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IN EARLY MID-OCTOBER, Procore held its 2021 Groundbreak event virtually, as most companies do for their conferences since the global pandemic. Before that event, we heard from the company directly about major announcements coming at Groundbreak and new technologies and offerings on schedule for the first half of next year. To be sure, Procore, Inc., a company located in Carpinteria, California, just south of Santa Barbara, has fast become one of the most important AEC software companies in the world.
What we want to do in this article is run through their major announcements and provide some context and analysis toward the end.
Procore’s Global Growth
While the company began in the United States and will need to contend with strong native rivals in foreign markets, Procore today is being used in over 125 countries by over 1.6 million AEC industry professionals, including owners and operators of building infrastructure.
Users love the platform because they can always count on the platform to feel the same regardless of what tool they are using and which part of the construction they play a part in.
Wyatt Jenkins, Senior Vice President of Product, told Architosh at a press-only event that a big reason why construction companies select Procore over rival solutions is because of their customer service. But unlike some rivals who have disparate solutions with often varied user interfaces and user experiences, Procore provides a unified platform. “Users love the platform because they can always count on the platform to feel the same regardless of what tool they are using and which part of construction they play a part in,” says Jenkins.
Now the company wants to leverage that common user experience (UX) and start building in a level of customization and precision to what each AEC participant is focused on, across scales of projects and companies, and across the globe where regional processes and players vary.
Procore has expanded its global infrastructure with 11 new data centers for file storage. Now at 15 data centers, customers can store certain project data locally while also boosting speed and performance working with that data. Procore offers enterprise-grade security and privacy features such as data encryption-at-rest, weekly pen tests for vulnerabilities, and more; it meets the EU’s GDPR, California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and Australia’s Privacy Act of 1988.
To help address global customer needs, Procore’s solutions now enable complete custom data fields, so users in Australia or Germany can configure Procore to meet their regional industry standards.
“Procore is a big part of creating a global development platform, where we can benefit from what teams in Australia are doing and learning, and that can actually translate to what we’re doing in North America on projects, and then also to our teams in Europe on projects. Procore is at the center of collaboration that activates this global pool of expertise,” says Dean Hopkins, chief operations officer at Oxford Properties.
Collaborative Document Management
Procore announced their new Collaborative Document Management (CDM) system, which entered a pilot deployment in the fourth quarter of this year. The new CDM enables all participants to collaborate across documents based on a granular set of permissions that customers can fully customize.
The system is ISO compliant (ISO-19650) and can conform to other CDE standards (BS-1192) as needed and standardized across global regions. Jenkins says that the new Collaborative Document Management (CDM) offers a single-source record from precon (pre-construction) to close-out.
“This can only happen on a platform that has unlimited users, unlimited data, and unlimited collaboration on every project,” says Wyatt Jenkins, “so we are feeling really good about this.”
Procore’s new CDM will offer customers an integrated markup experience and the ability to configure customer approval workflows with fine granular file-level permissions—all the capabilities that meet common data environment (CDE) requirements and ISO compliance standards.
New Mobile Tools
Procore has new mobile software tools coming. The company is highly focused on creating a unique user experience for every stakeholder in construction that is optimized around their role and needs. A big part of that mission is to allow their mobile tools to address that unique experience from the home screen.
The new mobile home experience, available in the last quarter of 2021, prioritizes daily work with quick access to check in on progress, change status, or create a new item like RFI, Observations, or Punch.
Procore Technologies has made two key acquisitions in the recent past in the areas of AI (artificial intelligence). The company acquired INDUS.AI and Avata Intelligence, bringing key AI and machine learning (ML) technology to the Procore technology stack. This will unlock the value of project data and tighten efficiencies across its digital tools. (see: Architosh, “Procore Acquires Construction AI Company INDUS.AI,” 27 May 2021)
Procore Quick Capture
One area where AI is now emerging is the new Procore Quick Capture features in its mobile app. Quick Capture is voice-enabled input technology that will launch in 2022. It will simply data entry in the field where users typically stand and move frequently.
