Fieldwire takes task management to the jobsite

Fieldwire Takes Task Management To The Jobsite

by JONATHAN BARNES, for BuiltWorlds | Oct 22, 2015

Initially conceived by a grad student at Stanford University, Fieldwire, a new project management software designed specifically for the field, already is giving competitors a run for their money. 

Frinault (left) and Singha saw opportunity in the field.

Frinault (left) and Singha saw opportunity in the field.

Launched in January 2013 by co-founders Yves Frinault and Javed Singha, San Francisco-based Fieldwire draws its name from that software. Meant to enable workers in the field to complete tasks more easily and fluidly, the firm already boasts more than 1,000 clients worldwide. Customers range from larger general contractors to smaller specialty contractors, though the firm has performed little marketing. To date, its publicity efforts have involved only search engine optimization (SEO) and word of mouth. Now, it is available as an app for iPhones and Android.

The software arose from its founders' frustration with the selective manner in which the AEC industry deployed field technology. Their idea was to use Fieldwire to move the technology from the most senior level people on a project to those managers at the jobsite. To do so, they created an app that addresses day to day tasks like scheduling different trades onsite and simplifying the inspection process. 

While some project management software that has been around awhile has morphed into mobile technology, Fieldwire from the start was developed with mobility in mind. As a result, it is designed to provide users with a superior task-management platform. Its most useful functions including tracking and tasking solutions that incorporate plan-viewing, mark-ups and progress photos. One key conceptual goal? To digitalize the foreman’s meeting. 

“We’re trying to bring the daily planning session into Fieldwire,” explains Singha, a graduate of Cornell and MIT, where he specialized in supply chain management. “The goal is to get all the decision-makers to schedule their next three weeks of work on a project through our software.”

The company’s emergence in the market also has involved fortuitous timing.

“We came in at a time when even the journeymen have mobile devices in their pocket,” notes Singha. “That prompted us to design the product for the foreman, rather than for the engineer or the architect.”

That emphasis was important to Frinault, a 2008 Stanford grad who hails from a family of builders in his native France. “We are strongest in reporting field issues,” he says, noting that those issues include RFIs, improper installation of building components and any sort conflict between specs and drawings.  

“We’re adding value to the foreman’s and superintendent’s jobs, by giving them a task management platform that’s a better option,” adds Frinault. “You can hand someone our app and it takes almost no training. They can open it and see what they are doing that day. We designed something that’s about as difficult to use as sending a text.”

We’re adding value to the foreman’s and the superintendent’s jobs... It takes almost no training. We designed something that’s about as difficult to use as sending a text.
— Yves Frinault, CEO, Fieldwire

Unlike many other construction technology solutions, Fieldwire provides a free tier for entry-level users, meaning enterprises with fewer than 15 employees on a given project. But the software is best suited for GCs and specialty firms with annual revenues from $25-$100 million, says Frinault. 

Why? Because Fieldwire is solving a scale problem. “Revenue correlates strongly with the amount of scale with which contractors are dealing,” Singha explains, adding that the product so far has found success with “virtually every-size company under the sun – from small companies to huge ones." 

on a global scale

Core clients include commercial contractors spanning the globe, the majority in the U.S. and Canada, with others in Denmark, New Zealand, Australia and France. Regardless of the geography, one industry-wide problem that Fieldwire currently is seeking to resolve is what Frinault terms the “scalability” of construction technology solutions.

“Everything works fine when dealing with small-sized groups,” he says. “When attempting to share construction-related information with many decision-makers, very few solutions actually work well. The key is to provide solutions that work, regardless of scale.”

With that in mind, Frinault and Singha believe their software's focus on key leaders on job sites is what distinguishes it in the project management field. “It really comes down to task management,” says Singha. “We allow users to record, track and store data like photos, markups, comments and attachments very easily. We also provide a platform that (displays) information in real time.” 

While others also provide such timely information, Fieldwire takes an extra step and synchronizes information automatically. So, any time a task is created, it is shared automatically, adds Singha.

Industry experts say the approach could be a winner. 

“If you put what the guy in the field wants first, rather than the guy in the office, it is unique,” says Carol Hagen, a Phoenix-based construction technology consultant. “I’d like to see an app with six to 12 buttons, tops.” 

What an app really should do is simplify and post what’s most important. “Countless buttons [on an app] take days of training," notes Singha. "That’s not good for the foreman who’s focusing on getting things done… (So) we keep Fieldwire simple to use."

Field testimonial

One client, Atlanta-based Shimizu North America, is saving about 10 hours per week completing tasks much faster than originally scheduled. Those tasks include recording information to generate reports, creating checklists, and structuring info automatically into an easily exportable format.

Manuel Rosas, Shimizu's design and IT manager, and an architect by training, had been seeking an app suitable for creating and tracking punch lists. Fieldwire emerged as a perfect fit. It "was very easy to deploy... and took just an hour to train our staff," recalls Rosas. "We are now using it on 14 projects.”

In fact, Rosas says Shimizu management was amazed by how quickly their employees learned the app, and the amount of money the firm has saved by adopting it. Management has saved both time and money in reduced employee hours formerly spent walking the site to inspect and gather information for a written report. Employees save time by not having to do re-work caused by outdated documents. 

Quips Rosas, “I definitely would recommend it to others, as long as they're not my competitors.”

Based in Pittsburgh, the author is a freelance business journalist who writes about construction technology for BuiltWorlds. A former construction worker, himself, Barnes has worked as a reporter for years, writing stories for ENR, Reuters, Fortune, and other publications. 

He can be reached via email at pittsburghreporter@yahoo.comFollow him on twitter at @Barnestormin.

Google+ Google+