November 12, 2012
Proliance 5.5’s Bidding Module Simplifies Process for Owners
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
Proliance 5.5’s Bidding Module Simplifies Process for Owners
By Susan Smith   

Meridian’s Rick Gehringer, business unit director and Brant Carter, director of product marketing for Meridian Systems and the Proliance business unit talked about their newest product, Proliance 5.5. 

On the top level stack, the owner business unit focuses on the owners and owners’ agents, which is the market that focuses on large capital owners. Meridian has three different market areas that they address: 

Gehringer: Specifically we have customers like U.S. General Services Administration and the 10,000 buildings that they are operating, and Walt Disney Imagineering for their resorts and theme parks and organizations like Stanford hospitals and clinics to build out their $5 billion program for 2-3 hospitals and medical schools on campus and we have larger owners than those described. But really our focus is on owners. An adjacent market we’re also focused on is the owners’ reps, program managers and construction managers who act as owners in those categories.  We have successful long-standing implementations at AECOM and CBRE, two very large program service providers that work on behalf of large owners. These are our Proliance customers.

On the middle tier we have the AEC service firms that includes the general contractor and the construction manager and some in the architectural space, but really this is focused on the general contractor. Prolog is used to penetrate this market.

With the acquisition of Meridian by Trimble we are now focused heavily on field data collection and being able to push data out to their various devices to be used in the field.

How do you integrate these various services? 

“We have a focus on each of these layers, which sometimes can come into conflict when bidding and negotiating, where the owner business unit is focused on the owners’ side of that argument and the contractor business unit is focused on another area, but it shows we’re focused on our specific markets even though we’re in the same market. 

We are also focused on integrating the products and services among these three layers so that we can create value.

How is Proliance 5.5 positioned in that owner market? 

Carter: We generally organize our functionality into three pillars -- the first through third being, plan, build and operate. These pillars represent the key business functions that our owners want to use our software for. Under the planning side we have capabilities for doing project pipelines or setting up your budget and doing design review. 

On the build side, we’ve got expense and cost reporting capabilities, earned value we released earlier this year, document control, a built in scheduling system, and the scheduling system integrates with Primavera and Microsoft Project. So owners can get access to schedule submittals from their contractors. A year ago we released Proliance 5.0 that had our small project capabilities. Especially during the downturn in the economy a lot of owners were interested in renovation, rebranding, remodeling projects and so our small projects capabilities offer great capabilities for doing large scale roll outs. 

Another unique integration of Proliance is its deep integration with SharePoint, and Office. 

The big star of the show for 5.5 is our bidding module. Customers found there were a lot of challenges in this area of the market, and these weren’t being serviced by existing technology and offerings. Customers do a lot of bidding and they have no visibility into the bidding process, the truth is they do a lot of bidding themselves and they had a problem with distributing documents, on FTP sites, they’re emailing spreadsheets around, they have no visibility into who submitted their bid and who is interested in bidding, who has downloaded the documentation and if people looking at the right agenda. 

The next thing I heard was that customers really want bidding systems integrated with their project control systems. There are a lot of point solutions out there or disconnected bidding systems that you can go and sign up for, but many of our customers didn’t have good success with those or didn’t want to use them because they would get disconnected and they wanted a bidding system that was well integrated with their budget and with their contracting module. 

The third challenge I heard from customers is they were running into problems in understanding what the quality of their bid package was. Disney will spend six-9 months defining the scope of work and understanding what they want to build and then they will go issue a bid and give their contractors 30 days to review it. Invariably the contractors will have to price it, or make mistakes or find mistakes, but these things don’t seem to show up until after the contracts are issued. And it’s a lot harder to predict these problems after the contracts are issued. 

Owners are really struggling to compare the multiple bids they get in from each of their contractors. Customers like PBRE that run some similar projects over and over again yet really don’t have any leverage over their existing historical data. They are really starting from scratch almost every single time. 

Our objectives were to create a collaborative bidding environment, to automate the bidding workflow, and to augment our existing budget-to-cost integration that we have in Proliance. Proliance has a great budget management feature. 95% of our customers use this. These modules are already linked together, and business workflows are already figured out. 

It has been customary to run an intermediate process of going from budget to contract. It was always disconnected or in Excel. Now we’ve placed our Proliance bid manager module  between the two and also integrated those in, so now you can go from budget to bid to contract with a completely integrated system and have good visibility throughout the entire process. 

How does Proliance integrate with the other Meridian products? 

Carter: The workflow engine leverages the capabilities of Proliance with those of our online collaborative bidding system. 

We start in Proliance with a bid package that allows you to specify your buyout strategy or define your scope of work for what you want to bid on. You would issue an invitation to each of the bidders you want to invite to this scope of work. The invitation provides access for the bidders to download all the bid documentation and get access to the instruction on the bid. 

After the bidders have reviewed the information they can go ahead and submit proposals, and those indicate both the technical and commercial aspects of the bid as well as any supporting documentation required as a result of the bid submission process. 

An Addenda process is layered on top of it, which provides change control built into our process. We’ve got extensive change capabilities so we recognize no project finishes the way it starts, and the same with the bidding process. 

The security model has been augmented to support the circumstances of the bid process. Whenever you have an online collaborative system where you have owners and vendors collaborating on the same system, the first thing owners want to make sure of is you have a secure and private system. The bid coordinator on the owner’s side could be an owner’s rep as well – a new security boundary just for bidding. The bidders can’t see the bid package, and the coordinators shouldn’t see the bids until they’ve been released and finally submitted. They keep information private between each other, and bidders shouldn’t be able to see each other’s data. 

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