Feb 05 2015

How to choose the right collaboration platform

Evaluation checklist boardWhen choosing a collaboration platform for your built asset project, you will be relying on the system you select to help you better deliver a capital asset worth many millions of pounds, often over a period of several years. This is not a time to take short-cuts or just look for the cheapest solution.

When you look back in two to three years’ time, a valued collaboration platform will be one that has helped you and your team achieve genuine, sustainable, improvements.  In addition to a structured assessment of a software application’s capabilities to meet your specific requirements, (this will be the subject of a future blog post), you also need to look closely at the credentials, management and financial stability of the software vendor supplying the software application.

This is a guide to some of the questions you should ask potential vendors of collaboration platforms:

Business history – A software vendor that has grown organically will have different financial pressures to one heavily funded by venture capitalists. Verify that the provider is financially secure and look for detailed information regarding numbers of customers, end-users, and employees associated directly with the collaboration system.

Sector Experience – Amid the growing profusion of online software applications, look for vendors with focus and experience of working with the design, construction and real estate markets. Contracts, procedures and terminology vary between different countries, does the vendor have a strong track record of supporting capital projects like yours in your region? Look for case studies; ask for references.

Software background – Leading on from the previous point, where and how was the software developed? Is it construction-specific SaaS or a generic application remodeled to meet the needs of built asset projects? Does the vendor own all the code or are key elements licensed from third parties?

Scale – Over the years a number of collaboration vendors have failed, the changing demands of the industry have resulted in a rapid rise in the investment needed to deliver the new functionality and applications required to remain competitive.

This trend will continue over the next 5-10 years as more technologies appear and mature. It is going to be the larger vendors with broader product offerings and a global presence that will be best placed to survive and prosper.

Industry standards – Given that many project team members may use more than one collaboration platform, common features, familiar naming conventions and revision controls, comprehensive reporting and an intuitive ‘look and feel’ can all aid supply chain adoption. SaaS applications may also appeal as they are predominantly accessed via a web browser – immediately lowering the IT hurdles for end-user access.

Software ‘roadmap’ – Talk to vendors about their future development plans. Hardware and software architectures and operating systems constantly evolve. Is there a clear and realistic vision, and how far does this coincide with your own anticipated needs? For example, mobile access to the system and incorporation of building information modelling (BIM) and facilities management capabilities may be mission-critical requirements for many UK industry clients and their supply chains from 2016 onwards.

Hosting – SaaS applications are hosted by the vendor either directly or using a third-party hosting provider. You should ask detailed questions about the hosting regime and its quality of service. Can the hosting regime deliver high performance in the following areas:

  • Reliability and resilience
  • Security of your information
  • Performance
  • Constant availability of application and data, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
  • Customer and end user service
  • Scalability (i.e. will the services cope with growing volume projects, users, files and data)

Having considered the vendor in the above key areas, you will then be in a position to look more closely at the capabilities of the Software-as-a-Service application itself – which I will cover in a future post.

For more information on our Common Data Environment and collaboration platform conjectPC click here

About the author

Michelle Mason

Michelle Mason leads the UK and MEAP Marketing team, with far too many years in B2B marketing to mention. A CONJECT newbie, Michelle is eagerly climbing a steep learning curve.

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