Planloader takes the confusion out of managing construction projects

16 Mar 2020656 Views

From left: Paddy Ryan, a Ballyboden hurling player, and Thomas Gillen. Image: Paddy Ryan

Our Start-up of the Week is Planloader, a project management application co-founded by duo Thomas Gillen and Paddy Ryan.

We spoke to Paddy Ryan, co-founder of project management platform Planloader. Prior to setting up Planloader, Ryan founded two other businesses, focusing on the construction industry.

When explaining why Planloader exists, Ryan said: “Have you ever managed or worked as part of a team that doesn’t know exactly what they are working on, who is working on what, and what the impact of delays had on the other members of the team or the end goal?

“Planloader is connecting the unconnected, with a highly visual location-based platform that enables the entire team to manage their projects in a controlled environment.”

The market

Like Ryan’s other businesses, Planloader is aimed at the construction industry, where he says the concept was born. The co-founder said that workers in this industry tend to be “extremely goal and process-driven”, and those traits are “evident in all aspects of the application”.

Aside from specifically catering to construction professionals, Ryan said that it’s also suitable for people working in healthcare, financial management, accounting and deliveries, among other verticals.

While leading Planloader, Ryan also works at the project management consultancy he set up with Gillen, which was founded to “detach themselves from large corporate companies in construction” two years ago. The consultancy, called GagaMuller, takes its name from its founders’ nicknames as children. According to Ryan, it now has more than 20 employees spread across five countries.

Ryan said: “Our business uses Planloader to manage our software sprints and to project manage our operations team. Where many might think our competition lies in the construction industry, we believe we are more closely matched to larger project management apps, such as Monday.com, Trello, Asana or Wrike.”

The technology

When asked to talk us through the technology behind Planloader, Ryan said: “It assigns accountability on tasks and jobs with automated updates, warnings, blockers and importantly, an in-built messaging application for transparent communications.

“The easy-to-use mobile application allows simple applications to update the system with this data automatically building user ratings, company success ratings, continuous professional development, while encouraging user health, safety and wellbeing.”

Ryan added: “The app’s central focus is location – so whether the project you are managing is spread across a city or it is a building with multiple floors, Planloader allows users to visualise and manage conflicts and teams in a smart pathfinder location view, taking inspiration from Uber and Waze.”

The founder said that while working on this project, he identified that a lot of technology in the construction industry is developed without any consideration of the complexities and changing environment of a construction project.

He said: “Some of the software in the industry has been academically built. Many of the existing software platforms are too complex. We have found that although we are B2B, in order to tap into that market, we need to think about the end user.

“If the software deviates in any way from how they currently do their job, if it takes any more time, it immediately becomes an obstacle. The team on the coal face are the ones who provide the data that drives the entire concept of Planloader.”

Challenges

The CEO said that it has been difficult to run two businesses between five countries, but it’s a lot easier with the help of his co-founder. With that said, Ryan added: “The job is really rewarding. Anyone who knows us, knows we are both extremely passionate about improving the industry.”

He said: “Considering the political changes that are occurring not only in Ireland, but globally, there is a big push for more affordable housing, and more sustainable solutions. We want to encourage lean thinking.

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“Better efficiency results in better productivity and less waste. We are even starting to get interest from investment companies who want more certainty on their funds for developments, as well as government boards and county councils.”

Additionally, Ryan said: “Software is tough to get right. Being perfectionists, we have probably held Planloader in-house for too long. We have been accustomed to software companies releasing apps unfinished, where we have felt like guinea pigs – but it’s funny now that the shoe is on our foot.

“When critiquing ourselves, we are now trying to allow releases of software that’s still in progress, because it really is important to get feedback from customers who might have different preferences to us.”

He said that finding time for himself is also challenging, while running a start-up and a consultancy. The CEO said: “We have both made an effort to try and start playing hurling again this year, but it’s already proving difficult to maintain.

“We have been sponsoring local hurling teams and events such as cycling for the likes of cystic fibrosis, as we always feel it’s important to contribute where we can. It’s also a bit of fun and keeps us somewhat involved in something other than work!”

Looking ahead

Ryan said that the ultimate goal of Planloader is to create a more sustainable and more productive industry, with better informed schedules and more cost certainty on projects.

He said: “Where over 80pc of projects are running over schedule and budget, with some high profile projects making the news for all of the wrong reasons, we want to ensure that future projects are run more efficiently.

“Our vision for Planloader, and within the GagaMuller Group, is accelerated by a real passion to be seen as bold and to be seen as changing the industry. The construction industry is ageing at an alarming rate and it’s not exactly every student’s top choice on their CAO applications.”

The founder said that he wants to develop a culture and working environment that can attract students and younger people, who will be able to contribute to the innovation that the construction industry needs in order to become more sustainable and efficient.

He said: “We aim with Planloader, to scale it globally over the next five years. But it doesn’t stop there. We have already started designs for another spin-out R&D solution, which has closer ties to hardware, wearable technology and a communication network.

“Combined with this, we want Planloader to become the core software for data analytics and machine learning within the construction industry.”

The founder said that investment isn’t a huge priority at the moment, as costs have been covered by the GagaMuller Group’s revenue. The GagaMuller Group has also opened Planloader up to a large network within the construction industry.

Ryan said: “When we first set this up, we thought there was something wrong with us when everybody started asking us about how much we had raised! I think if you can bootstrap, you should do it for as long as possible.

“In saying that, strategically, it will make sense to eventually consider the options of investment in order to enable growth. The right investors would reduce the risk of failure, but it’s nice to be in a position where the ball is in our court when it comes to choosing our next move and whom we want to partner with.”

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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