The big idea followed: Given the complexity of construction projects and the number of activities and participants involved, perhaps Internet technology could be used to connect those project participants and facilitate a collaborative approach to their processes. If successful, the concept promised to fix many of the problems – endless paper chase, data errors, communication lags, limited visibility – that had long plagued-construction operations. “We saw there was now an opportunity to deliver Internet- based solutions that would allow all the parties in a construction project to work together to be much more efficient than they were in the paper-based world,” recalled Allin, who is Chairman and CEO of Textura.
However, the construction industry had yet to broadly embrace technology, and many told Allin that the idea would never work, that the lack of technology used in construction was too high a barrier. In addition, the solutions that were being developed in the market tended to be single-enterprise applications, rather than collaboration solutions.
Allin, though, maintained his view that the pace of technology development, especially Internet technology, and construction’s tremendous need for modernization made its embrace of new technology inevitable. The value proposition of an Internet-based approach was simply too compelling to ignore, presenting a tremendous opportunity to develop next-level solutions that connected the many enterprises involved in construction projects.
“I like complex problems. When somebody tells me something is impossible or can’t be done, that’s when I get interested,” Allin said. “Rather than being daunted by an industry that traditionally had not focused a lot on technology, we saw it as an opportunity.”
Today, just a decade after the founders’ earliest discussions, Textura is a rapidly growing public company - recording 1,932 percent revenue growth from 2009 to 2013 - with a long and impressive client list, including some of the biggest names in construction. Textura also has gone from one solution to a suite of complementary collaboration applications that are designed to improve efficiency and productivity across the construction project lifecycle. In addition, the Deerfield, Illinois-based company recently launched operations in Europe and Australasia, with plans to expand into additional markets.
And the idea that drove Textura’s founding and made it a technology leader has positioned the company to take advantage of the continued evolution of the construction industry, according to Allin, who was recently named the 2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year for Technology in the Midwest.
“The construction space has underinvested in technology historically. And unlike Textura, technology providers typically have put little focus on creating solutions for the specific, unique needs of construction companies,” Al lin said. “But if you look 10 years ahead, technology will play an even bigger role in construction than in many other industries. It really is becoming a key differentiator in the industry,” he said.
The first problem Textura tackled was the inefficiency of the manual, paper-based payment management process, which entails a complex, multiparty series of activities related to invoicing, compliance management, the exchange of legal documents, and payment of subcontractors. Textura’s founders believed that online collaboration could dramatically automate and streamline these activities, significantly speeding up the overall process. They engaged numerous construction companies in conversations, and those meetings served as a sounding board where ideas could be vetted and refined, with the focus on developing a tool that would deliver value to all users.
This process culminated in 2006 with the launch of Textura-Construction Payment Management™, or CPM™. CPM is a complex, highly configurable solution used by hundreds of general contractors and more than 40,000 subcontractors to efficiently process payments and all the documents associated with invoicing. Responsible for a large portion of Textura’s revenue today, CPM has driven efficiency for general contractors large and small.
Key to the success of CPM is the support of subcontractors. Allin noted that Textura spent a great deal of time early on with these companies, understanding their needs while helping them understand the value of technology and a collaborative solution. In the process, subcontractors came to understand their value proposition from CPM.
It’s clear that listening to clients and prospects of all types was critical to Textura’s early success. That approach, Allin said, evolved into the company’s high-touch approach to client service, which remains a key differentiator among technology providers.
“We are not selling software and walking away; we are here to provide technology and the services that ensure our clients have a great experience using our technology,” Allin said. “We’re talking to clients every single day, listening to them, getting inside their business to truly understand their needs,” he added.
Textura’s belief in close client relationships also serves as an engine for innovation. As use of CPM increased, clients began asking Textura to develop solutions to address other inefficient construction management processes. As a result of this partnership with clients, Textura’s suite of solutions now helps transform processes across construction activities including bidding, document management, field management, and a risk management practice known as prequalification. These cloud-based solutions all leverage the power of online collaboration to significantly improve efficiency, enhance communication among project participants, and provide greater visibility into activities.
While many of Textura’s solutions help mitigate risks of various kinds, one solution, Pre-Qualification Management™, or PQM™, is designed specifically to help general contractors address critical risks arising from subcontractor performance and financial strength. PQM helps streamline the information gathering process – for general contractors and subcontractors alike – that enables the assessment of potential project partners.
We are not selling software and walking away; we are here to provide technology and the services that ensure our clients have a great experience using our technology
The kinds of data gathered by PQM and Textura’s other solutions is creating the foundation for the next stage in Textura’s evolution, Allin said.
“As companies use our solutions, we’re gathering a phenomenal amount of information – financial information, operational information, market information, vendor management info – that we can package and deliver back to our clients to help them fundamentally change and improve their business,” Allin said.
“So that’s the second step for Textura – go from an integrated set of solutions to an ability to give back information that allows our clients to stop looking at projects or relationships as one-time events and start taking advantage of data that enables a much more sophisticated view of how to run their organizations,” Allin said.
With a history of impressive growth, an evolving solution suite, a culture of innovators, and a vision for the future, Textura sees great opportunity ahead. The company’s continued investment and its position as a leader will be critical as the industry evolves and more technology providers arrive, Allin said.
“I truly believe that we are just at the cusp of some truly dramatic technology development in construction around the world,” he said.