FC June 2006  


June 21, 2006

Constructing Excellence - Building & Estates Forum

I spent the day yesterday at a Constructing Excellence (in the Built Environment) event held in Madejski Stadium in Reading - home to the newly promoted to the Premiership - Reading Royals.

The day was focused on collaborative working and supply chain integration and, like most CE events I have attended, was well-organised to include the right mix of presentation and interactive discussion sessions so that people were engaged more or less throughout - rather than the death by powerpoint show style which you find at far too many industry events. There was also a good mix of clients, contractors, architects, and specialists suppliers in the group. I thought the conversations were open and constructive even when people disagreed - focusing on practical experience and finding solutions as opposed to theory (in most cases). I think this reflects the ever-increasing appreciation within the industry of the importance of collaborative supply chains, a growing realisation that the impact of this way of working on our businesses must be understood before diving in and that strategic technology choices must be made in order to enable collaboration and to remain competitive.

There were a couple of other software developers at the event from the NCCTP (with which Asite is involved via the project management part of our business). There was George Stevenson from BIW and Duncan Mactear and Richard Vertigan from 4Projects, so there was a smattering of representation from solutions vendors in the room both to learn from what the user community is saying today and to provide some real-world perspective on collaboration implementations to those who are new to the game or looking to move to the next level.

All in all an interesting day. For those UK industry readers who are not aware of CE - I would encourage you to check it out and get involved at some level. As an organisation it is doing a fine job of pulling together a lot of previously disparate research initiatives / think tanks / industry advocacy groups into one coherent body that may just be capable of making a difference to the industry overall at a real level.

Posted by ndoughty at 10:06 PM | Comments (1)

Google Earth 4

Just saw the news about the newest version of Google Earth (version 4) being released in Beta. You can download the beta and have a play from the Google Blog.

"Google Earth now covers more than 20 percent of the landmass of the entire globe with high-resolution satellite imagery (soon Google Maps will too). When we say "high resolution," we mean the good stuff: you can see cars, houses, buildings in more than 200 countries and territories. Not every house is covered, only about two billion of them. That's our best estimate, anyway — that about 1/3 of the population of the Earth can now see their homes in high-resolution."

There is also a bit of commentary from a user's perspective on this blog.

Posted by ndoughty at 3:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2006

Web 2.0 and Construction Industry Analogy

Came across this article in Monday's Bangladesh Daily Star. It is an exposition about the concepts of the collaborative web which underpin what some people have started to call "Web 2.0" - and a call to arms to the Bangladeshi IT market to grab the opportunity presented by these developments for both economic gain and for potentially driving social change. I think these are admirable goals and I wish the author the best of luck. The article is written by the CTO of a Bangladeshi company called DataSoft Systems - named Ihtisham Kabir - who spent about 20 years as an engineer at Sun Microsystems in the US before moving to Bangladesh...

I came across the article because of an analogy Ihtisham used comparing the technical building blocks of Web 2.0 to the practice of prefab in construction and to the product we all know and love called ready-mix concrete.

"An analogy from the world of building construction perhaps clarifies the distinction. Web 1.0 was like building houses from cement, sand, crushed bricks and aluminium. You had to mix cement, bricks and sand together to make concrete, then use concrete to make the house. With newer Web 2.0 technologies you effectively have concrete, prefabricated walls, corrugated iron sheets, etc to build houses. So you can make more interesting and elaborate houses than before.

Many Web 2.0 building blocks are available as open-source software products. These products are, for the most part, free to use. Further, the source code (ie, the engineering blueprint) is usually available for developers to modify as needed. Since there is a huge variety of open source software (for example, SourceForge, a repository of open source software, has over 115000 projects), the programmer can mix and match the right tools and build a program very quickly (and cheaply.)

So, continuing our construction analogy, Web 2.0 programmers not only have ready-made concrete, but it is free ready-made concrete!"

This resonates with me quite simply because of the number of times that I have used analogies from the world of building projects to explain concepts in software engineering (and vice versa) -- building software for construction and explaining construction to software developers!

