by acquiring arguably the leader in content management, Construction Imaging, and Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., upped the stakes in bringing BIM to the field with its acquisition of Vela Systems.

Time will tell how such moves will ultimately impact construction, but there is no doubt savvy construction-technology vendors see change on the horizon and are looking to position accordingly.

Filling a Void
Overall, 2012 could be a very telling year for the Constructech 50, as many companies that made the list could be in jeopardy of falling off if they do not step up their efforts in the face of competition. The project-management technology segment is a perfect example. Some of the stalwarts in this segment are starting to feel pressure from a new set of competition that is beginning to see fruits of their labor pay off in construction.

A good example is Newforma, www.newforma.com, Manchester, N.H. The company has been knocking at the door of construction for a few years now, hoping contractors would explore its PIM (project information management) strategy, which it has had success in architecture and engineering. PIM relates to the management of not only project data, but supportive documentation and tasks that fall out of the normal range of IT systems.

Perseverance has paid off as the company makes its debut on this list, and might even begin to challenge some of the stalwarts in the project-management segment. If it sounds like a stretch, consider the fact typical project management—and to a degree, content management—systems are beginning to take shape around both sets of data. Overall, it is no secret the project-management technology space is undergoing a transformation. The same can be said for the scheduling market, which in many ways is still digesting the Primavera acquisition by Oracle, www.oracle.com, Redwood Shores, Calif. Without a doubt, Primavera is still the strongest brand in scheduling, and is a major part of large projects. Some in the market feel, however, that there has been a bit of a void when it comes to scheduling for the small-to-medium-sized projects, and believe they can challenge this area. It will take a strong effort to capture attention in the scheduling arena, but perhaps we do have a few challengers waiting in the wings.

For residential, the scheduling market remains vibrant with BuilderMT, www.buildermt.com, Lakewood, Colo., and MARK SYSTEMS, www.marksystemsusa.com, Mt. Holly, N.J., offering such tools as part of their broader offerings to the production builder market, while BuilderTREND, www.buildertrend.com, Omaha, Neb., emphasizes scheduling as an essential piece of its offering to the custom builder and remodeling markets.

Still, major shifts are happening all around the technology market. Take Sage, www.sagecre.com, Beaverton, Ore., for example, which just launched its cloud strategy, Sage Contractor Anywhere, offering remote access to Sage 300 (formerly Timberline), and eventually Sage 100 (formerly Master Builder). It speaks volumes that Microsoft chose to work with Sage on the project, with its Azure platform, but one also has to wonder what took Sage so long to come around on the cloud?

It is not to say facelifts on legacy providers don’t pay dividends. Maxwell Systems, www.maxwellsystems.com, King of Prussia, Pa., for example, revamped its entire underlying architecture a few years back and came to market with a solution built from the ground up on Microsoft .NET and SQL Server. Meridian Systems, www.meridiansystems.com, Folsom, Calif., continues to evolve, leveraging the latest in Web-based technologies.

Collaboration continues to move forward with players taking a crack at helping solve the age-old dilemma of bringing the AEC industry together. Bentley Systems, www.bentley.com, Exton, Pa., known mostly for its design and modeling-based technologies, has experienced success with its collaborative set of solutions for contractors.

Now we see a new addition to the Constructech 50, Aconex, www.aconex.com, San Bruno, Calif.—which has had great success overseas—experiencing considerable customer success in the North American market.

New-Age Technology
The face of technology is transforming, and contractors should expect future IT endeavors to reach new facets of their operations. Take asset management, for example. Keeping an eye on tools and equipment through the use of technology isn’t groundbreaking, but given the breadth of emerging technologies like GPS, RFID (radio-frequency identification), and even NFC (near-field communication), the task may be in need of a facelift.

ToolWatch, www.toolwatch.com, Englewood, Colo., for example, specializes in managing assets using a range of emerging technologies. Given the proliferation of connected devices and new technologies, the timing was right for this company to take its place among the leaders.

Also, given new data connections happening on the jobsite, 2012 could be a telling year for wireless carriers. Up until this point, all three majors in the United States have found their place among the Constructech 50. Perhaps that will change, should one begin to place greater emphasis on helping contractors connect, not only with voice, but with data as well.

As the market continues to shake out, only the strong are showing they can survive. It’s not by coincidence the companies on the Constructech 50 represent the future of construction technology.

To access the full listing, including expanded profiles of select members, of the Constructech 50 click here.

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