Blake Ratcliff, Founder & CEO
The construction industry is presently in the epoch of both great opportunities and great risk. While Oxford Economics’ Global Cities 2030 predicts that the sector will grow more than 4 percent annually, McKinsey & Company informs that the swift growth will cause construction projects to take up to 20 percent longer time to complete and bear as much as 80 percent budget overruns.
A key reason behind such estimates is construction firms’ sluggishness to adopt modern technologies that would enable them to deal with the time and space challenges of carrying out a diverse set of tasks, at multiple work sites. To this day, the construction industry extensively uses manual methods at every stage of the project management lifecycle. Whether a subcontractor is submitting payment applications or an owner of a billion-dollar infrastructure project is pushing a request for information (RFI) downstream, there exists a lengthy and slow-moving paper-based process. The challenges are elevated further when the information is not captured and shared effectively among project participants, leading to delays, legal disputes, and, most often, financial losses. In the wake of these setbacks, establishing a real-time, single source of truth across on-site contractor processes—such as inspections, problem-solving, quality control, personnel accountability and scheduling—is the key to tracking a project better and to accelerating project progress. In particular, firms need to build a system that can gather evidence of their project performance in an expeditious manner. “At IntelliSpeX, this is where our forte lies,” says Blake Ratcliff, founder and CEO of the company. IntelliSpeX disrupts the traditional paperbound project management practice and offers a unique solution that aggregates different on-site project management tasks into one system and provides a collaborative work environment to streamline the workflow and communications.
How Did it All Begin?
Having worked in nationwide construction inspection firms, Ratcliff was well-aware of the collaboration challenges that persist between owners, on-site construction contractors and subcontractors, project managers, and field inspectors. “In the traditional construction world, the usual practice involves a contractor engaging an inspector once they finish their construction job. The inspector then assesses the site and gathers data by means of handwritten notes and pictures (to validate the observation) or an inspection app. Once the site was completely reviewed, the inspector returns to the office to file his/her report, and make change orders based on the collected data,” explains Ratcliff. This illustration quite evidently reveals that there was no trace of collaborative digital tools being used in collecting or communicating the information between project stakeholders. To top it off, the manual methods of gathering information frequently led field inspectors to file reports incorrectly; “their notes and images would lose context with observed issues, putting the inspectors in trouble while formulating the right change orders, leading to substantial loss of time, effort, and money,” adds Ratcliff. Based on the firsthand experience of these problems, Ratcliff came up with an idea to build a comprehensive system that would instill more agility into a historically iterative and linear project management approach—“a system where everybody can work together at the same time,” highlights Ratcliff. The idea was to create a centralized platform that ensured many-to-many media capture and sharing, enabling multi-site coordination. As a result, IntelliSpeX was born in 2013.
While hassle-free, simple-to-use project software is intellispex’s mantra, the company effectively lives up to the expectation through its smartphone app
Today, IntelliSpeX’s capabilities are often compared with an information management system, driven by its capacity to record evidence of performance. However, what steers IntelliSpeX’s uniqueness in the market is its ability to not just document the information, but also use the site data effectively to modify the process flows, solving a long-standing challenge in the construction industry. The tool thus becomes the tip of the spear in capturing and documenting critical intelligence at the project site while also providing an agile, efficient means for management to collaborate with on-site personnel. IntelliSpeX enhances the effectiveness of Building Information Management (BIM), scheduling tools, estimating tools, and many other project management applications.
Project Management On-The-Go
While hassle-free, simple-to-use project software is IntelliSpeX’s mantra, the company effectively lives up to the expectation through its smartphone app—compatible with iOS and soon to be launched for Android devices—and management console solutions. The IntelliSpeX application allows managers, stakeholders, inspectors, and on-site staff to virtually view the construction sites and perform inspections in real time. It enables them to share and comment on site data, images, and videos, and interact with each other before and while making critical business decisions. The IntelliSpeX app also helps clients maximize resource utilization which in turn allows them to conduct more inspections and meet project deadlines faster. Through visual storyboards embedded with time-stamp and location-stamp, the solution reduces timelines for construction and improves personnel tracking, material deliveries, and subcontractor coordination.
