Interviews

Following the leader

In contrast to the expansion strategies of other companies, CCS is led into new markets by clients; an organic growth strategy that has seen the company infiltrate 50 markets since 1978

If you ask CCS (Gulf) L.L.C. general manager Ian Hauptfleisch, he will explain that the premise is simple: once trained in the use of CCS’s Candy and Buildsmart software applications, clients cannot execute a project without them.

“It was Dutco, Balfour Beatty, Murray and Roberts, Habtoor Leighton and Carillion who brought the software to this region,” says Hauptfleisch.

“For us these are not conscious decisions we just follow where ever our users go,” Hauptfleisch adds.

“Our marketing strategy used to be word of mouth – clients would take the product with them to a new project in another country, it would be used there and that’s how we entered the new markets,” adds international sales manager Kevin Dick.

“It has been a growth from our users. We now have a proactive marketing strategy to market our philosophy so people can understand what we are about,” he adds, elaborating to explain the growth as “organic” and driven by the end users.

“We want to highlight the fact that our clients make more money on projects using our software. That’s actually our focus,” he says.

CCS has been operational in the UAE since 2003, when a Middle East base was established, supported by distributors in Bahrain and Lebanon, with CCS Gulf established in 2008. The CCS story began in South Africa in 1978 and today 800 contractors use the Buildsmart and Candy software programmes across 50 countries.

Hauptfleisch says the company’s expansion to India was one such example of this expansion strategy, which occurred due to a gulf manager returning to his home country and wanting to take the software back for use there.

The proactive strategy and philosophy currently practised, highlights how clients can boost profit margins on projects, with Dick saying it’s about “outcome, rather than the functions of the system”.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision, our users are extremely loyal to our product and they need those controls offered by CCS. So when they get the opportunity to work on another project in another country, they actually phone us and say ‘I want your product’. Then they reach the point when they say we have X number of licences and now we want localsupport. Which is when we move over,” Dick echoes.

While changing market conditions have also boosted the popularity of cost control – as both an IT product and a concept – the scale and scope of projects in the Middle East has also had a hand.

“There are hundreds of software programmes but you may as well use an abacus because they don’t deal with construction issues. Over the two years of a project look at how much can change, for example steel prices, productivity, accessibility, political upheaval, the supply chain,” Hauptfleisch continues.

Client focus

When Alec first implemented CCS, it was the job of Pat Cooper to ensure that everybody was trained and competent enough to switch IT programmes; CCS’s biggest client in the region, Alec was already using Candy, but Buildsmart was not yet implemented.

Not only did Cooper change the way the 18,000 employee company worked in a record six weeks, but it was Buildsmart that went on to save the contractor US$80 million, when the software flagged up a discrepancy on the quoted and actual prices of a material during the Marina Mall, Dubai, project.

“With manufacturing the budget is static, but in construction things are always changing so this changes too,” she begins.

“When we worked on Marina Mall, Emaar made constant changes to the design. One day there was talk of having a pool on the 16th floor of the hotel, the next day they didn’t want it. In the end they added two floors. You have to deal with this on a day-to-day basis and you have to have the decisions and answers while you’re running,” she continues, recalling how an order was raised and signed off by the engineer, the project manager and contract director.

When CCS flagged the discrepancy an investigation was launched, which concluded the material on the order was of a higher specification than that on the original tender.

“The client would never have refused it because it is a higher spec than they requested, but that comes straight out of the margin of that job,” Cooper says.

“Having that opportunity gave the construction company the chance to say this isn’t what was included on the original tender, so do you want it and if so it will cost you more,” she adds.

Today Cooper works directly for CCS, where she is a senior consultant, supported by Dick on the Buildsmart side and Hauptfleisch on the Candy side.

Not for me

The transparency of the programmes isn’t for everybody and while CCS senior management is against selling to anybody who “wouldn’t benefit from the philosophy”, there are certain markets that cannot be sold to at all.

“If there are things to be hidden, there are too many controls in this system for that,” says Cooper.

“The Middle East and GCC has certain issues and it’s not transparent, people do excellent estimates in Candy but won’t make it available to those on site because their secrets will be out,”  Hauptfleisch adds.

Despite these figurative brick walls, the active expansion strategy now in place identifies the next target markets as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and Oman, with India reportedly “much stronger”.

With firsthand experience of World Cup stadia projects, CCS is also positioning itself to enter Qatar, with plans for educational seminars and product demos in the short term, and further events pencilled in for the coming year in Oman and Saudi Arabia.

“We are focussing very heavily on Qatar and in South Africa, all of the stadiums for the 2010 World Cup, as well as the monorail and other infrastructure, was all managed on our software. That’s a message we are taking to Qatar at the moment,” says Dick

“Our opportunities also lie with our existing clients,” comments Hauptfleisch.

“For them, to maximise the benefit of using our product, like many things in life we find they are only using a small part of it. All the big companies want to do is focus on their core strength, which is construction. We want to be there to help them with that and that gets us into other countries.”

 

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