The Austin, Texas-based company has announced several new large government clients this year, offering cloud software to oversee infrastructure spending from planning to completion and maintenance.
With its population and federal deficit both steadily growing, the United States is lagging on infrastructure maintenance. In its most recent “report card” assessment in 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure an overall grade of D+. The assessment found that in order to improve this grade and maintain global competitiveness, Congress and the states would have to invest $206 billion a year more than they currently do, and failure to do so could cost the U.S. GDP up to $3.9 trillion by 2025.
One of the largest software providers for capital program management, Aurigo, based in Austin, Texas, has been working behind the scenes to help governments chip away at this problem by guiding them through major projects from planning to completion and maintenance, making them more viable and less risky. And it has a lot of practice.
Founded in 2003, Aurigo launched at a time when mobile technologies like personal digital assistants and palm devices were starting to allow for the digitization of paper inspections. The company has since transitioned through various mobile-first strategies to its current cloud SaaS model, expanding from a single on-premises product, for project inspections and management, to 17 offered subscriptions.
Talking to Government Technology last week, CEO Balaji Sreenivasan called Aurigo the “best-kept secret in capital program management software,” but the scale of its business tells a different story. The company has had a busy year, contracting with the city of Houston Public Works Department in October to manage $2.7 billion in planned capital projects in 2019. The company also picked up several contracts in recent months with state departments of transportation: Nevada in February, Iowa in April and Montana in May; along with local government contracts with San Bernardino County, Calif., in July and the city of Durham, N.C., in September.
“People wouldn’t use our software to build a mall or a store, but they would use our software to build an entire state highway network, or an airport, or urban infrastructure in cities or counties,” Sreenivasan said. “Anything that’s very, very large-dollar, capital-intensive assets that are publicly funded would be delivered using our software, and we manage the entire lifecycle of that.”
Sreenivasan said the company employs close to 360 people to serve about 160 agency customers, most of which are large state departments of transportation, cities, counties or water authorities. He said Aurigo’s software has been used to plan and deliver close to $300 billion worth of capital programs to date.
The sheer logistics and regulations involved with projects of that scale are key to the company’s value proposition. Sreenivasan pointed out that regulations for reporting how money is spent, and if projects meet certain standards with respect to civil rights and minorities, have gotten increasingly stringent in recent years. Handling this without software can be a “nightmare,” he said, and doing it wrong can cause massive delays.
Sreenivasan said the breadth of what their software does also distinguishes it from competitors. He likened project management tools from Smartsheet, Procore and Microsoft Project to “very intelligent spreadsheets,” for helping contractors of small orders to collaborate and manage their tasks. But he said they won’t help a government plan and fiscally constrain a five-year capital infrastructure budget and generate reports for the governor’s office, build forecasts of when entire capital programs will get delivered, handle project-level accounting, and track whether the funding meets civil rights goals.
This is usually not feasible, Aurigo said, because data sets across different phases of construction tend to live in different silos, from planning to design to project management and maintenance. But Aurigo’s platform puts them in one place.
“The whole world is driving toward an integrated data (delivery) model, where data can flow seamlessly from one phase to the other. What we have done at Aurigo is to try and address that for almost all of the phases,” he said. “For phases that we don’t, we have (integration) hooks ... into ESRI systems, ERP systems, et cetera, so the goal is to have all of your construction data from planning through inspection in one single spot, or an integrated platform.”
This ability to interface with other systems has helped make Aurigo’s software an integral part of infrastructure planning by the city of Lincoln, Neb. But it took time to get there.
Tim Pratt, IT manager for Lincoln Transportation and Utilities, said the city had been using SiteManager, a product of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, when it made the switch to Masterworks, Aurigo's flagship product, in 2006. The city was in the middle of its biggest public works project ever, the Antelope Valley project, and Pratt said the conversion required considerable work from Aurigo, but the result has been fruitful. More recently, he said Masterworks has been able to integrate with other software his department uses such as Accela’s permitting program, an asset management program, and OnBase, an enterprise content management system by Hyland Software.
“We use that software (Masterworks) basically to manage our construction contracts … When we go to pay on these contracts, the pay estimates are generated out of Masterworks. Simply put, let’s say it’s a paving project, and you find out you need to put a water main in. It’s not going to let you pay for it, because it’s not in the project, until you do a change order,” he said. “Masterworks gives us great control on spending. Our construction observers and project managers get frustrated from time to time, but we make sure they don’t overpay.”
Pratt estimated the city spends between $120 million and $200 million a year on projects, and they track all of it through Masterworks. He said the process is a far cry from what he saw in the department in 1999, when everything was done on spreadsheets, under a dozen project managers who all had their own way of doing things.
“It’s kind of the core of what we do,” he said.
For some government customers, the catch is that Masterworks can cost as much as millions of dollars per year in software subscription fees. Aurigo aimed to address this earlier this year with a new SaaS, Essentials, that pares Masterworks down to fundamental construction management tools and a subscription price starting at $15,000. Sreenivasan doesn’t anticipate business declining any time soon.
“Infrastructure is one of the biggest growth areas in this country at this stage, regardless of what the federal government does with it,” he said. “We’re going to be building America for a while. Using technology and the latest cloud software is imperative for this country to get built the right way.”
Editor's note: A quote from Sreenivasan regarding integrations has been trimmed to correct technical language.