JRocket Marketing

Elysian Field Software will Broaden Epiphany’s Reach

Robust Field Service and HR/HCM Cloud Solutions

The launch of any new company is exciting, but even more so when it is launching from a foundation that is already stable, well-built and primed for growth. Epiphany, an early pioneer in Software as a Service (SaaS), founded in 2002, is a well-established NetSuite value added reseller that offers both NetSuite’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution as well as its own comprehensive solutions for field service and human resource/human capital management (HR/HCM). At the December JRocket Marketing Winter 2014 Analyst Roadshow, Epiphany announced plans to launch a new company, Elysian Field Software.

This announcement represents far more than just a name change and rebranding effort. Epiphany will become a division of the newly formed enterprise, Elysian Field Software. While Epiphany will continue to serve the NetSuite community with an integrated suite approach, a brand new sister division, Elysian Field Services wil serve a broader market. Taking a “best-of-breed” approach it will offer comprehensive, affordable, cloud-based solutions to those running other ERP solutions, but suffering from gaps so often found in field service and HR/HCM functionality.

Epiphany: A Great Starting Point

Epiphany’s business will not change; it will continue to resell NetSuite’s ERP and serve the broader NetSuite community with tightly integrated, “best-of-breed” extensions. With 114 NetSuite deployments to date, Epiphany is one of the larger channel partners of NetSuite. The two companies have evolved over the years, as have their products. Looking at the NetSuite product through the eyes of their customers, Epiphany found some gaps in terms of field services and HCM. Using the NetSuite development platform Epiphany filled those gaps, and not just in a superficial way.

These extensions to NetSuite have grown into very comprehensive suites for field service and for human capital management that rival the most robust packages in comparable markets today. Typically these types of robust solutions are outside the budgets of small to medium size businesses, but Epiphany has been making these solutions affordable to even small customers since the early NetSuite days when most customers were just graduating from QuickBooks. Of course the average NetSuite customer has grown substantially over time, but Epiphany still serves the lower end of the spectrum (as well as larger companies) with products that could rival many of those sold into much larger enterprises.

About a year ago NetSuite acquired TribeHR, which brings a unique approach to the recruiting process and is integrated with NetSuite ERP in that it adds and provisions the employee upon hire. However, there is no natively built full HR/HCM solution. That’s what Epiphany brings to the table.

Human Resources/Human Capital Management Modules
These modules are currently sold as Epiphany products. While they will be re-branded under the Elysian Field Software label, they will also continue to be sold by Epiphany, along with NetSuite ERP.

  • Applicant Tracking: this is a comprehensive module that supports the entire process from Job description and requisitioning of positions, through screening and applicant processing, selection, employee record creation and on-boarding checklists.
  • Human Capital Management: supports “one click” hire process for setting up new employees, change management, separation, EEO data capture and organization charting.
  • Benefits: includes paid time off (PTO) management, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) tracking, health insurance management and COBRA event management.
  • PTO: “Leave” management includes overview calendaring for all staff with group/subsidiary/location selections, including customizable color-coding, supervisor views, graphical portlets and dashboards.
  • Performance Management: Goals determination and tracking can include cascading goals, supervisor/employee synergies, Lominger Competencies assignment and performance review rating calculation methodology.
  • Compensation Management: Salary ranges, job grade assignments, employee change tracking and compensation conformance.
  • Manager Self Service: includes employee data, PTO requests, review/update employee qualifications, job description/requirement definition, open applicant management, selection of applicants and property distribution management.
  • Employee Self Service: for qualifications, certifications, skills, licenses, leave and PTO requests, performance review participation and goal management.
  • Third-Party Integration: Integration to career sites, compensation planning, organizational modeling, payroll, resume parsing, etc.
  • Customized Report/Search Templates: Pre-screening, scoring, posting success rates, time to fill analysis, cost per hire analysis and more.

 

Customers can choose to use TribeHR along with Epiphany’s modules, or rely exclusively on Epiphany for HR/HCM functionality.

