Autodesk’s $875 million cash acquisition of construction software company PlanGrid is a move of two giant companies in the con-tech space that brings with it the chance for the companies to deliver on a promise to “completely change the construction technology landscape,” PlanGrid CEO Tracy Young told Construction Dive.
When Andrew Anagnost assumed the role of Autodesk CEO last year, he saw construction as the company’s next big growth opportunity, said Jim Lynch, vice president and general manager of Autodesk’s Construction Solutions. (Young stands between Lynch and Anagnost in the above photo.)
Although Autodesk's BIM 360 product addressed quality and safety issues on the jobsite, Lynch said the San Rafael, California-based firm wanted to accelerate its field efforts beyond that, which is where PlanGrid comes in.
In only seven years, PlanGrid has grown to host more than 100 million sheets of blueprint from 12,000 customers in its cloud. Young attributes the mobile-first blueprint software being built entirely on the Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform as a primary reason PlanGrid has been able to scale up so quickly, in addition to its 150-person team in research and development. “I do believe this is one of the reasons why a company like PlanGrid is so attractive to Autodesk,” she said.
“Tracy and her team have done an amazing job of capturing the hearts and minds of the team out in the field,” Lynch said, “so we thought it was a great fit both from a technology-wide and a cultural perspective. Everything just pointed in the direction of, ‘Let’s do an acquisition.’ ”
4 key synergies
Young and Lynch pointed to a number of synergies between the two companies that they say will yield tangible results for end users and the industry as a whole:
Technology integration. Together, the firms give contractors the ability to synchronize sheets and plans between Autodesk’s BIM 360 platform and PlanGrid, which are both commonly used on jobsites in separate silos.
Product offerings and the resulting distribution of information. Lynch pointed to PlanGrid software’s capabilities of automatic submittal logs, field reports and capable mobile and web technology, as well as Autodesk’s technology offerings in the preconstruction, planning and design processes. Lynch and Young believe that this move will better provide what they call “rich design information” out to the field more efficiently, ultimately resulting in a more productive jobsite.
Company cultures. The firms have a similar vision for the industry and views about the impact technology will have in changing how the world constructs buildings and infrastructure, Lynch said.
Selling approaches. Whereas PlanGrid generally sells at the project level and building up to become an enterprise play for a customer, said Lynch, Autodesk focuses more on selling at the headquarters level and pushing its products down. Lynch sees the opportunity for the PlanGrid team to sell Autodesk products, and vice versa.
Young, who will continue to lead the PlanGrid team while reporting to Lynch, describes the energy at the PlanGrid office as “electric” following the news. “Our team is super excited because the synergies are so obvious,” she said. “We literally store everything Autodesk creates. It’s actually crazy it’s taken us this long to work together. There is so much more we can do now that we’re a part of Autodesk.”
Young said that getting project and design information to the field faster will yield greater efficiencies and help solve “one of the foundational problems in this industry … the massive disconnect between the people designing structures and the people building them.”
Although there are many reasons for schedule and cost overruns on projects, Young said, she believes one of the big reasons is the challenges in information flow between the office and field. “Making sure people have the right information at the right time is going to take care of a lot of those problems,” she added.
Lynch said the initial work upon the acquisition’s close, which should be by Jan. 31, 2019, is to provide interoperability between BIM 360 and PlanGrid products around synchronizing sheets and plans and connect Autodesk’s Revit data to PlanGrid directly. Next, the companies will examine the roadmaps of both softwares to find where there might be duplications so they can innovate in other areas.
“We’ve only scratched the surface on what we can build for this industry,” said Young.
Lynch looks forward to continuing PlanGrid's momentum, not only by remaining a strong presence on construction sites across North America, but also with plans to expand even more internationally. “We want to be the tool of choice in construction both in the planning office and also equally important in the field,” he said.
Photo above shows, from left to right, Jim Lynch, Tracy Young and Andrew Anagnost.