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Project Management Service Unlocks Panama Canal Collaboration

Michael Vizard

While most people generally appreciate the pay-as-you-go nature of software-as-a-service, the more significant benefit of the SaaS model may be how quickly it allows many companies to collaborate on the same project.


That kind of collaboration capability, delivered via project management software from Aconex, is being used to enable a $3.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal that will ultimately involve hundreds of companies.


Obviously, rolling out a project management application using the internal IT infrastructure of one of the companies involved would not only take time, it creates some thorny political issues in terms of who controls the application.


Dexter Bachelder, vice president of the Americas for Aconex, says project management as a service eliminates those technical and political headaches, thereby allowing companies to start the actual project without having to wait for internal IT to roll out an application.


Bachelder said that engineering projects of this magnitude typically require project management software specifically designed to handle engineering tasks, which accounts for why Aconex was selected for the project.


In addition, Aconex isn't priced on a per-user basis like most SaaS applications. Aconex has one fee for the project that then allows an unlimited number of users to access the software. Given the fact that no one knows how many people will ultimately be involved in a large-scale project such as this, a flat-fee pricing model is a necessity, said Bachlelder.


The project that Aconex is serving involves the expansion of a new set of locks for the canal that are part of an overall project, valued at $5.25 billion, that is intended to help the canal double its shipping capacity by 2025.


The Panama Canal Authority appointed CH2M Hill of the United States as Program Manager. Grupo Unidos por el Canal ("Grupo")-a joint venture consortium of Impregilo of Italy, Sacyr Vallehermoso of Spain, Jan de Nul Group of Belgium and Constructora Urbana of Panama-was awarded the design and build contract. The design consortium, CICP, is led by MWH Global and includes participants from the U.S., Argentina, Italy and the Netherlands.


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