Business Expertise to Get the Job Done: Mantra Teams

However human resources and HCM projects, particularly in smaller companies, are challenged in a rather unique way, beyond the typical budgetary constraints. Seldom can small companies afford to hire a seasoned veteran with experience in implementing comprehensive HCM solutions, leaving the implementation in the hands of younger workers with little experience in driving an implementation to completion. And of course when staffed with younger workers, companies may experience a higher degree of turnover in the position. And even if a small company can afford and attract a seasoned veteran, this HR leader must wear many hats and is often consumed by overseeing compliance requirements and handling the occasional personnel crisis, causing the implementation to stall.

After spending 12 years deploying enterprise cloud solutions at other firms, Epiphany CEO Brenda Brinkley observed many incomplete or functionally deficient solutions, as well as inadequate resources to take full advantage of more robust solutions, even when available. To address this she came up with a concept of what she calls “Mantra Teams.” Rather than leaving the implementation to full-time employees, these teams will be available on demand, on a contract basis.

The Elysian Field Mantra Teams will be largely full time consultants and/or retired HR/HCM professionals who are experts in the field, but available for as long or short an engagement as required. These experts will be:

  • Screened and vetted by Elysian Field Software for their expertise and understanding of HR/HCM best practices
  • Trained on how to use the software
  • Affordable because they will be contracted directly by the customer with no middle man mark up
  • Motivated by the customer’s priorities but able to advise on how best to leverage the solution quickly and efficiently

In other words, this is a team of experts that customers can bring in simply to get the job done expeditiously.

Addressing the Complexities of Field Service

While HR/HCM modules are a big part of Epiphany’s business, remember it also provides a comprehensive suite of field services management modules as well. NetSuite’s early successes centered on professional services businesses, then moved into distribution and light manufacturing. It has been very successful in attracting manufacturers of consumer products, but has more recently targeted manufacturing of more industrial products. With this move, repair and maintenance of manufactured products becomes more complex. And again, Epiphany filled a functional gap with a robust, integrated suite of Field Service Management Modules.

Field Services Management Modules
These modules are currently sold as Epiphany products. While they will be re-branded under the Elysian Field Software label, they will also continue to be sold by Epiphany, along with NetSuite ERP.

  • Work Order Management: technician/equipment assignments, time/expense/part tracking, rapid billing and mobile management
  • Rentals Management: pricing rates, equipment repair, pick-up/return, route delivery management, time utilization of rental assets, financial utilization of rental assets, fleet age and apportionment, inventory management
  • Depot Repair: Parts/returns/repair, advanced replacement, warranty visibility, repair orders with equipment tracking and inventory availability
  • Job Costing: job profitability, work in progress, cost and profitability reporting
  • Contract & Warranty Management: auto-create and renew contracts, manage service contracts, co-terminate multiple contracts, revenue and profitability tracking, manufacturer and custom warranty tracking, convert warranty to contract, bill warranty overages
  • Scheduling & Dispatch: dispatch center, drag and drop technician scheduling, non-sequential work order scheduling, team scheduling, PTO, schedule by skill and availability
  • Technician Skill Management: skills, licenses, education & certifications, qualifications, tied to HR
  • Mobile Tech: offline and online, calendar view, daily & weekly expenses, signature capabilities, attachments, complete view of configuration, tasks, contracts, notes, photos, time, expenses, etc.

 

Field service solution implementations also have the potential of suffering from lack of fully functional solutions and also lack of attention. Not only has Epiphany made a robust solution to a complex problem quite affordable, but it also wants to address what might be a “commitment issue.” While a good field service department is likely to have deep and broad expertise, the very nature of the job means the customer is always the first priority. This makes a software implementation even more challenging. As a result, Elysian Field also intends to add Mantra Teams for Field Service deployments.

And these teams of seasoned experts will also pave the way for introducing more leading edge technologies into the field. Elysian Field intends to aggressively pursue “machine to machine” capabilities, supporting the concept of the “internet of things (IoT)” and new technologies such as 3D printing and mobile wearable devices. While these types of technologies might seem like “pie in the sky” overkill for some industries, they are particularly relevant for field service. Think what a portable 3D printer could do to supply repair parts in the field. Think about the value of providing diagnostics or schematics built right into safety glasses, leaving the technicians’ hands free to trouble shoot and repair. Think about the possibilities of remote diagnostics by tapping into machine data.

