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The Associated General Contractors of America is really confident in its agcXML deveopment standard. The group has invested heavily in it and kicked off both days of its IT Forum Conference in Chicago with presentations on the standard.
Thursday saw the announcement of the Construction Open Software Alliance, a group that endorses agcXML as its standard of choice to achieve its goal of increasing interoperability between construction software applications. All of this despite the fact that agcXML has largely been stagnant since it was released in 2007. In fact it’s seen no further development since then and still sits at version 0.6.
That should change in a big way soon and on Friday, conference attendees were treated to an update on how current development of agcXML is going from Christian Berger of Burger consulting.
“Right now IT managers are doing what we call point-to-point integration,” Burger said describing that as a method of manually mapping data from one application to another in order to transfer data between the two. “In the world of XML, as we move forward, you won’t have to do that.”
The original push behind agcXML, and it’s still a big component, is to make these software applications less of a hassle so more contractors will move away from transferring data through paper and Excel spreadsheets.
Burger said the team behind agcXML is working on standardized “schema” that software developers can build into their applications that would allow those applications to easily tranfer data to others. He gave the example of timecards saying there would be a schema for employee name or ID number, hours and so forth.
“We’re just deciding on the schema and after that’s done, all the publishers in the community can write their programs that deliver timecards with that same standard,” Burger said. “We’re essentially reducing the cost of maintaining integration.”
Burger said agcXML hopes to have 20 viable schema built by the end of this year.
“My hope is that as that happens the vendor community will start demanding that it happen more quickly,” he said. “That ability to tag data and build integration with those tags could be on par with (Building Information Modeling) in terms of disruption. XML is going to be one of the most disruptive technolgoies in the next five years. It will change the way devleopers build software and it will change the way we interact with other systems.”
“It gives developers choice,” Burger said of what agcXML calls “best of breed” choice. The basic idea behind best of breed is software with different methods or implementations of a common idea which are built on top of the agcXML standard design language. That way, contractor IT departments only have to choose which design and implmentation of the task at hand they prefer.