For example, to create a punch item, a user may take a picture as part of the Procore mobile app or capture a video and then simply talk to Procore. Through AI and ML, Procore will create the punch item, attach a photo, and even assign it to the appropriate trade. The AI is trained to recognize keywords in AEC that will enable automated assignment to the correct trade (e.g., speaking about an outlet or switch will enable the system to know it is an electrical trade item).
Early testing is showing that punch walks with AI/ML voice technology deployed can reduce total punch walk time by up to 50 percent.
New Procore Conversations
New Procore Conversations is “contextual messaging for construction,” says the company. The new Procore Conversations technology aims to combat fragmented communication across multiple channels and technology, including email, SMS, messaging, Slack, and even Microsoft Teams.
Available in pilot in the last quarter of this year, the 2022 technology roll-out will significantly benefit users of Procore as they can now keep communications squarely attached to objects (i.e., in Procore parlance, an “object” is something like a punch item, a submittal, a document, an observation, or an RFI).
Users can use @mentions to loop individuals into these contextual, object-based conversations, whether mobile or web.
“For the past 18 months, we met with customers and challenged ourselves to rethink how we innovate and improve the lives of everyone in construction,” says Wyatt Jenkins, Senior VP of Product, Procore. “We are building solutions that connect the field and the office across mobile, leveraging AI, voice commands, and messaging with Procore Conversations.”
Also coming in 2022 is the Procore Construction Network, a free online business directory for AEC professionals but primarily centered on owners, contractors, and sub-contractors. Architects and engineering firms are also welcome, but their network utilization is likely less impactful for them.
Procore held its virtual conference, Groundbreak, between 12 – 14 October 2021. Readers can watch sessions and keynotes on-demand here. During the CEO keynote, one learns about how Procore was used to build the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the largest stadiums ever built. The Mortenson McCarthy joint venture broke ground in 2017. The total design through owner occupancy was 41 months, and the construction schedule was 31 months. At one time, they had over 12,000 individuals working on the project, and the project had over 10,000 RFIs.
There was little room for collaboration to fail with that much simultaneous activity. And with that much activity, the amount of traffic in communication on the stadium coming through Procore was quite astonishing. Procore’s Founder and CEO, Tooey Courtemanche, noted during his keynote that the UN estimates that the amount of building required by 2060 will total 2.5 trillion square feet. That’s equivalent to building a city the size of New York every month for the next 40 years.
Architosh Commentary and Analysis
So that is a lot of work to do. And it will be hard to see it all happen facing pressures like skilled labor shortages. It will be easier if the people doing the work today and in the future can eliminate re-work and inefficiencies. “Re-work” is work done twice or more when it was already done once. Entering data into a computer software system manually again after it was already entered once into a different system is re-work. But that is just one example.
Procore is far from the only AEC company addressing these huge challenges. Eliminating re-work and even eliminating work done by humans by allowing AI systems to do that work is on the minds of every AEC technology company. But even before getting to AI and machine learning, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit to capture to gain efficiencies.
When I asked Wyatt Jenkins of Procore about their new Procore Conversations technologies, I asked about systems like Slack which became more popular during the global pandemic. I wondered if API integrations were going to be central to Procore Conversations. He said they have a two-phase strategy where in the first stage, they want to focus on conversations attached to the object and optimize that approach. Then in the second phase to “reach folks to where they are at.”
Slack and Teams are part of the near-term integrations, and Jenkins said, “that’s because lots of our customers use that today.” But he noted that when you get into the teams of sub-contractors, you need to start thinking about more consumer apps like WhatsApp because that is where many of them are at. That’s how they communicate amongst themselves.
Jenkins spoke about layers of an onion, and the analogy seems very appropriate. They will build out their communications technologies to reach out more deeply to include all the places where people communicate so that folk can stay grounded and connected to the projects.