Beyond NetSuite

While all these existing products and new plans are potentially exciting for NetSuite customers, Elysian Field Software would like to bring these exciting capabilities to a broader audience – hence the new sister division to Epiphany. This could spell a huge opportunity for the newly formed umbrella company. While the HR/HCM modules could be a good fit for virtually any NetSuite customer, today the Field Service Management modules are a better fit for NetSuite’s target manufacturing customer, rather than its current installed base. Making these modules ERP-agnostic represents a huge opportunity for Elysian Field Software.

However, it also represents a technical and development investment. Currently Epiphany’s solutions are built with the NetSuite development platform. It is very likely that Elysian Field Software will need to re-architect these solutions on a different platform to best meet its goals. Will this be Salesforce’s Force.com platform? Will it remain on NetSuite’s? Will it use another, different platform? Right now, Elysian Field Services is evaluating all different possibilities and has not ruled any out.

But given the effort involved, is it worth it? Is there sufficient market, beyond the NetSuite base to merit such an investment? Mint Jutras believes it is, provided Elysian Field Services chooses wisely and brings the new product to market fairly rapidly. New technology and rapid application development tools will be key, as the market will not patiently wait. The vast majority of companies have a strong preference for an integrated end-to-end solution. However, for every company that has an overriding preference for a tightly integrated solution from a single company, two will not sacrifice functionality for ease of integration or dealing with a single vendor (Figure 1). The best of both worlds obviously will be robust functionality that is easily and seamless integrated.

Figure 1: Preferences for a Suite?

Elysian fig 1Source: Mint Jutras 2014 ERP Solution Study

Both field service and HR/HCM functions have historically been underserved in smaller companies. The Mint Jutras solution study found only a 42% adoption rate of any kind of after market service functionality installed in manufacturing companies, and where installed, it was twice as likely to be a separate application that was loosely integrated or not integrated at all (28%) versus embedded or tightly integrated (14%).

HR capabilities were more pervasive at 66%, but this adoption rate did not distinguish between a robust suite and marginal HR capabilities, but still those not well integrated by a wide margin.

2015: A Year of Transition

As talent management, both in house and in the field continues to grow in importance, if Elysian Field Services can fill those gaps, and also provide seamless integration, not just to NetSuite’s ERP, but to other players in the small to midsize market, it should be a winning combination. Watch for some important milestones in 2015, including an official launch of Elysian Field Software in the second quarter, followed by the choice of a new independent platform.

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UNIT4 Aims High in Education

Can Specialized Features for Advanced Research and Grant Management “Pull Along” ERP?

In a recent industry analyst roadshow engineered by the amazing efforts of Judith Rothrock of JRocket Marketing, UNIT4 announced the first of two phases of a new and improved, industry-specific solution for “education living in change.” This integrated solution specifically targets universities and institutions of higher learning. Why? Because these institutions have some very specific needs and UNIT4 has very specific answers to those needs, while also providing a more traditional “core” solution. Can these special solution components for advanced research and grant management, and “constituent” engagement management “pull along” accounting, human resource and other core Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) functions?

Why not? After all, the alternative is to first address these more basic functions with solutions and then go out and buy (or build) applications to manage functions not typically addressed by ERP… and never the twain shall meet. And yet these functions consume resources managed by ERP. While these different solutions might actually “talk” to each other, more often they are completely disparate, frequently homegrown and not integrated, resulting in duplicate or redundant data and efforts. And let’s face it, once basic accounting and human resource needs are met, some colleges and universities just never get around to addressing these other functions with formal solutions that extend beyond the desktop and the ubiquitous spreadsheet.

Most any ERP solution can meet the accounting needs of higher education. Universities make purchases, pay suppliers, send invoices, collect cash and reconcile financial statements just like any commercial or non-profit organization. In many ways, this feature functionality has truly become a commodity. And there has also been a proliferation of human resource management applications (embedded in ERP and stand-alone).

Yet while accounting and human resource applications can lead to internal performance improvements, they seldom provide institutions of higher education with a competitive edge. However, in our post-recession, increasingly competitive, knowledge-based global economy, how colleges and universities go after grants and how well they manage the activities associated with those grants, namely their advanced research, can indeed differentiate them in the field of higher learning, making them more attractive to potential students and supporters. Using general-purpose project management solutions doesn’t necessarily cut it.

