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SME Webinar | Web based engineering apps are the future

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Small businesses could soon move away from buying licences to run software and instead use the technology as web-based apps on a project-by-project basis in a bid to avoid up-front technology costs.

SMEs need to take advantage of changing technology and IT systems to get ahead, industry experts have said in New Civil Engineer’s first webinar.  

Causeway head of infrastructure design, Barry Blake, said that engineering software such as the programmes used for drainage design, vehicle path analysis and alignment design could all move online as web apps, as technology improves and demand changes.  

“We will be heading there [web-based apps],” he said during the webinar. “Traditionally you haven’t been able to do this due to limits in computer processing power.”  

Other software products are also adopting a similar model, with word (Do you mean Microsoft Word?) and number processing programmes increasing moving to web-based functionality - which carries the benefits of cloud storage and real time co-operation on the same task.  

The change is being driven in engineering by smaller firms who want a different way to purchase software Blake added, with many companies already making a move away from expensive up-front licences and maintenance payments for software towards yearly-subscription pricing models 

“We are going to see this change really because more people want to rent software on short-term basis,” Blake said.  

“This also does away with the need to distribute software updates across companies,” he added, a major benefit to larger and top tier companies where such IT roll outs can be incredibly time consuming.  

“But it has got to work and got to be functional, and for that reason I think this change is couple of years away, but maybe sooner.”  

The ability to rent specific software for specific contracts would enable SMEs to avoid a huge volume of potential start-up costs, where software can cost in the tens of thousands to purchase on traditional licence.  

“This is an exciting time for SME’s,” said Vickers, “their size and structure means they are very flexible, but the question SMEs need to ask themselves is how to best integrate both off-the-shelf and bespoke technology into their business.”  

In the first of New Civil Engineer’s series of live webinars, New Civil Engineer editor Mark Hansford was joined by Residential & Commercial Engineering managing director Graham Jones, Association for Consultancy and Engineering chief executive Hannah Vickers, Causeway head of infrastructure design Barry Blake and Abley Letchford Partnership director Leigh Abley. 

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