Blueprints. Budgets. Contracts. Approvals. Invoices. The construction industry runs on details and documents, and builders large and small need to keep track of all of them. Once upon a time, that required file cabinets stuffed with paperwork.
Today, large contracts have gone digital, but reams of paperwork are often replaced with loads of software, as contractors use discrete applications to track finances, human capital, equipment, materials, process workflows, and engineering drawings. Customers of CMiC opt for a unified approach: A single software platform, driven by a single database, to cover an entire project—from shovel to shingle.
Formed in 1974, CMiC began by offering an on-premises software system for the construction industry using IBM System/36 with the application written in RPG—yes, that was before the PC era. Several years ago, the Toronto-based company started offering a hosted version of its software, using customer-managed servers hosted by Oracle.
More recently, CMiC launched a third choice: A software-as-a-service version running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, where CMiC manages elements such as software updates and all IT infrastructure needs.
CMiC is laser-focused on only one industry: construction. This is reflected in the background of the staff, says President and CEO Gord Rawlins, himself a 33-year veteran of the 250-employee firm.
“We start by training our staff more in the construction industry than we train them in the software,” he says. “If you don’t know the construction process, and you don’t know construction, you’re not really going to be that useful to us or our customers.”
CMiC’s customers include 27% of the top 100 contractors in the US. Now that the company offers a simpler-to-implement SaaS version of its software, it can also increasingly go after smaller contractors. Yet all have something in common, says Rawlins: “They want to grow their business.”
That means integration: “They’re going to integrate financials with project controls, with project management, billing, change management, inventory, resource planning, and scheduling. Everything should come into one system,” Rawlins says. “Often when construction companies are buying our software, they’re converting 10 to 15 to 20 different software packages, each with its own database, and they’re replacing them all with one application with a single database.”
By tearing down the silos of information, different departments like finance, purchasing, invoicing, project management, and human capital management have an overview of where things are going with a construction project, and where they might go wrong.
“If you’re not using a centralized enterprise system, information doesn’t flow up to the office very quickly,” says Rawlins. “Projects can get into a lot of trouble without managers being able to see what’s happening, and react, until it’s too late.”
The Cloud Opens Growth Opportunities
Since its early days, CMiC focused on large construction companies in the US. The CMiC software required a sophisticated team of IT professionals to manage on-premises, and that limited its appeal to the biggest builders. Launching a cloud version on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure lets it sell to small and midsize contractors.
“The cloud version is exactly the same product as the one installed on-premises, but the cloud is a multitenant system,” says Rawlins. “We can spin up a new tenant, a new customer, in minutes.”
A multitenant cloud lets each user—and each customer—run the same software, while maintaining separate data that’s isolated by strong security and privacy measures.
“We use a technology stack that allows us to put as many companies into that multitenant system as we want, so we’re prepared for that. We like our cloud platform because it makes managing the system so much easier,” says Rawlins. “Right now, we’ve got 350 customers in the cloud. They all get their upgrades at exactly the same time, so at any given time they’re all running exactly the same version of CMiC. Because we don’t have to worry about who has actually installed what, it is much easier to manage a cloud-based system.”
For years, CMiC has been using Oracle Database, initially with its on-premises products, and now, Oracle Database is central to the company’s offerings running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
Oracle’s Self-Monitoring Autonomous Database
And Rawlins is looking forward to migrating his SaaS offering to the latest Oracle Autonomous Database shortly: “An autonomous database is exactly what we want because we can’t always anticipate what’s going to be needed. We would rather have the system monitoring for security itself, and let Oracle take care of how that is done.”
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As a company based in Toronto, CMiC is planning to move some of its workloads to Oracle’s Toronto data center. Part of the reason is to reduce latency between the Oracle Cloud host and CMiC’s own servers, which are used to store offsite logs and backups, as well as perform other processing of customer traffic.
The new data center will also let CMiC head off any concerns about where data physically resides. “We are going to have the ability to put our systems in either the Toronto data center or in one of the US data centers,” says Rawlins. “We wanted to make sure there was a Canadian option for those who would prefer that their data is actually resident in Canada.”
The next stages of growth for CMiC are overseas. With the cloud version of its construction platform, geography is less of a limitation to the company’s expansion. Rawlins is eyeing deals in Singapore and Dubai as a start: “We’ve only ever really focused on selling systems in North America in the past. But we believe the world is waiting for us.”