These advanced features for advanced research and grant management will be launched in the second quarter of 2013, to be followed by additional functionality for constituent engagement management. Constituents include existing and prospective students and faculty, as well as the surrounding community of companies and professional organizations. With a different twist to more traditional customer relationship management (CRM), this additional module will provide a single aggregated source for managing these relationships.

Advanced Research and Grant Management

This new module provides functionality designed specifically to support pre-award and post-award grant management, and also manage research projects. It takes an integrated approach to managing the entire grant/research life cycle from proposal submission to publication. The result is increased transparency to the research approval cycle in order to better identify accuracy, project trends and the success of research activity. It also provides accurate costing models and fully integrates with financial reporting, extending the control delivered by ERP to the bursar’s office to the research process.

While research teams are seldom exposed to enterprise applications such as ERP, recent efforts by the UNIT4 team to provide a new and improved user experience to all its solutions should make interacting with the solution an intuitive and enjoyable experience. At the same time administrators will be well equipped to make better-informed decisions.

Constituent Engagement Management

This proposed addition is being designed to answer anticipated questions posed by prospective and existing students, including those at the post-graduate level. The overall goal is to help the university to attract, engage and retain these students. While most enterprise applications destined for the post-secondary education market are tailored for administrators, UNIT4’s approach is tailored to both the interests of the students, as well as industry relationships: businesses, professional organizations and the community at large. It does this by embedding the same social media capabilities that are becoming woven into the fabric of the student society. As social media insinuates itself into businesses and professional organizations, this will be an important aspect that helps “social” mean “business.” By replicating the same improved UNIT4 user experience across all its applications, it will incorporate solutions into a more social model, supporting better collaboration and increased visibility and transparency.

Is the World Ready for this Strategy?

“Basics first” has long been the default standard for satisfying the needs of any organization, whether it operates in the world of business or the slightly different world of education. Because many of these needs (like payments and invoicing and general accounting) are quite generic, a lot of the ERP-based solutions start to look quite similar. In fact many have begun to view ERP as a commodity.

There is a hidden danger in making this assumption if you simply assume any ERP will meet your basic needs and you don’t ask the hard “show me” kind of questions during the evaluation. More than one organization has been caught by this, assuming the solution meets all the basic needs, when in fact it has some functional gaps or is simply so hard to use that users spend more time working around the system than with it.

But indeed, there are many good solid solutions out there that do indeed satisfy the basics. Much like a utility that provides electricity, natural gas, water or telephone service to your home, as long as you stick to a truly proven provider, you can safely assume your basic needs will be met. You wouldn’t trust these basic services to some “fly by night” company, but you would – and do – trust one with a good track record, and it probably doesn’t really matter to you which one you use, providing service continues uninterrupted. Using one over another doesn’t add more market value to your home or even make your life any easier.

But adding a home security system, or stunning landscaping does add value. In fact, in purchasing a new home, those differentiating characteristics are more likely the reason you bought the house to begin with. Of course you need electricity to power that security system. And you need water to keep that landscaping stunningly beautiful. But those basics just “came along with” the purchase. In other words, the differentiating factors pulled along the business to the electric company and those other utility providers.

So are organizations ready to treat ERP as a utility and realign the selection team to focus instead on the real “value add” that produces a strategic or competitive advantage? Early results from the first 300 respondents to the Mint Jutras 2013 ERP Solution Study would indicate that many are. More than half (56%) indicated they would indeed consider this “utility” approach to ERP, 27% are undecided and only 17% gave a firm “no.” If these results hold true then the concept of a niche kind of solution to an industry-specific problem does indeed have the potential of pulling along the underlying basics of ERP.

To some, the concept of a utility is immediately associated with “cloud” deployment. That, along with a subscription basis purchase is the most logical delivery option.

Those willing to consider ERP as a utility do not seem to object to that concept with 51% indicating either private or public cloud options might be considered, as long as security is proven. Some (28%) will only consider a private cloud, yet 43% were simply looking for a virtualized environment that would reduce or remove hardware requirements on-premise.

