What is Bidcom – is it a dotcom?
Bidcom is a UK services company that enables internet-based collaborative working. It is locally owned and locally managed. Our software is provided by a company called Citadon, which historically could be considered a dotcom.
How did the joint venture partners come on board?
In late 1999, Sir Christopher Wates was talking to KPMG about how e-business could serve the UK construction industry. Wates Group and KPMG formed a partnership to pursue business opportunities to bring internet-based software systems to the UK, and Carillion and EC Harris joined to help get this business up and running.
What services does Bidcom provide?
We provide the software on your internet browser. This is available in three levels: ProjectNet deals with document management for collaboration across a design team or an internal group; ProjectNet/Docs is the same as ProjectNet, but includes business process modules. The next level supports 25 different processes for every type of construction project.
Can the system be used for anything else?
We can analyse the behaviour of projects by separating out the project data onto a database. Right now we are looking at how long it takes to resolve a request for information.
How is the system going to evolve?
We will continue to add more management and business process features. We are launching a procurement solution for construction projects to deal with high-volume, low-value transactions. It is a separate application that we'll bring to the market once we are profitable.
How do you make money?
A project would pay a monthly subscription fee of between £750 and £1650. We charge consulting fees at the start of a project so we can organise a team to configure the system for its specific needs. We also make money as a consultant, advising our clients on how their business will change and how best to use the systems. Plus we are paid to train individual users.
How many clients do you have?
Thirty, but not all of them are in construction.
You were a commissioner at the Massachusetts highways department – how did you get into IT?
The transport business depends on capacity. If people can work on their computers at home, this could have the effect of easing congestion tremendously. At the time, though, the local telephone exchange was monopolised by one company which was not investing in the infrastructure because its only competitors were the 22 cable companies. The technology was there, but none of the cable networks were connected, because a connection over 20 miles might involve crossing three towns and dealing with every town and private property. So I said: "What if I give cable companies access to all the state's roads free for ever – as long as they share access with everyone else? All they pay is the cost of stringing the wire". It was called "wiring Massachusetts". The telecommunications industry changed overnight.
Where did you work after that?
KPMG consulting in the US. We were trying to figure out with the government how to deliver services on the internet. Then I was recruited into the real estate and hospitality group which included helping engineering and construction to understand internet-based business systems.
Why did you move to the UK?
I was contacted by a KPMG partner in London which needed help to deliver internet-based business applications to the UK construction industry. This was March 2000. The partner had done its due diligence on a company called Bidcom because it was a leading company in the US. Then I was asked to lead the Bidcom team in the UK.