A case in point is New York City’s (NYC) “Build It Back” Superstorm Sandy recovery program. The City was facing a challenge in meeting the construction timelines due to its time-intensive operations. “They approached us as a result, and we implemented IntelliSpeX to enable faster communication and transparent workflow among on-field construction workers,” says Ratcliff. Within the course of a year, NYC was able to process design changes quickly, get faster on-site construction information, and easily track other construction activities such as general excavation, site marking, installing utilities, and so on. As a result, they completed the construction project much before the projected timeline, almost by one year.
Establishing “Chain of Circumstances”
Ratcliff believes that IntelliSpeX’s visual storyboards have more to offer than just recording physical evidence accurately.
“By combining the information with supplementary facts, we can generate circumstantial evidence of the different tasks,” says Ratcliff. In fact, establishing circumstantial evidence of the performance is one of the striking aspects of IntelliSpeX’s project management solution. This capacity can capture process timelines, assessing, performing QC activities, and drive process feedback improving workmanship (better inspection outcomes), improved change management, and more rapid construction task performance processing claims faster and resolving issues expeditiously.
In particular, this feature had been exceptionally beneficial in helping one of IntelliSpeX’s clients investigate last year’s series of massive explosions of natural gas lines owned by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts.
The company used IntelliSpeX to create a storyboard record of the conditions of the homes, in order to build a sequence of circumstances accelerating the recovery of heat and other gas appliance services to hundreds of homes. Following the September 16 event, the program helped recover 15 percent of the damages by November 1 and 97 percent of damages, accounting for over 9,000 homes, by December 16.
IntelliSpeX: A Partner of Choice
Today, IntelliSpeX is evolving into a ‘partner of choice’ for many of the construction and disaster response firms in New York, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C., and has plans to expand its geographical footprint to other cities of the U.S. in the next 12 months. Ratcliff credits this success to IntelliSpeX’s conviction that ‘innovation is not just about value creation, but value capture.’ To this end, the company not only teaches clients how to use their tool but empowers them to capture the complete value from it. “We do not believe in a deploy-and-forget philosophy; instead we leverage our expertise to extend a counseling arm toour clients to enhance their project management approach and train them to use virtual presence technology for mobile inspection and identify additional opportunities,” reflects Ratcliff. Through the training module, IntelliSpeX guides clients on how to manage their construction tasks in coordination with on-site contractors and construction staff.
Another critical factor that justly supports IntelliSpeX’s growing footprint in the construction landscape, according to Ratcliff, is the versatility of the company’s top management team. Ratcliff mentions, “Our executive consultant, Rick Gerardi has years of experience in the energy industry. He has worked on many national projects with the department of energy, and also with some of the leading contractor services firms like MASCO Corporation. Then we have Bertrand Hassani as our CFO. Working with numerous banks and financial organizations as chief risk officer, he has immense knowledge in handling data. His expertise in data security and data integrity has been exceptionally useful to us in creating the record of performance in the construction site. Currently, he is also heavily involved in the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within the range of our solutions.”
Building a Road toward a Sustainable Future
Ratcliff strongly believes that IntelliSpeX’s powerful yet cost-effective project management offering has become their secret harpoon of success not just among big enterprises but also the small and mid-sized construction market.
"Today, intellispex is evolving into a ‘partner of choice’ for most of the construction and disaster response firms in New York, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C."
As a roadmap for the future, IntelliSpeX intends to make their project management applications more accessible and valuable to customers. The upgrades will focus on injecting more sophisticated features for improved collaboration among internal and external team members. The plans also include integrating AI and blockchain with construction data records and supporting the Spanish language in its app. At the same time, IntelliSpeX will also implement several government-level security protocols for all government programs across the U.S. over the next year. Hence, with an intention to shore up the already robust construction performance enhancing functionalities in IntelliSpeX, the company’s future course of actions are poised to usher a momentous transformation in the construction project management solution landscape.