UNIT4 offers the solution both on-premise and as Software as a Service (SaaS). In fact one university in particular, a long time Agresso ERP customer, chose to convert its on-premise solution to the cloud. Sodertorn University, a forward-thinking Swedish college with 13,000 students and 850 employees started using Agresso ERP right from its inception in 1996. Five years later it was in rapid expansion mode, although it still had only one third of its current student population. Amidst this growth however, the administrative team sought to redeploy resources that had been purely supporting internal technology to programs that would directly benefit the student. As a result Sodertorn University became the first Agresso on-premise customer to move to a cloud environment.

It also began to treat its ERP solution as a utility, re-allocating and re-assigning headcount and redefining IT roles to focus on creating competitive advantage to the college. As a result of this, they also tracked the equivalent of more than $500,000 in cost savings and were better equipped to manage change.

Anna Sande, Systems Administrator for the college said, “We’ve had the twin change management realities of rapid student growth, interfacing with changing economic factors that are challenging to plan for. We’ve adjusted from one campus to three and then, in 2012, back to one large one again. We required zero external IT resource help to do it – the change capabilities of the UNIT4 architecture have supported our various decisions seamlessly.”

Education Living in Change

Ms. Sande’s quote brings us back to our opening paragraph referencing “education living in change.” This is a recognizable component of UNIT4’s mantra of embracing change and a variation on its recurring theme of providing solutions for businesses living in change (BLINC). Just like their commercial counterparts, colleges and universities face the reality of constrained resources, economic unpredictability, increased competition (for both students and grants), along with increased compliance requirements and government controls. At the same time, with rapid technology advances, current hardware and software and skills can become obsolete at an alarming rate.

The type of change experienced by Sodertorn University in terms of the expansion and contraction of campuses is certainly not unique. Cranfield University near London has also experienced extensive changes in funding, fees and technical requirements. “It is impossible to understate the massive changes we’ve been through in the past five or six years alone,” said Ian Sibbald, Director of Finance at the university. “Yet, even beyond the scope of mandatory financial, regulatory or economic change components supported by Agresso, the solution helps us to support our own internal process reviews.”

Cranfield University has been able to evaluate the consequences of and undertake a major campus consolidation, closing one of three and moving all academic activities back to the Cranfield campus. “All of this was easily done using Agresso, leaving just the physical building work and moves to be completed.”

Advanced research and grant management is not exempt from this type of change. Mr. Sibbald adds, “Each time a research grant is allocated differently than in the past, that’s a significant reporting change, which we can now support.” Currently Cranfield University is approaching £600,000 in savings with UNIT4 ERP software.

Summary

Higher education is not really a new target for UNIT4. It already supports over 400 institutions globally. Over the past 20 years it has amassed knowledge and experience and accumulated many customer testimonials. Sodertorn and Cranfield Universities are just two examples of educational institutions facing the challenge of change.

UNIT4 has responded by changing the game itself, adding new and specialized functionality not typically associated with an ERP solution. By addressing those areas it shifts the focus to that which can provide a unique competitive edge for their customers. And yet, no successful organization can afford to take its eye off the ball in supporting basic functions like accounting and human resource management. ERP is the basic utility that keeps the back office organized and efficient. So colleges and universities seeking to differentiate themselves will best be served by pulling those basics along. Selecting a single integrated solution and one that enables today’s accelerated rate of change makes it all that much easier to keep pace.

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Marketing Inspired by Einstein?

Einstein inspired marketing and messaging? Who would have thought that Albert Einstein, recognized for his genius in physics, would inspire so many marketing messages? In December 2010 SYSPRO USA introduced its “Einstein” strategy, a clever association with the genius of the world’s most reknowned theoretical physicist. This Einstein strategy was the brain child of Judith Rothrock, president of JRocket Marketing. Judith has been helping companies boost awareness, bringing visibility and recognition to software solution providers for more than 20 years, including companies like Lawson Software, Hyperion, Ceridian, UNIT4, Deltek, SYSPRO and Meridian Systems, to name just a few.

So if imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, Judith should feel flattered right about now.  Last December Judith helped Syspro introduce the theory of ERP relativity, S=MC2  where M stands for material, and C2 is cost and cash management. S, of course, stands for SYSPRO. Since then I have seen Einstein referenced in marketing by two other companies.

