Optus inCITE, the Construction Industry Trading Exchange, has now been operating for twenty eight months and since my last update, in November of last year, there has been a significant increase in its adoption through the industry. In fact the increase in its use has been so significant that it has raised issues with the capability of the technology platform to handle the current and anticipated volumes. These issues are being addressed as a matter of urgency.
At this time there are:
Volumes such as these were not originally anticipated until well after the third year of operation and they have tested the current technology platform to the extent that there has been inadequate performance when there has been heavy usage.
The Document Management System on the Exchange is being heavily utilised by large numbers of users on multi million dollar infrastructure projects such as the Lane Cove Tunnel in Sydney, the Mitcham/Frankston Motorway in Melbourne (Eastlink) and the North Western Busway in Sydney. There are numerous other large infrastructure projects in the pipeline such as the North South Brisbane Tunnel, the Gateway Bridge Duplication in Brisbane, the Fast Rail to Sydney’s Western Suburbs, the Melbourne Convention Centre, the new Headquarters for the Department of Defence in Canberra and the Sydney Desalination Plant, all prospective inCITE users. The construction industry in Australia is forecast to continue growing over the next five to six years, and maybe beyond, and the Tender Management and Procurement Systems on the Exchange have only been exercised to a limited amount to date.
The RTA are currently conducting a trial of the Tender Management System inviting selected contractors to submit tenders for a new project through inCITE. The RTA is one of the construction industry’s largest clients in New South Wales so if this trial is successful, and they adopt inCITE as a standard, the number of users on the Exchange will increase significantly.
To date the Procurement System has not had heavy usage with Optus still marketing to large suppliers to get them to lodge their catalogues on the Exchange. Interfaces with the more popular Construction Industry accounting systems have been completed which will enable end to end electronic processing of the whole procurement transaction. It is expected that the Procurement System will begin to be widely used as more suppliers get on board.
While this adds up to more and more users it is interesting to note that the number of Document Management users in Australia is already more than in Europe, where the software has been commercially available for a considerably greater length of time. Added to this Australian companies are exploiting the software to a greater extent than their European counterparts. A number of large projects have not implemented Microsoft Exchange preferring to utilise the generic email system built into the Document Management System. While the generic email system is definitely clumsier to use it ensures that all project related emails are captured in a single repository. This is considered to be of such value that issues with the user interface are thought to be relatively unimportant. It should be added that on one of these projects inCITE, and how it is used on the project, has been mandated by the project director. Everyone on the project has been instructed to use it.
There are also ten prospects who are eager to use the Exchange but being aware of the instability issues are waiting on the sidelines for the problems to be resolved before signing up.
The Exchange therefore, is proving to be a success but, ironically, that success has lead to the recognition that the infrastructure, as it currently exists, struggles with existing volumes and is incapable of handling prospective volumes. There is a plan to resolve these performance issues by reviewing the hardware platform, reviewing the data base engine, reviewing the technical architecture of the Document Management System, implementing some immediate enhancements that have been identified and revising the training approach to instruct users on how to build efficient searches which do not require heavy system resources.
In summary the initial aims of the group of construction companies who originally came up with the concept for the Exchange, that benefits would accrue to the construction industry through the utilisation of standard systems, using the Internet for selected parts of project management on construction projects, are beginning to be realised. The take up has greatly exceeded forecasts and there is steady month on month growth. Once the technology platform has been stabilised the on going success of the Exchange is virtually assured.