We’re over budget and behind schedule” is news that can make the owners of commercial space grit their teeth and clench their fists. Helping them to avoid it is the job of Oakland, California-based ViaNovus. The company’s premier product, the Paragon Project Management System, helps its customers manage costs and minimize risks by tracking and reporting on a project from planning to construction.
The company’s project-management software also helps to bridge the communications gap between contractors and owners, says Darrell Garrett, vice president of technology and the chief developer of Paragon: “Contractors and owners speak a different language. Our software is written from an owner’s perspective, because that’s who controls the money and assumes the risk.” Garrett has 10 years of developing applications and managing projects under his virtual hard hat.
While working for construction-management companies, Garrett noticed that large projects were very complex and paper-intensive. “There were a lot of details that needed to be managed, but there wasn’t a piece of software that could facilitate that process,” he explains. So he developed one “to help owners analyze data and identify problems early on, so that they can keep their projects under budget and on time.”
In 1993, he launched Paragon Co. His vision was to create a commercially viable off-the-shelf product. This was a slight variation on Garrett’s childhood dream of building things himself. To that end, he studied architecture as an undergrad at UCLA and civil engineering in grad school at San Jose State. But by the time he landed his first job, he had moved away from physical construction toward writing computer applications.
Paragon’s users have paid anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 for the software (which runs on Windows 95 or NT), training and implementation services. It is currently being used in construction projects worth more than $50 billion. Clients include the San Francisco International Airport and the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee.
“The biggest challenge to starting the company was finding talented people, funding and trying to keep ahead of the competition,” says Garrett. In keeping with its software’s new way of managing projects, the 27-employee firm changed its name to ViaNovus (or “new way” in Latin); launched a new Website (www.vianovus.com); and secured about $5.2 million in new venture funding.
Paragon is most comparable to contract-management software programs such as Primavera’s Expedition and Meridian’s Prologue. A key difference is that Paragon offers financial and program management capabilities for multiple projects and contracts. It can track funds from original sources-whether a bond measure, private funds or public monies-and address such issues as budgeting and allocating funds from one project to another.
A major selling point is the concept of project intelligence. Paragon gives owners a snapshot of a project’s status by integrating information from daily reports, weekly statements, field memos, orders and payments, among other items. In order to make an intelligent decision, owners must have as much data as possible at their fingertips, says ViaNovus president and CEO Schone Malliet, who came on board in 1998.
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