The first time I noticed it was at the Sage Summit in July 2011. I was walking the show floor and saw a picture of Einstein on a pillar sign. I did sort of a double-take. Of course I knew Syspro wasn’t anywhere to be seen at a competitor’s user conference. But sure enough, there he was near the booth of one of Sage’s largest partners, Blytheco. If you Google Blytheco and Einstein together, it will lead you to their blog posts on “Leadership through the Eyes of Einstein.” You will see some very interesting quotes from the great man including a couple of my personal favorites:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

“Creativity is seeing what others see and thinking what no one has ever thought”

The second time I heard it was just yesterday. While I didn’t manage to get up in time to watch the opening keynote of SAP’s SAPPHIRENOW Madrid (it started at 3AM my time) I did manage to watch the replay. There he (Einstein) was again, right in Jim Snabe’s opening remarks, this time with yet another rendition of his famous equation. Mr. Snabe’s definition managed to include all four pillars of SAP’s innovation strategy:

e = mc(imc)2 where e = Enterprise, m = Mobile, c = Cloud, and imc = In Memory Computing

Of course I can’t say for sure that either Blytheco or SAP saw (and perhaps were inspired by?)  Judith’s and Syspro’s original Einstein strategy, but I can say I saw it there first.

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Meridian Systems Taps Trimble Navigation for a Complete Solution

ILM = Plan(BIM) + Build(BIM) + Operate(BIM)

I recently had an an update from Meridian Systems, thanks to Judith Rothrock’s  (JRocket Marketing) annual Grape Escape ® event. It was also an opportunity to meet Geene Alhady, Meridian’s new President, an 11 year veteran of the company who replaced John Bodrozic as he decided to return to his consulting roots. The update included three key announcements:

However, what I found most compelling was something not on the “announcement list” at all. What intrigued me was the move towards a much more complete solution philosophy, tapping into existing solutions  from its parent company, Trimble Navigation, as well as its announced move to acquire Building Information Modeling (BIM) solution provider Tekla Systems. Given all the complexities and interdependencies, the last thing companies building, managing and maintaining infrastructure and large capital projects need is to collect, manage and integrate a fragmented solution. 

Who is Meridian Systems?

Originally founded in 1993, Meridian Systems started out offering project and portfolio management software primarily for architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) firms. As the company evolved beyond the planning and design and the build phases of construction, it reached into the post-construction phase during which owners manage and maintain those facilities. In doing so, Meridian went beyond project and portfolio management to manage the entire lifecycle of large infrastructure building projects. It coined the term PBO2, which stands for Plan-Build-Operate for Project-Based Organizations and added full Infrastructure Life-Cycle Management (ILM) to its portfolio of products. At this stage of its evolution, Meridian defined ILM as a math equation:

Meridian “ILM” MATH EQUATION =  
Capital Project-Based Organizations + Plan-Build-Operate

In order to complete this equation Meridian offers two product lines:

  • Proliance: A web-based ILM solution that supports project owners in managing a wide range of activities (see side-bar) used by real estate developers, commercial building owners, government agencies and others managing a portfolio of infrastructure projects
  • Prolog: Project and portfolio management software used to provide control and transparency to project-based organizations within AEC, commercial and public sectors. Prolog, the original Meridian Systems product, manages the Build phase of PBO with budget & cost management, contract & change management, purchasing/bid management and document & field worker management

Together these two products help project-based companies manage the business at an enterprise level. In 2006 Meridian became a Trimble company. Trimble Navigation is perhaps best known for global positioning solutions (GPS). Like Meridian, it serves the engineering and construction and related industries. Recognizing the equity of the brand it acquired, Trimble allowed Meridian Systems to maintain its name and for the past five years it operated quite independently.  While that was beneficial in building both brands, it also left some synergy on the table.

While Meridian works at the business and enterprise level, Trimble operates at the level where the work actually gets done, collecting data directly from the workforce on the projects. Trimble uses GPS, lasers, optical, and inertial technologies, as well as wireless communications and application specific software to provide solutions that link positioning to productivity. Some joint customers are seeing the potential synergy and steering them towards more collaboration between the two. Now Meridian is expanding its product reach in order to directly leverage the data collected at the workforce level across the enterprise.

