July 25, 2005
Where Integration and Customization are Key
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Welcome to AECWeekly! During the year 2000, a plethora of brand new companies offering document management, business process and workflow and e-commerce sprang up and within a year, had either been bought by other companies or had disappeared entirely. That proliferation of companies made its debut at the A/E/C SYSTEMS show in Chicago that year, on an exhibit floor thundering with noise and hype and the lure of motorcycle and car giveaways.

Five years later, Citadon is a successful company that weathered that storm and has embraced service oriented architecture to provide those same services and much more. Read about it in this week's Industry News.

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Industry News

Where Integration and Customization are Key

by Susan Smith

During the year 2000, a plethora of brand new companies offering document management, business process and workflow and e-commerce sprang up and within a year, had either been bought by other companies or had disappeared entirely. That proliferation of companies made its debut at the A/E/C SYSTEMS show in Chicago that year, on an exhibit floor thundering with noise and hype and the lure of motorcycle and car giveaways.

A year later, the competition had thinned considerably. News releases announced the buy out of some of the companies, but it was hard to keep track of them all. The need for the technology was still there, however, the supply had exceeded the demand.

This week I spoke with senior product manager of Citadon, Chris French, who confirmed that Citadon was a "roll up" of several companies, that merged at the height of the fundraising at the end of 2000 - 2001 era. "The last merger was between BidCom and Cephren," he said. But prior to that, Cephren was formed as a combination of BlueLineOnline and e-Brix, an e-commerce, material purchasing, bidding company. BidCom had at that time, recently acquired a document management company called Cubus. By the end of 2000, Citadon was born, out of essentially five companies.

French came from BlueLineOnline, where they developed a product in 1997 called ProjectNet. Document management was the product's main functionality and their target audience was design professionals. Their big project at the time was the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, which had several designers, as well as consultants all over the country. For that project in particular, there was a need to exchange information electronically and streamline the design process.

"Soon after that we introduced workflow pieces geared toward construction so at the time of the merger, ProjectNet had both those capabilities," said French. "We were targeting early design and construction project phases. BidCom started at the opposite end with business process and workflow addressing the needs of the construction phase. With their acquisition of Cubus, a document management solution that targeted design, they were very close to what we were doing. When the merger happened, Cephren's strength was still document management and BidCom's strength was workflow and forms. It made sense from a product point of view that the companies come together. At first we thought we would
combine the two products, and we spent quite a bit of effort doing that. Finally we decided in 2001 that it was best for us to invest in a new platform, because the technology had advanced, and incorporate the best functionality of those products into a new product. That's our flagship product today that we call Citadon CW."

2001 was pivotal in that they rebuilt the entire application on a new web services architecture. The end of 2001 saw the first release of CW, and the last major release of that product was in January of 2005. They will have another big release in mid-September, and also have incremental releases which address specifics for customers. As an ASP, Citadon can make updates to the service as frequently as they need to, for all customers.

ProjectNet is still alive and well and has several customers worldwide. In contrast, CW has open architecture and the best functionality which lends itself to integration and customization.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Citadon also has a fully developed business processing and a designer tool called Citadon BPD, or Business Process Designer, which allows a customers to fully define their processes. "We found that everyone had a process that was slightly different and they wanted to have the capability to introduce a new step in the workflow that no other company had," said French. "The BPD allows people to take a standard process like an RFI or a change order, modify it to meet specifically the way they do business, or to model a completely brand new process that we haven't conceived of yet."

In January, Citadon made some changes to the project execution platform to allow customers to get the data out and do some analytics on it. "We introduced the portal framework in January so a customer could go in there and decide the components of the portal that are going to be displayed and the type of information that's going to be displayed. The architecture is completely customizable as well. So we have templates where a customer can start with a portal but they really have the capability of formatting that the way they want. Similar to business processes," French explained. "We also made some major improvements to our search architecture and the exporting of data from the system, so
they can do analytics and reporting even outside our system."

What is the difference between CW and Project Net? "Functionally they're similar, have similar capabilities," noted French. "The biggest differences are in the integration and customization capabilities on the CW platform. For example, ProjectNet has a set of standard processes like I mentioned, like RFIs, meeting minutes, punch lists, change orders, etc. which are primarily targeted toward AEC, and there are some administrative capabilities to set up who has the rights to set up all those actions and processes. In ProjectNet, you use the forms that are built in there, whereas in CW you have the ability to modify the forms any way you want."

"With the service oriented architecture in CW, we're also able to leverage any of the functionality that is happening in the product and let that work with any other applications that a company might have. It's mostly beneficial to the large organizations we work with, but even midsize ones want to send change orders to a financial system."

Upgrade releases for Project Net are still available as mostly maintenance releases.

French said that only those who are already using ProjectNet will continue to use it. A brand new customer will most likely use CW right off the bat, because that's the product that's going forward, functionally. Initially, when CW was released, Citadon did migrate some customers from ProjectNet to CW. "We moved data between the two systems, recreated it in CW and then let them take off," French explained. Interoperability between the two products is really on a one-off basis and somewhat limited because CW is able to take advantage of new web services and ProjectNet, of course, is not.

Pricing is flexible, according to the number of projects, number of users and size of storage used.


Deltek announced that the International Development Division (IDD) of leading farm-to-market agribusiness Land O'Lakes has chosen the Deltek Enterprise(TM) suite, including Deltek Costpoint(R), to improve its international accounting, resource planning and human resources functionality.

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