infoTECH Feature

May 28, 2015

Architecture Study Shows Ongoing Need for Cloud Solutions

The architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry is globally one of the most technologically intensive verticals sectors. This should be apparent from watching home improvement shows with those doing renovations showing off 3D renderings of what they are proposing.  However, that is just the showy part. High-powered computing is used by AEC companies for everything from photogrammetry, extensive document scanning, site safety evaluations, project lifecycle management for construction, disaster planning and mitigation, and a whole lot more.

In fact, the unique needs of the AEC industry raise an interesting question. In an increasingly cloud-based solutions world, are vertical markets best/better served by horizontal cloud-based solutions that can be customized, or by unique cloud-based capabilities designed to meet extensive and very specialized needs? The answer is, “it depends.”

It depends on not just the vertical sector but also availability of solution sets that are viewed as mission critical.  It also depends on where any given company in a vertical may be in terms of its technology investment strategy and business process optimization plans and requirements.

Nevertheless, despite the attractiveness of customizing horizontal cloud-based solutions, there is a strong case and need for vertical-specific ones. This is illustrated in a new independent study commissioned by ARC Document Solutions. It was conducted by market research company Newlio and looks at the impact document management has on the productivity, efficiency, and overall costs of construction project management for that core part of the AEC industry.

The study was done using a representative population of AEC professionals in the U.S. from companies of all sizes and locations. What it revealed, which ARC feels establishes a need for an industry-specific document cloud solution, is illuminating.

After presenting high level responses as to how poor document handling can become a major obstacle to completing an AEC project and on budget, ARC says the need for a specialized industry solution is made apparent from these findings:

  • 30.1 percent said current cloud technology tools that are not designed for the AEC market made completing a project on schedule a challenge 
  • 22.3 percent said the use of multiple technology tools without streamlined integration negatively impacted project efficiency 
  • 30.1 percent said using multiple software tools during a construction or design project caused duplication of data
  • 29.1 percent said multiple software programs caused redundancy and wasted staff time 
  • Document security is a key concern, with 32 percent concerned someone will use the wrong revision; 30 percent were afraid they will be erased or not backed up and 25 percent responded that they won’t be kept confidential.

In addition, AEC Professionals identified the following challenges to completing their projects:

  • Communicating with project members that are in the field – 37.9 percent
  • Accessing the latest set of documents and having the most current information – 33.0 percent
  • Using technology that isn't designed for the AEC market – 29.1 percent
  • Keeping up with a high volume of paperwork – 33.0 percent

As ARC commented: “These findings throw up obvious questions on ways the AEC industry is managing construction documents and the way they are communicating with various project stakeholders. It is obvious that the AEC industry is in need of a new management solution.”

In fact, to address the issues above, ARC recently announced the release of SKYSITE, its cloud-based, enterprise-level, document management solution for the construction industry. With the SKYSITE solution, users can view, manage, distribute, and collaborate on construction documents in real time with secure access available on any mobile or desktop device.

“Documents have always driven construction, but managing and distributing them in real time has always been a challenge. Our SKYSITE solution changes all that,” said K. “Suri” Suriyakumar, Chairman, President, and CEO of ARC Document Solutions. “Using the cloud, we’ve built a revolutionary platform that allows anyone from any device to view, store, manage, search, and distribute documents for collaboration purposes. It’s a secure place on the cloud where critical information is always available, creating a ‘single source of truth’ for the project team.”

SKYSITE is a file-sharing collaboration platform with real-time document synchronization. Key features include:

  • Single source file sharing. Eliminate the redundancy and confusion often caused by documents stored on multiple sites and with different applications.
  • Robust document synchronization. Enable real-time sync of specific documents or entire folders/directories to speed access and manage limited storage of mobile devices.
  • Comprehensive access and connectivity. Download folders and files at will or automatically; access files independent of Internet connectivity.
  • Powerful search. Index content to your requirements and generate accurate document retrieval.
  • Real time mark-up. Capture and share real-time changes; collaborate on latest documents anywhere and anytime over mobile and desktop devices.
  • Strong security. Multi-layered password option to distinguish from common confidential folders and projects.
  • Integration with ARC Service Centers. End-to-end document management, digital to hard copy conversion, file management and uploading services, and more.
  • Activity tracking. Provide oversight for document collaboration and sharing activities within the project.

“I am excited about the SKYSITE platform because it’s built specifically for the construction industry,” said Rob McKinney, Safety Director at J.M. Wilkerson Construction Co. and Editor of The Construction App Guru blog site. “Today construction projects are conducted in real-time, across different locations around the world. Construction teams need access to current and accurate documents with the confidence that the right version of the document is in their hands. We can’t afford to work from outdated hard copies, email messages, generic file sharing apps or FTP sites that are unable to cope with real-time collaboration demand.  In our experience working with early versions of the application, SKYSITE provides effective project management with efficient collaboration and information sharing.”

There is an old observation that remains a mainstay in business classes today, which says companies market horizontally but they sell vertically.  While the general purpose solutions from the cloud are customizable and getting increasingly more so, the fact of the matter is that every vertical is unique just as every company in it is as well, and buyers still relate well to solutions they feel have been tailored to meet their specific needs by people who thoroughly understand the business processes and workflows of their industry. 

Indeed in most respects the general purpose/horizontal cloud solutions and the vertically-centric ones complement rather than compete against each other. This is true not only for business purposes but also because of the proliferation of BYOD in the AEC industry where all of those apps and capabilities are personal as well as professional productivity tools we can’t all live without.

Construction project management and all that it entails is a terrific place for a purpose-built cloud-based solution as can be easily visualized from thinking about what goes into the construction of a skyscraper, or major shopping mall.  It is why verticals will always look for productivity tools that can easily handle tasks that are just part of business as usual but still look to solutions made specifically for them when it comes to meeting a myriad of their “mission critical” data-intensive requirements. 

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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