The next step in the combined company’s evolution expands this joint solution even further. In May 2011 Trimble extended an offer to acquire all shares in Tekla Corporation. Headquartered in Finland, with a U.S. office in Atlanta, Georgia, and more than 5,000 customers in the construction industry around the globe, Tekla is a leading provider of Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. Tekla offers model driven solutions for customers in the infrastructure and energy industries (in particular energy distribution, public administration and civil engineering and utilities), creating the potential for even more synergy with the combination of Trimble Navigation and Meridian Systems. Two Meridian customers (Ryan, Stanford Hospitals) are already integrating BIM to ILM.

A New Component: BIM

BIM creates a digital design model. The purpose of this model is to enable constructability and production control. By centralizing and digitizing the model, project management and delivery can become more predictable and collaborative. Tekla’s BIM solution, Tekla Structures supports creation and management of accurately detailed, highly constructible 3D structural models regardless of material or structural complexity. Tekla models can be used throughout the building process from conceptual design to fabrication, erection and construction management. And, as you will see as you read on, perhaps even beyond the initial Build phase.

What is Driving this Push?

The world economy, an evolving global market and the recent spate of natural and man-made disasters all combine to create an increasingly challenging business environment for the capital projects-based organizations Meridian Systems, et al serve.

During the recession, which began in 2008, industries supporting infrastructure-related development took a big hit. New construction slowed or came to a complete halt in many regions of the world including parts of North America. Even necessary maintenance projects were pared down, delayed or postponed. Now as we are seeing signs of a recovery, albeit a slow recovery, the very nature and mix of infrastructure projects are changing. We’re seeing less new construction (the Plan and Build phases) and more renovation and maintenance (the Operate phase) in mature economies. This in turn causes a major shift in the Operate stage to not only maintain and manage, but also to manage renovation, remodeling and even rebranding.

 This also changes the complexion of the projects, shifting from single large projects to multiple, yet often inter-dependent projects. While the ability to manage schedules and cost and maintain control over new infrastructure and construction projects has always been critical, when renovating or remodeling, there is the added factor of business disruption. While renovating a hotel floor by floor, the rooms on the floor under construction cannot be booked. When remodeling a residential apartment building, new tenants cannot take up residence and rental or condominium fees collected. During rebranding, remodeling or renovation of a commercial building, business cannot continue uninterrupted.

“Fast-Track” Projects

 This creates the increased need for “fast-track” projects. And it would appear lately that Mother Nature is also conspiring to supplement the need for these “fast track” projects. While natural disasters are not new or unique to the post-recession, the vast devastation created by events such as Hurricane Katrina, the earthquakes in Haiti, Chili and Japan, the recent tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri and western Massachusetts, is unprecedented, thus creating the need for new or massive repair to infrastructure.

 In a “fast-track” project, design and development often must be combined in order to minimize down time. While management of these projects is better enabled through ILM and project and portfolio management software, adding BIM to the mix is the secret sauce and perhaps the most essential element when combining design and development. BIM creates a three-dimensional (3D) model, which encompasses building geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, and quantities and properties of various components. All these different elements are created as BIM objects. Relationships between objects are defined as parameters, so that if an object changes, those related to it also change. As a result, a virtual environment is created in order to better understand and manage the physical environment.

In combining ILM with BIM, Meridian Systems also introduces the concept of 4D and 5D modeling. While intuitively difficult to picture, essentially the fourth dimension is cost and the fifth dimension is schedule. By integrating all components of the operational business processes and data (LIM) with the digital design model (BIM) you are able to assess the impact of a design change on both the cost and the schedule.

Another Whole World

While renovation, remodel and repair of infrastructure might dominate in mature markets like North America, there is another whole world out there. In emerging markets, new infrastructure must be built. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East, where some of the largest capital infrastructure projects in the world are underway. These are global projects, unable to rely only on local resources and therefore they pull in people, materials, contractors and subcontractors from around the world. And some of these projects are more massive than any we have seen, at least in modern history. Projects like:

  • The Saadiyat Island Cultural District in Abu Dhabi: Covering a land mass of 2.43 million square meters, the master plan is to build an entire district including a national museum, a performing arts center and Abu Dhabi versions of the Louvre and the Guggenheim. Massive in scale and scope, “Saadiyat Cultural District will be a center for global culture, drawing local, regional and international visitors with unique exhibitions, permanent collections, productions and performances. Its iconic institutions will be housed in buildings constituting a statement of the finest architecture at the beginning of the 21st century.”
  • The Knowledge Economic City in Saudi Arabia, with an estimated construction value of $8 billion, is expected to take between 10 to 12 years to complete
  • The new National Railway Network in the United Arab Emirates will provide freight and passenger service, stretching across the Emirates, covering a network of approximately 745 miles. The new railway network will connect the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia. The first of three stages of the project is projected to be complete in 2014.

