As more and more A/E/C firms discover the benefits of using the Internet to facilitate and manage projects, more and more of the industry's veteran software companies - many that have patiently waited for much of the Internet hype to die down and for profit potential to show - are now jumping into the Internet software market head first. Philadelphia-based Primavera Systems is the latest with its new PrimeContract service for managing the complete life cycle of a project, from preproject planning and design through construction and facility maintenance.
PrimeContract is based on an application service provider, or ASP model, meaning that there's no need to install software inhouse. All of the software programs are hosted off site and can be accessed through any Web browser. Users simply log in at the PrimeContract Web site to access a project.
The service's project collaboration component consists of modules that allow project team members to communicate and exchange information during every phase of a construction project. It includes modules for budgeting, document management, scheduling, estimating, component cataloging and requests for information (RFIs), to name a few. Each program seems to be well thought out and takes advantage of the Web's communications techniques. Project participants can quickly send and respond to forms such as RFIs and address issues through the use of bullets, hyperlinks and color-coding pertaining to the user.
The online commerce component consists of modules for payment, product availability, supplier qualification contracts, invoices, purchase orders and auctions. Its progress-payment module is perhaps the most noteworthy feature: Using any Web browser, subscribers can prepare, submit and negotiate monthly progress payments, accelerating the time-consuming payment negotiation process. Contract details are entered only once, and subcontractors simply apply performance data against the defined schedule of values. PrimeContract then notifies buyers and sellers via e-mail that the other party has responded to the latest declaration of progress. After buyer and seller agree on the proper payment for progress that period, a third party is able to certify the application, triggering payment.
Work in progress
The service's Web site is a work in progress. Some modules are ready for use, while others are expected to be ready at some time this year. In reviewing the progress-payment module, it was interactive and simple to use, using color and hyperlinks to highlight the sender and recipient of information for a transaction. The other modules should follow suit.
Pricing for the service is based on the cost of construction of projects, not per user or by storage. 'A $10 million project will cost $2,000 per month,' says Joel Koppelman, president of Primavera. 'We're trying to keep people away from this silliness of charging by how many gigabytes of storage space they use.'
For information and demos, visit the Web site at www.primecontract.com.
Tom Hernandez is associate partner and director of computer services for Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC in New York City. He welcomes comments through the Internet at email@example.com.