Week of February 7, 2000
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

I-Scraper Takes Project Management to the Net

Here's another online idea whose time has come: managing construction projects through the Internet. Founded in 1998 in Israel, New York-headquartered i-scraper.com gives all the members of a project construction team real-time linkages for managing, coordinating and collaborating.

Putting that complicated process on the Net offers a wealth of opportunities. Consider, for example, the supremely fragmented nature in which this "normal" project management scenario plays out:

A real estate developer in London requests updated plans from his project's architectural firm in New York. The architect prints the plans and sends them by overnight courier to the London developer and to the contractor in Los Angeles.

The developer and contractor then redline their comments on the blueprints and send them back to the architect in New York, with neither one of them knowing what the other has written or when their versions might arrive. The architect's secretary then places a dozen calls around the globe to schedule a conference call so they can discuss the changes together with their industrial engineering consultant.

Ten long days pass after the plans are sent before the three players at long last confer by phone with the engineer about the necessary changes.

Then, of course, the whole process starts over for the next iteration.

Are we having fun yet? No, no, we aren't. The process above is uncoordinated, messy and as monstrous a time eater as turning loose Marlon Brando at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Site Facilitates Round-the-Clock Coordination

Through its use of the Internet, though, i-scraper circumvents a lot of those problems.

Team members coordinate their efforts through a password-protected system. Players can all collaborate at once in real time, or they can communicate with other players whenever their schedules allow in the 24 hours of the day.

And, obviously, it doesn't really matter if the team members are all in the same building or if each of them is on a different continent (not an unlikely scenario given a business world that now makes "no fixed address" something of a lifestyle definition).

Let's look hypothetically at what a difference it would make to be working on the same project described above - only this time through the Internet:

The New York architect would simply upload the latest plans to the i-scraper.com web-based project center, and then check off the names of the London developer and Los Angeles contractor on his distribution list. The project center then automatically notifies the contractor and developer by e-mail that the plans are available for viewing online.

The developer then redlines the plans and sends them out instantly - and not only back to the architect, but also to the contractor, the industrial engineering consultant and the interior designer. The developer also requests a conference call for among everyone on his distribution list.

The site's scheduling program then facilitates setting up that conference call within 48 hours.

From there, the contractor sends the redlined plans to the builder at the construction site, who with a click sends them to the local print shop.

Okay, it's not the paperless office (about as likely as the proverbial paperless bathroom, we'd say), but it's a major step up.

Is i-scraper.com going to be the ultimate Web-based answer for this sort of online project coordination? The market will determine that. For certain, though, someone is going to move this site's linchpin idea into the project management market in a big, big way.

A privately held company, i-scraper.com is backed by global venture capital partners APAX Partners and ISP Corp. The company has offices in Chicago; Frankfurt; Houston; Haifa, Israel; Istanbul; Los Angeles; London and San Francisco.

Among its other investors are Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, Netscape wunderkind Marc Andreeson and Japan's Softbank (not bad Net company to have).

4 Percent Savings?

Thus far, i-scraper seems to have enjoyed its greatest success in the British market, where its clientele includes pharmacy giant Boots, Chartwell Land, a leading London-based retail property developer, and Chelsfield plc, developers of Merry Hill, one of England's largest shopping and hotel complexes. But expect the idea to spread. Consider that i-scraper says that it has documented savings of 4 percent on its clients' projects. Now consider that some of today's major location projects run into the billions of dollars.

In short, we're talking about a huge chunk of cash here. Or, as Everett Dirksen, the late bosso profundo of the U.S. Senate, once drolly observed at a budget-cutting session, "A million dollars here, a million there. The next thing you know, you're talking about real money."



©2000 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.