Premises: There's a Place for Us...
Jerry Laiserin

Unlike computer-aided design, or CAD, which is useful mainly in managing project data during the first 2%-to-5% of a constructed asset's lifecycle, computer-aided facility management, or CAFM, handles the other 95%-to-98%. One effective approach toWeb-enabling CAFM, unsurprisingly espoused by all the leading pre-Web CAFM vendors, is to port existing desktop CAFM software to a browser interface. But, what if you launched a CAFM company and service after the Webolution was already in full swing? The result might look a lot like Centerstone's e-Center One.

The components of a workable CAFM system are well known—spanning everything from space planning functions, CAD floor plans, and leasing management to maintenance work orders, asset management, and collaborative project management. All the pieces are readily available as point solutions (single-function software tools) or as parts of integrated suites of CAFM tools. The diversity and complexity of these tools or suites has made the task of web-enabling them time-consuming and occasionally cumbersome for their vendors. However, software that is developed from scratch to run on the web can take advantage of programming techniques that are independent of "backward compatibility" (the need to make new versions and formats work with older versions and formats).

As in any other kind of design, software design involves tradeoffs. What Centerstone lacks in corporate history or an installed base of pre-Internet clients, it makes up for in purely web-based agility. Centerstone describes its e-Center One application as "workplace management," which it provides as a hosted service over the Internet. This application service provider (ASP) model offers the advantages of low up-front cost (the software is effectively rented as a service) and rapid deployment (no in-house servers to configure) and so on. In the past, many businesses were reluctant to have data for functions such as facilities stored or managed off-site. More recent concerns about building security tip the scales the other way—facility data is now perceived as one of the most critical business functions to store away from the facility.

The dot-com investment bubble soured many managers on Internet-based services, but it was the startup companies and their overly optimistic business plans that were flawed, not the underlying technologies. Centerstone is among a new cohort of companies enjoying what some analysts call "second-mover advantage." Unlike the few Amazon-esque "first mover" successes, second movers have the benefit of learning from the mistakes of failed would-be first movers. Based in Westwood, Massachusetts, Centerstone is winning significant ASP-CAFM accounts nationwide, especially among tech-savvy companies in high-tech businesses (Genuity, PeopleSoft, PIXAR Animation, and SilverStream Software are just a few of the marquee names).

Any facility manager seeking a fully web-enabled workplace management system will want to take a serious look at Centerstone's e-Center One.

< back