Bob Morgan, CEO
"It is supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great.” The goal of deliberate practice is to make things possible that were not possible before. It takes a long time, and it is hard. Bob Morgan, CEO of Quest Construction Data Network (QuestCDN) has been working with this philosophy from the day in the 90s when the plan to eradicate the challenges that haunt the construction bidding arena with digital communication struck his mind. The thought of doing away with the vast amounts of paperwork required for preparing and releasing construction documents, selecting contractors and placing a bid on a project drove him. As time passed by, Morgan and his team automated bidding communication and intertwined all the undergirding processes into a single system.
“We were among the first to find a way of removing the manual nature of the public bid and establish a digital, automated solution to make processes more efficient and effective,” asserts Morgan. After years of brainstorming sessions and many functional iterations QuestCDN was launched to manage public bid projects collaboratively in partership with the architectural engineering, and construction (AEC) community. This partnership has saved the AEC community the enormous cost of building their own digital system and paves the way for value-added customer services. The company has been providing their innovative online bid management software platform for 18 years, helping cities, counties, state agencies, architectural and engineering firms simplify and improve their bid process eliminating the cost of a manual, time consuming and less efficient bidding process.
Accessible as a modern day software platform, this Software-as-a- Service (SaaS) solution maximizes efficiency and communication, offering clients a simple software application that automates bid communication and delivers documents and other bidding information in a digital format via the internet. To name a few of their 2000+ partners are the Departments of Transportation in states such as Idaho, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Nevada, the State Admin of Oklahoma; Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and the Metropolitan Council in Saint Paul have benefited from the online solution provided by the firm.
Minneapolis, Denver, Green Bay, Reno, Dayton, Overland Park, Fargo, and Omaha are also amongst a growing number of cities and counties that rely on Quest’s software to achieve their best bids at the lowest cost to all bidding participants.
Though such automated tools are today widely adopted by project owners, solicitors and prime bidders now, the acceptance was not as extensive at the time QuestCDN was founded. However, Morgan managed to keep the company upright. He waited for the construction industry to develop a level of confidence and competency to accept a solution that would eliminate cumbersome procedures. “These digital ways have enabled us to automate and perfect communication and serve as an information channel between owners, solicitors, and bidders, making operations quicker and less expensive,” remarks Morgan.
The firm does not lock its clients into a long-term contract but ensures a strong partnership that is initiated with the creation of an account on the bid management portal. Thereafter, an engagement and training process is conducted for clients. Instructions are also given about ‘Quest Custom Private Interface’ where a website link is created for Quest partners that enables bidders to access the partner’s project bidding information from their own website. This link can be provided to the project owner as well, establishing three distinct entry portals to access the bid information and functionality. When bid documents are uploaded by a plan provider (owner or a solicitor), all other bid information is delivered automatically by the system including addenda, planholder information, Q&A and bid results. Potential bidders may sign-up for automatic bid notifications as well. Bidders then open the template consisting of the complete information of a project bid. They download the information provided and enter that project’s communication channel. The uniqueness of the firm’s functionality lies in its user-friendly, intuitive, and uncomplicated process. The free ‘basic’ membership plan provided by QuestCDN enables a ‘view only’ mode for all bid documents and ads. Therefore, if the bidders find the project relevant, they can download the initial bid documents at a nominal cost. Also, the comprehensive bid management functionality created by the firm enables contractors and bidders to submit their bids online from the comfort and effectiveness of their office.
Four years ago, QuestCDN provided bid management services on one of its most significant projects in the Twin Cities, a light rail system connecting the University of Minnesota and the State Capital. This $227 million project had a bid package of over 10,000 pages of specifications and over 3000 pages of initial drawings, 13 extensive addenda and 173 planholders. The software tools provided by QuestCDN provided the owner savings approaching $1.5 million as the cost of reprographics and delivery was replaced by Quest’s all-digital system. Quest presently has a project with an estimated value of over $1 billion.
Having always looked at different scenarios and providing options for their clients, the firm has around 2000 client accounts today and handles 30,000- 35,000 projects a year. QuestCDN has been successful in achieving these numbers because their process ensures the best bids at the lowest possible costs to the project owners, the solicitors, prime bidders, subcontractors and material suppliers. “The success of a business is not always about having just a good idea; it is sometimes about being in the right place at the right time, with the right people and the right business model. It is also about having enough capital so that it can run until the business develops traction and scales up appropriately and that is how we have managed to stand where we are today,” says Morgan.
"Quest pioneered the collaborative business model where the owner and his soliciting agent may utilize the power and communication effectiveness at no cost. The economical costs are borne by the bid participants"
In the near future, the company is looking forward to adding additional value such as enabling engineers to report the progress of work and ensuring there is a management functionality of the construction build process after the project is bid. It is also working on its mobile application so that people can use their site and bid from anywhere via their tablets or smartphones. Most significantly, the firm’s goal is to bring about behavioral change with regards to online bidding and maximize its revenues with these mutually beneficial partnerships. “If you ever talk to any of our partners, probably the first thing you will hear from them is that Quest Construction Data Network has been responsive to all their needs,” concludes Morgan. QuestCDN is among those that are moving the needle towards the implementation and adoption of online bidding, keeping up with their key strategies to offer functional differentiation in comparison to competitor offerings.