Introducing Previz: a project management software set to transform the public sector
Reactjs, Python, Nodejs
It’s always interesting to see how our new clients find out about us. One common way people make their way to us is that they hear about our role in creating Aïdi, a popular construction project management software platform that’s gaining a lot of attention these days.
This was the case with the team at a France-based company called Soleo, who contacted us to see if we might be able to adapt Aïdi to a specific use they had in mind within the French market.
It turned out that we didn’t think Aïdi could be reworked to adequately meet their needs, and so the Previz team launched an RFP process to attempt to find a technology firm that could create what they were looking for. Ultimately, Osedea was selected to develop the Previz software as a result of that RFP process.
What we created after winning the RFP is Previz: a powerful software application that helps the companies managing construction projects in the public sector to do so in a much more controlled fashion. The Previz app is designed to optimize efficiency within companies that take on public construction projects - and help make budgets more easily forecastable.
Before Previz hit the market, there was no software solution geared towards the public construction project sector that took the data involved in cost forecasting and made it easy to use within the context of project budgets. What we set out to do when developing Previz for Soleo was to find a way to empower users to predict expenses and make price valuations for projects that often last years. The main idea was to give users a clear idea of what a project would cost, before the project begins.
This was a challenge because with projects that can last up to ten years in duration, the costs of the materials and services used in those projects can increase significantly from one year to the next. These variations are predicted and regulated by the French government, which publishes monthly indexes that determine how tradespeople and professionals involved in building projects (including plumbers, electricians, and architects) formulate quotes for their services rendered. The problem is that there is no official definition for these pricing trends. Before Previz, this made it difficult for service providers to estimate how much their work on a project would cost.
In addition, most construction management teams in the public sector were using Excel spreadsheets to manage cost changes that occur due to index evolutions. This often led to clerical errors such as duplication of information, and because everyone had their own spreadsheets they were working with, there was no centralized place to store project data.
And finally, the other problem faced by project managers who were the intended end users for the software was that they needed a way to easily monitor costs for different types of expenses and labour - e.g. architects vs. engineers. The Previz software needed to offer all these functionalities in an intuitive and streamlined manner.
In order to address the core issue of difficult-to-control budgets and costing that inspired Soleo’s vision for Previz, we built a Python engine to simulate how expenses will vary in the future, according to different parameters that the users can set. The client can run several simulations with different parameters (including price variations, the way they structure their expenses, and the planning of these expenses). Users start by feeding all the "tasks" that comprise the construction project, with amounts corresponding to each task, which creates different versions of the budget. Then users can modify date ranges for when these amounts will be spent, as well as set the spending rhythm of these expenses (more spending at the beginning, but less at the end - or the opposite).
Then we automated the data fetching of new government indexes to manage price variation within the Previz software by interfacing with an API from the French government, allowing users to calculate projected increases in prices and compare these with the forecasts in the budget. This functions in the same way that invoices help to compare the budget with the actual cost of something, giving the teams using Previz an incredibly helpful way to keep an eye on financials that would previously have been invisible to them.
Meanwhile, to address the need to be able to break down costs and invoicing by different specific categories, we added a feature to Previz that lets users tag expenses with different labels. This feature lets users see what the project is going to cost in terms of electricity, plumbing, and other factors. It also lets them break down costs by specific buildings, such as in the case of a project that involves the construction of multiple structures (such as a large hospital).
We also built the app so that it smoothly facilitates communication between all involved parties - whether they’re in the project management office or on the construction site. For example, a construction company that is awarded a contract by the French government can open up Previz and add all the contractors working on the project to the platform, giving them access only to the sections of the software that are relevant to them. Everyone involved can now view what’s happening with their portion of the project.
The end result
Today, Previz is helping to simplify the management of many public sector construction projects across France, making the previous challenge of difficult-to-forecast budgets a thing of the past.
Project detailsWeb application for Previz in 2020-2021