As a result of this type of opportunity, Meridian Systems is seeing a significant increase in business outside North America. The ratio between U.S.  and international sales has shifted dramatically.  Until recently, revenue outside of the U.S. was 10% or less, and now it is closer to 30%. Hence the expansion into the Middle East with a new regional office in Dubai. In doing so, it once again leverages the resources of its parent company, already present in the region and is better positioned to support some of its marquis customers and its own growth.

Case in Point:  AECOM, A Meridian Systems Customer

Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, AECOM is one of the largest providers of professional technical and management support services in the world.  According to Jim Walsh, CTO, “You’ll see us in industries like transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, water and the government sector.  We have more than 45,000 employees in approximately 125 countries.  We reported $7.3 billion in annual revenue for the 12 months ending March 31, 2011, and we are ranked #353 on the most recent Fortune 500 list. We are defined by our reputation for leadership – especially in high-growth markets, our long-term portfolio of blue-chip clients and our diversification across multiple industries, geographies and funding sources. We consistently produce strong financials and, for the most part, have a low-risk business model. I say ‘for the most part’ because we do operate all over the world and geopolitical events such as the recent turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa can lead to temporary or long-term business interruption. “

Indeed, AECOM is engaged in the three Middle East projects noted above as well as

  • The New Doha Port in Qatar, a $7 billion construction effort that is currently the world’s largest “greenfield” port-development project
  • The Capital District Development Project in Abu Dhabi, a mixed-use city that will form the center of the United Arab Emirates’ federal government, be home to 370,000 residents and feature an underground, high-speed metro, plus  highways,  water, sewage, cooling, communications and all-inclusive infrastructure.

A complete solution is exactly what AECOM was looking for, working with Meridian since 2002, initially with Prolog for construction management and project management, and then in 2005 selected Proliance as its next generation technology solution. “Meridian is capable of managing tens of thousands of pages of documents…and in managing programs with budgets that reach tens of billions of dollars,” said Mr. Walsh.

“So what makes Meridian so special?  Its solutions are purpose-built. Meridian does what big ERP companies don’t do well.   These big firms have all kinds of toolsets and workaround capabilities– but, for us, that would involve a lot of complex programming that Meridian has already figured out – and does out of the box, with superior end results.   Meridian of course plugs into a wide variety of ERP backbones like Oracle, SAP and Microsoft.   So, why don’t we just use these ERP backbones?  Because, I don’t want to go through all that work, and then have to view 15 screens to get an answer.  With Meridian I can get what we need…quickly, cost effectively and with the right blend of system and technology integration.

“AECOM is a large organization driven heavily by our clients’ requirements.  The goal of the program management we provide is to deliver the expertise that will save our clients time, money and complexity…wherever possible.  Meridian gives us the features and functions that are powerful enough to get the job done with great flexibility and a great user interface.”

Key Takeaways

As you can see, the world of infrastructure and capital projects faces a dichotomy of needs. On the one hand, “fast-track” projects need to be just that – fast. Yet the more likely the project is to be fast-tracked, the less likely it is that it stands alone. So while there may be fewer moving parts, there is also more need to integrate and interoperate with other pieces of a larger puzzle and less room for error. On the other hand, we see more massive and complex infrastructure that must be built, and sometimes (most likely) it needs to be managed half a world away.

A wide variety of functionality is required to manage throughout the PBO2 environment, from planning and design, to build and development, to manage, maintain, renovate, remodel, rebrand and repair. My opening segue bears repeating: Given all the complexities and interdependencies, the last thing companies building, managing and maintaining infrastructure and large capital projects need is to collect, manage and integrate a fragmented solution.  By leveraging the data collected where the work is done, providing a virtual environment that can model the real world and tools that provide a system of record and guided decision-making throughout the Plan – Build – Operate lifecycle, Meridian Systems, with a little help from Trimble, is evolving into a complete solution.

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