Announced enhancements to a cloud-based project management service and its growing integration with external products holds promise for an easy exchange of construction data between independent products within the system, say contractors and third-party app vendors who attended a software users conference in Austin, Texas, in March.

At its “Groundbreak” users conference, Procore Technologies described enhancements to its project management system, which it now calls Construction OS. The firm describes the system as a cohesive platform that connects people, applications and devices. Enhancements add financial management, quality-assurance and safety tools to the existing project management system and lets users integrate many third-party applications within the platform.

One of the hallmarks of Procore’s growing stature in the industry is its support for third-party applications, facilitated through the company’s open application programming interface (API) and its App Marketplace.

The App Marketplace is a library of about 100 non-Procore apps already engineered for easy integration with Procore for data exchange within its system, even though some of the products compete with Procore’s native features. Many users and third-party vendors exhibiting at the conference expressed approval, although several noted it still is a work in progress.

“The Construction OS will be interesting,” says Susan Eacott Comer, executive project manager at Bloomfield, Conn.-based contractor Bartlett Brainard Eacott. Comer says BBE has used Procore for five years. She is “amazed” at how fast it has developed into “a user-friendly system that already handles pretty much everything we need.” She predicts that the OS will be impressive “if it’s like anything else [Procore has] tackled.” The link with the third-party apps, though, “is going to take time before they are truly integrated,” she says.

Comer adds, “Another issue is that Procore is changing so fast ... keeping everything in sync will be an issue. I came away with the thought that our company really needs to take a hard look at what technology is now available and decide what we want to invest in. We don’t need bells and whistles. [We need] simple tools to manage our jobs that our employees can actually learn to use.”

Shane Scranton, CEO and cofounder of one of those third-party apps, IrisVR, says he thinks the app marketplace represents a “significant step forward” for interoperability in AEC. “The construction industry doesn’t want disparate software offerings that are incompatible with each other,” Scranton says. “It’s the responsibility of software leaders to create technology that is compatible with other offerings and can produce centralized coordination and project management workflows for the end user.”

Doug Chambers, CEO of Fieldlens, another app in the library, says the marketplace is a good first step toward helping the industry to get data flowing between silos. He predicts that the marketplace will thrive “if it is truly a platform for discovery of new solutions, coupled with ease of deployment for the project team. We are excited to see where it goes,” he says.

Frank Malangone, a vice president at another outside app vendor, Chain SYS Corp., adds, “A thriving partner community lets Procore focus on the buildout of its strategic capability”—such as Construction OS—and lets the partners provide complementary tools.

Chambers makes a comparison, noting, “Why do we all love our iPhones? Because Apple made it incredibly easy to enjoy the benefits of third-party apps. They didn’t try to solve every consumer’s problems. Instead, they provided a platform for innovation.”