Masterspec - Building a business in the Cloud
Construction Information Ltd
Type: Bespoke business software (large scale)
Masterspec is New Zealand's market leader in supporting Architects, designers and Engineers with writing construction specifications. These are comprehensive documents which describe every building material that will be used in a construction project, including setting out how they will be handled and detailing how they are to be installed.
The issue of legal liability has become increasingly relevant, particularly evidenced from the 'leaky building' disasters. This makes the specification documents incredibly important as they are central to legal contracts that are intended to define trusted process which designers, councils and tradesman can all depend on.
Delivery of these support services has evolved from use of Microsoft Word templates distributed via CD to the current collection of novel and powerful tools, all delivered 100% online.
Formed in 1995, Construction Information Ltd (CIL) created and set out to provide the Masterspec specification system to Architects, Engineers, designers, utility companies, government organisations and tertiary institutions. The organisation is industry owned by the Registered Master Builders and the New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA).
In the early days there were only three people in the office, and that is where Stream initially became a strategic partner. For more than fifteen years since we've worked closely together, with Stream developing a suite of online tools that makes specification writing faster, easier and more comprehensive than ever before.
Now Masterspec boasts twenty staff and holds a very strong leadership position in the marketplace. 95% of NZ's top architectural firms use the Masterspec tool set. In numbers, this means there are over 1,400 design offices subscribing to Masterspec, representing more than 6,000 registered technical designers. More than 200 product manufacturers and suppliers have partnered with Masterspec to write 'branded' Work Sections, which are in turn offered to the design community.
This really is now an online business with all participants operating out of the cloud.
Nine editors and the technical support team use a custom built project management, content management and editing suite to maintain 900 Work Section templates, arranged to deliver seven specification libraries. Where publishes of new content used to run annually and soaked huge resource for planning and delivery, we now see publishing at a granular level on an automated monthly basis. Manufacturer partners now see their brands represented quickly, and reaction to legal changes are always disseminated in a timely fashion.
Architects also write their construction specifications fully online. There is no longer a need to manage files of well over 100 pages each within the office as the entire process is delivered as an online service. This includes access to the various libraries and Work Sections, dynamic methodologies for pulling from those libraries to create specification documents including working with powerful Q&A logic so that only relevant content is carried through. Advanced tools such as change tracking, collaboration, automated merge of new updates, direct integration with miproducts - the national product database - and much more, all combine to give an incredibly powerful system.
Building Material Suppliers
Manufacturers are also involved, delivering 'branded' Work sections that have been carefully written to give complete solutions and provide even greater levels of assurance.
The existing system design and structure has proven extremely successful. However Masterspec is committed to a path of continuous improvement, and together we are always searching out new tools and methodologies to give even better service. One major representation of this was the recent release of the revamped Masterspec website, which merged the previously separated specification writing system into a single, rationalised package.
Stream Interactive demonstrated how the streamSWEET platform can accommodate the myriad of purpose built functionality that is the Masterspec system, and in doing so achieved the following:
- Merge three previously separated websites into one.
- Dynamically give a personalised view for each of the different customer segments.
- Carry forward the core of all the novel and custom elements, layering it over a modern, powerful CMS and CRM system.
- Present all content with a fresh design which works well over all modern devices.
- Establish a platform that will support initiatives and growth into the foreseeable future.
- Have our system Modules available for ongoing use.
One of the critical factors was to ensure continuity. It may be delivered online through a website, but this is a sophisticated software system. Within the significant freshen up, we have retained the core logic and users have continued enjoying the system through a seamless transition. Since release each month continues to set records in levels of usage.
The new website has been released to the market for a couple of months now, and feedback suggests it has been well received. It has certainly brought the Masterspec brand up to the modern appeal that was needed, all the while giving a greatly improved platform to support pushing through with new initiatives.