Newforma takes to the cloud
Published 14 November 2012
|Written by Martyn Day|
It has been a year of good progress for Newforma. The specialist AEC developer has added customers such as Aedas, BDP and Foster and Partners to its customer list and broadened its product portfolio.
Document and project management is traditionally seen as a necessary evil or something to ‘get around to’ at some point in the future. Far too many small to medium sized firms rely on keeping their precious work in desktop folders, which can lead to lost or duplicated data.
The software developers’ usual answer is a hulking big document management system that requires data to be stored in a software ‘vault’, which imposes strict policy and regulation to all uses. It is relatively common for document management software to be imposed on project partners.
Newforma Project Center
Since releasing Newforma Project Center in 2006, the company has taken a different approach to the management of document types including email, CAD drawings, Requests For Information (RFI) and submittals. From within Microsoft Outlook, documents can be added to related project folders within the system.
This Newforma system runs on a dedicated local server, which indexes the data that is added by each member to their account, making it fast to search even across projects. When completed it is possible to close out a project by collating all relevant documentation (drawings, emails etc.) for client delivery in PDF or HTML through a simple wizard.
Through the web-enabled Newforma Info Exchange (a secure and smart FTP-like portal), documents, large files, action items and revision records can be securely synchronised and distributed to other team members even if they do not use Newforma.
As the client base grew, a Newforma to Newforma (N2N) link was added to the software, which automatically co-ordinates folders, files and models without the need for expensive and limiting ‘vault’ systems. By linking two firms’ Newforma servers for co-shared project documents, it is possible to keep internal-only documents (such as email) safe and only share data from selected folders. The N2N link also enables seamless RFI, submittals and file transfers.
The company then added access support for iPhone, Android and Blackberry with Newforma Touch, enabling remote access to Newforma Info Exchange. The system can handle tagged digital images and benefits from the fast search capability of Newforma’s index servers.
Newforma Punch List is a tablet-based snagging/punch-list capture and management tool. Here item descriptions can be logged, together with adding pictures, videos and sound. External team members can use the Newforma Punch List app on tablet computers. These items can then be tracked, audited, queried, logged and exported into Excel format. The data collected works with Newforma Project Center and back to the Revit model, where rooms with open punch lists can be colour coded. This is the first of a number of tablet applications that are in development with the aim being that mobile data consumers and gatherers will not be left out of the loop.
The company describes its non-vault based solution as a better fit to asynchronous data exchanges that dominate the construction industry’s workflows, and it hasn’t exactly handicapped the company to win over major architectural practices.
But how would Newforma fare against cloud-based document management and distribution, software and services?
The company has created a number of ‘suites’ to cater to design, construction and owners. Newforma Design Suite is aimed at architects and includes: Project Center, Contract Management, the Add-in for Revit and Punch List. Those in Construction get Newforma Preconstruction, Project Management and Punch List. Owners get Portfolio Explorer and Project Monitor.
The company recently launched a hosted cloud service called Newforma Project Cloud for Construction Management.
Using technology from a recent technology acquisition of AEC-Sync from Attolist, Newforma has created a cloud-based service for clients that would prefer to host their data remotely, use online contract administration and wish to have an external space to collaborate. As you would expect, this can link to existing customers’ Newforma servers to provide a private extranet. The suite of mobile apps currently in development will also receive and send data back and forwards to project folders, wherever they are located.
In late July Newforma licensed VEO from M-SIX, a hot new Building Information Modelling (BIM) software company. The VEO platform allows project teams to access BIM models in the cloud (such as Revit models) without a full Revit installation.
The technology will eventually let users view and navigate 3D buildings, search for information in the model with visual feedback and tie workflow items to objects in the model.
This all may sound a little like Gehry Technologies’ GTeam but it has certainly got a number of the key Revit and Newforma customers very excited indeed. Back when we used 2D it took ages to develop decent drawing viewers. As we went into BIM, our data was once more pushed into a format that few others could see. It is great that there are so many developers on the case to enable non-BIM users in on the riches of the data that is being created.
Newforma is expanding into cloud-based project software from a relatively secure base. Autodesk is trying to go cloud-only with its subscription customers; while newcomer Gehry Technologies surprised everyone with its service.
At the start of the year, I got the feeling that Newforma certainly had momentum in UK firms. With a raft of products due to come out throughout the year, together with some very targeted acquisitions and licensing deals, I would say that the company was at a tipping point to becoming an industry standard within the broader AECO community.
While it will certainly face increasing competition, Newforma seems to be getting ever-more entrenched in the way major companys operate and a cloud offering/ extension will only help make it more relevant.
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