Alerts to better manage construction, built into lean collaborative solutions modelled on global best practices, define indispensable software.
What sort of software are real-estate and infrastructure companies increasingly adopting to manage their business?
¨Aconex has over 500 projects in India, covering construction and engineering firms, asset owners and property developers, etc, using its project (or enterprise) wide collaboration platform to manage information and processes through the project lifecycle¨ says Ashok Kumar, Regional Director, ASEAN & India, Aconex.
¨Customer relationship management; project management with site, purchase and contracts; procure to pay; plant and machinery; land, legal and liaison processes; slum rehabilitation authority and redevelopment; tender and client management; lease and rent are some of the solutions finding greater acceptance¨ according to Ashvin Gami, Managing Director, StrategicERP.
¨Demand has been steadily improving despite¨
the economic scenario because leading companies want a real-time project tracking system,¨ points out Alex Mathew, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Construction Computer Software.
¨To enable our customers to manage the complexities across the construction life-cycle and thus build smarter and intelligent buildings, Trimble provides design and engineering solutions that include marquee brands like SketchUp Pro, Tekla, VICO Office, Modelogix and Trimble Connect,¨ says Jayant Keswani, Director, Marketing, Trimble Solutions India.
Software with potential
¨Based on the many inquiries we are getting for 3D modelling and project management services, we see a lot of potential for solutions enabling 3D and 4D modelling and pre-construction design coordination, BOQ extraction, master scheduling, etc,¨ says Satya Vakkalanka, Head IT, Turner Project Management India. ¨Demand is moving slower for building information modelling (BIM) services.¨
´We are upbeat about India's growth potential,´ adds Keswani. ¨Already, Trimble Buildings´ brands such as Tekla have helped the industry move towards 3D modelling, in the process enabling the creation of mega structures like the new Mumbai and Chennai airports and Chenab Bridge, the world´s highest railway bridge under construction. Vico Office, which delivers 4D location-based scheduling and production control and 5D estimating, adds terrific value for building contractors and will script the next chapter in technology enabling the industry's growth.´
Construction companies have only scratched the surface of possibilities so far. Going forward, watch out for ´enterprise mobility solutions with artificial intelligence,´ says Gami. ´Solutions with the ability to mine data to make recommendations for material purchases, scheduling procurements, etc, hold potential to help construction companies work more efficiently and save costs.´
Project management solutions like Prolog, CostX, Revit, Lumina, Navisworks, SketchUp, etc, are finding greater acceptance because most developers of large projects are looking for collaborative work environment between all stakeholders, in Vakkalanka´s view.
´Trimble solutions are being adopted by different players in the construction chain for providing a ´constructable´ view of the finished product that helps identify and overcome obstacles that they might encounter in the construction process, and thus eliminate rework, reduce wastage, and improve profitability,´ says Keswani. ´Trimble solutions also facilitate collaborative working, the usage and sharing of project data more effectively during the construction process and over the life-cycle of a building to achieve significant savings and higher productivity.´
Tracking cost variances is another driver - ´especially as often costs are not available until project conclusion when it is too late to make amendments,´ says Alex. ´Our two solutions, Candy and BuildSmart, are totally focused on construction cost control.
´Cost and scheduling functionality, provided in a module on our platform, an increasing priority for asset owners and contractors, is driving acceptance as is the increasing adoption of global best practices for their project delivery and the engagement of more international architects and consultants, making effective collaboration across multiple disciplines and geographically dispersed teams a necessity for project success,´ says Kumar. and
Migrate to the cloud?
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) involves users subscribing to the use of a solution on an enterprise or project basis. Access is via the Internet without any local installation of software or hardware beyond a regular computer.
SaaS is preferable for its economics, rapid deployment, ease of use, and flexibility. Within the SaaS category, cloud-based solutions involve storage of the data sets on a virtual server as opposed to on the premises, which further saves upfront costs.
Some providers offer only cloud-based solutions, others offer both kinds to cater to companies that have yet to migrate to the cloud.
´Our platform is delivered on the cloud,´ says Kumar. ´Owners and contractors in India are adopting cloud-based solutions to improve their agility in managing and delivering increasingly complex projects with large and geographically dispersed teams´
´As large users with sufficient budgets still prefer in-house applications probably because they feel those are safer, while smaller, agile companies opt for cloud options, we offer both a cloud-based option as well as an in-house option wherein clients install a Linux server with a leased line connection,´ says Gami.
´We offer customers both options - using cloud-based software for anytime, anywhere access, or hosting data on an on-premise server to keep it centrally located,´ says Alex. ´Our clients in India use both the options, as BuildSmart is cloud-based whereas Candy can be installed on a single machine or a network server.´
Wide availability of 4G broadband Internet connectivity is spurring adoption of cloud-based solutions. However, besides the availability of strong connectivity at the project site, a variety of factors influences the choice of solution. Vakkalanka lists the availability of resources, preferable solution acquisition model (CAPEX or OPEX), number of years data needs to be retained and time in hand for setting up the project. A caveat for those considering moving to the cloud: Ensure the solution supports your enterprise security standards and protocols.
Use as-is or customise?
Most software is designed after carefully observing how most companies implement certain procedures. For instance, the Aconex platform has been developed in close consultation with customers over the course of 17 years, spanning more than 20,000 projects across all regions and verticals. So, it does not need customisation per se, explains Kumar.
Still, customisation may be required if companies seek the same output from their software tools as their internal forms. This extra effort is chargeable.
´We deploy project management, costing, BIM and scheduling solutions and in-house developed software templates, almost all of which are of global standards, but if the client demands exact replicas of the forms and reports they use, we charge an additional development cost,´ says Vakkalanka.
We typically charge for customisation by form or report, usually Rs 15,000,´ says Gami. In his experience, sales departments usually ask for the most customisation - such as customised agreements, welcome letters, possession letters - followed by engineering, while financial management requests the least customisation.
´We offer customisation by enabling plug-in extensions, whereby we offer different repeat, automation and speed-up capabilities,´ says Keswani.
´Buildsmart software demands country-specific accounting specifications, which we cater for,´ says Alex.
Set up handholding
Setting up a new solution, which involves data migration from the existing software to the new platform, is not customisation per se. Ask if the provider will take this on within the package cost.
´Our regional client services teams support data migration by configuring the platform to meet the specific information and process requirements of client´s projects and, in the case of enterprise agreements, their project portfolios,´ says Kumar.
´Our standard service engagement includes implementation, configuration and user training, and is typically priced as a percentage of total project value rather than discrete features and functions.´
Alerts are designed to provide managers and users early insights into issues that may have cost and schedule impact much later in the project, so they can take timely corrective action.
Alerts built into software are preferable to those you have to ask and pay extra for.
What can you expect to be alerted to?
´Our platform alerts users to pending, completed and overdue tasks and deliverables; requests for information; change requests and orders; reviews and approvals; and a broad range of critical processes to be executed and dependencies to be met for successful project delivery,´ says Kumar.
Our solution alerts users to pending tasks based on the dynamic workflow, like the need to follow up a sales enquiry, to new tasks arising like requisitions for material,´ says Gami. ´Alerts can be mailed, received by SMS or on a mobile app.´
And how do alerts work?
At Turner Project Management India, a provider of development, design and construction services to building developers, teams feed the contractual obligations of contractors, architects, other consultants and owners into the workflow engine of the solution they use. ´Contractual obligations arise based on the timelines accepted in contracts,´ explains Vakkalanka. ´Thereafter, individuals responsible for the certain function get automatic alerts through email, which is cost-effective. To be on the safe side, an escalation mechanism is built in the system.´
- Charu Bahri
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