Posted by ndoughty at 11:59 PM | Comments (1)

Team USA

Just saw this satirical article about the American take-up of World Cup fever over at the Onion and it made me laugh... This was written following the abominable display by the team in the first phase of the group stages against the Czech Republic. Last night's encounter with Italy was almost like we had a totally different team out on the pitch. Very nervy affair with plenty of drama! How about that elbow by De Rossi eh? I watched the game at a pub on the Kings Road in Chelsea along with a very large group of Americans - most of whom were from Texas and had gathered there via the University of Texas alumni group -- so we had a boisterous atmosphere for the match.... I don't know how much the folks back in the States are following events but at the very least there is an enthusiastic core of support here in London!

Posted by ndoughty at 7:42 PM | Comments (0)

Another web-based office app

This one from Webex - an online office suite along with the established web meeting functionality - and WebOffice Workgroup for corporate or project-based usage...

Posted by ndoughty at 3:44 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2006

Foldera (2) - Revenue Streams

Got another piece of news about a new non-exec director at Foldera and saw this bit in the press release about the revenue model: "Foldera expects to generate revenues from the sale of premium services such as extra data storage and from embedded search and contextual advertising." Fair play. On doing a bit more reading about the application I now think it is essentially a web-based calendaring and correspondence management system with task creation - so basically Microsoft Outlook on the web (webmail) with special sauce... This was the basis for initial product development in the 1997-98 era in project collaboration systems for the management of building and engineering projects - and the exchange of engineering data. In this sector we have built workflow modeling capabilities and true supply chain integration toolsets on top of that inital foundation over the past decade.

It is interesting to see the same things that were being delivered all that time ago being re-hyped now as a new concept. Still - this is different. It does not appear to be a vertical play at all - instead aiming for consumer take-up of the basic functionality to push the concept up into the enterprise? I guess that as part of their premium services they would have a licensing model which allows companies to contract with Foldera on a project or enterprise basis. I don't know of any companies, projects, or joint ventures which like to trust their project data to a non-contracted entity.

More questions than answers. Let's see what it looks like once I get access to the beta.

Posted by ndoughty at 3:35 PM | Comments (2)


Just came across this press release from Foldera announcing the pending release of their web-based collaboration product. The release includes a section explaining how Foldera's "proprietary technology differs from competing collaboration products in a number of important ways" and then proceeds to list a number of "features" which have been offered by every web-based collaboration vendor on the planet since before the turn of the century in the construction and engineering space. Interesting. The only "proprietary" differentiation I can see from this release is that the software (I will not call it a product) will be free. Reading through the blog entries on their website and a plug by a journalist at zdnet - I get an evangelistic idea of some real "special sauce" on the technical implementation side and a lot of pushing on ease of use. Let's have a go I guess - I have signed up for the beta.

I would be interested to learn more about how the business model works for a company with a software offering that it gives away for free. I am guessing that it is not a support services model similar to JBoss or RedHat - considering that the application is supposed to be as simple to use as email. Perhaps it is an advertising-driven model?

Posted by ndoughty at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2006

Ozzie to head MS Software Architecture

Just saw the story that Bill Gates will hand over the technical leadership throne of Microsoft over the course of the next two years to Ray Ozzie - about whom I have posted before regarding his Software as a Service internal memo. Ozzie comes from the world of collaborative software - having previously founded Lotus Notes and Groove Networks. This further underscores the serious shift by MS towards competing in the SaaS space.

Posted by ndoughty at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 6, 2006

Hub Alliance

The website for the Hub Alliance has been launched at www.huballiance.org. The Hub Alliance is a partnership between Asite, Causeway, and Burns - formed around an agreement that customers of any one of our hubs should be able to trade electronically with the customers of any of the partner hubs with no additional fee.

The clearest analogy I can think of to explain this is the agreements and integration in place to allow phone calls between rival mobile telephone networks. ie my T-Mobile phone can make a call to my mate's phone on O2 or Orange without me having to pay O2 or Orange. I only need to pay my regular monthly fee to T-Mobile.

I believe this is an important step forward for the eProcurement space in the UK and removes a significant barrier to adoption and the overall growth of the market. The Alliance was agreed last summer and the technical integration achieved by the end of 2005 and today there are customers trading between all three of the hubs.

I don't know the comparative numbers for the partners but to give some idea of the current volume of trading - within the Asite hub in May of this year there were just over 497,000 live business transactions (order/invoice) processed - each representing spend and delivery of real goods on UK projects.

Posted by ndoughty at 1:15 PM | Comments (0)

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