After 12 months’ deliberation over whether to set up an online marketplace for the building industry, the backers of ConstructionNet are going with a content-only website.
Mico Wakefield finance head Mark Conelly describes the launch, planned for mid to late February, as a “soft landing” rather than a scaling back of plans to make ConstructionNet a transactional exchange.
“We’re not driving into the transaction side as quickly as we were planning to but that’s certainly the next stage. Once people are comfortable or have the budget they will move into the transactional side either individually or collectively,” he says.
Plumbing company Mico Wake-field is one of the major sponsors of the marketplace along with Carter Holt Harvey. Other partners are civil engineering suppliers Maccaferri, office supply company Boise Cascade Office Products, Protector Safety Supply and Company Health Services.
CHH’s e-commerce consultancy velocit-e is building and managing the website. Velocit-e project manager Peter Dallimore is talking to online tender supplier TenderLink and project management firm Collaborate about possibly supplying content.
Conelly describes Mico Wakefield’s equity investment as “modest”.
“We’re at a fairly low level of e-commerce participation. We’re at a transition point because we’re implementing JD Edwards and our current system is groaning. We don’t yet have the functionality to drive e-commerce initiatives. We don’t want to be leading- or bleeding-edge.”
Boise Cascade has no equity in ConstructionNet but has the experience gained through the e-commerce initiatives of its subsidiaries — Whitcoulls Office Products, Blue Star Office Products and OTC Office Products — to offer.
“One of the key things we have espoused with ConstructionNet is don’t over-engineer it, keep it simple and recognise that it’s about process improvement,” says Boise Cascade e-commerce manager Andy Burford.
Boise Cascade was attracted to the proposition because it has customers such as Mico Wakefield taking part and likes the fact that companies within the construction industry are driving it.
“ConstructionNet is lead by people within the industry rather than technology companies. It’s important to draw a differentiation between that and a marketplace. A marketplace is more like ‘here’s the technology, who’s going to use it?’ This is a modest portal development. It’s the first portal we’ve been part of although we have been involved in other talk-fests.”
W Stevenson & Sons considered joining ConstructionNet at the early stage of talks but decided to focus on its own e-commerce initiative.