How open APIs are impacting the Construction Industry?
APIs are incredibly powerful tools that enable anyone to extend, improve, and integrate existing software in ways that the developer might not have even imagined. If software developers don’t provide an API, end users have to wait for official first-party support for any new features. By providing extensibility for others to leverage, it opens up freedom for people outside of the software company to add features and functionality on their own. End users stand to benefit the most from APIs, but it’s the integration partners (or internal development teams for larger organizations) who truly have to seize the opportunity to leverage APIs to their full potential.
Digitization doesn’t just mean using a computing device instead of pen and paper. It hinges upon integrating components together to make tasks easier and more seamless. In construction, where a typical workflow includes estimating software, planning software, and takeoff software, each component should be able to share information back and forth without any extra steps from the end user. This level of integration is made possible through an API. It allows two best-of-breed pieces of software to be combined to become something much more capable than what they were individually.
Explore all integrations and apps Sigma can connect to – here.
Shouldn’t One Solution Fulfill All Needs?
People will often try to look for a single solution that has all the features needed to run an entire business. In the end, they will inevitably find out that several different pieces of software are needed. Why? Because best-of-breed software is very good at completing a single focused task. The answer to working digitally in a seamless manner isn’t going to be found in a one-stop, monolithic piece of software. Instead, it comes from melding several discrete components together through open APIs.
It would be technically possible to add scheduling, accounting, or other such features to software like Sigma. However, we would need to carefully consider whether or not we were focusing on our core strength. End users already rely on software like Microsoft Project for planning, so it would make much more sense to provide an API that allows users to take advantage of the tools that they already use. Software that tries to be a one-stop solution may be good at doing some tasks, but it will always have other areas that are hard to use and cumbersome. Portions of the user interface will inevitably be found lacking because not enough people focused on it or the developer simply didn’t understand the workflow.
Real World Examples of API Use
For many smaller contractors and subcontractors, invoicing is time-consuming. People often decide to postpone the invoice as a result, which impedes normal cash flow. Estimating software (like Sigma) provides an open API for direct integration with accounting software. Which means, users can transfer information directly from the estimate into the accounting software, and the invoice can be created automatically. This kind of integration saves time, prevents errors, and most importantly, eliminates cash flow issues.
2D takeoff software like PlanSwift is very popular for performing takeoff using digital plans. Quantities like windows, doors, or floor areas can be brought into the estimate using integration with estimating software like Sigma. Once a user changes a quantity in PlanSwift, the change will be reflected immediately in Sigma, thanks to an integration that was made using the open API.
The structures and quantities in 3D models are an excellent source of information for estimating software. Software like Autodesk Revit has directly integrated into Sigma for many years. With cloud-based solutions including Forge and Autodesk 360 Cloud Storage, multiple end users can now work collaboratively on different computers at the same time without having to know anything about the software another person is using. For example, an architect might work with a 3D model using Forge. On another computer, an estimator might be using Sigma to get all the quantities and structures from that model in the cloud.
APIs Encourage an App Ecosystem
After Apple introduced the iPhone, they provided an API which made it possible for developers to create their own apps. Any end user can open the App Store to find millions of iPhone apps with nearly endless capabilities without ever having to know how they were made (or that they even relied upon an API in the first place). When shopping for a smartphone today, it would be easy to take the ability to install apps for granted. Practically nobody would even consider buying a smartphone if it could gain no new capabilities for its entire useful life. In a similar respect, it wouldn’t be wise to consider buying a piece of software if it didn’t have an open API.
One of the reasons why the construction industry is the least digital industry in the world is because APIs haven’t been widely discussed as a necessary consideration. Fortunately, many developers in the industry are beginning to introduce open APIs. In fact, practically all construction software created within the last few years include an API. Sigma has launched an App Store as a place for end users to find useful integrations that leverage our open API. If users already work with other software (like PlanSwift, for instance), a one-click install will bring direct integration with Sigma.
Until recently, some construction companies tried to develop internal experts who were skilled in using several different kinds of software for both modeling and estimating. This kind of approach simply isn’t scalable in the long term. Construction companies must instead allow people to excel at their core strength (e.g., Revit and Sigma) and then leverage the digital workplace to coordinate and bring us all together.
Sigma is the best-of-breed estimating tool with an open API to make it possible for you to connect with all the best tools out there to plan, estimate and control all construction projects. We believe that the estimator should have a tool that supports his practical tasks to make a complete estimate faster, acute, with control of margins, while at the same time generating data to foster better collaboration when driving a construction project.