A month ago in downtown Austin, Texas, we hosted our Annual SmartBid User Conference July 10th-12th. It was filled with training, networking and lots of fun. Attendees received tools to optimize our online invitation to bid software, SmartBid, and improve their bidding experience. If you missed it, check out #SBNUC2016 on social media to get the full experience as well as some pretty awesome selfies.
We hosted a couple hundred SmartBid users, along with five of our key partner companies. Partners had the opportunity to sponsor the event and share how their products integrate with or complement our SmartBid software. Our partners included: Construction Financial Management Association, Stack Construction Technologies, Virtual Planroom Network, Plans4Less and Citrix ShareFile.
Most SmartBid users arrived in Austin on Sunday, July 10th for the conference opening reception. This tailgate inspired, sports themed reception was hosted by Stack Construction Technologies and was a great way to get to know everyone and their sports team loyalties. At this opening reception there was multiple corn hole games, ping pong and a giant jenga game going on at all times. We also had the JBK Tech Space up and running for attendees to learn about our JBKLabs R&D projects and try out virtual reality, wearable devices like Hololens, 3D printing, Google Cardboard and more emerging technology for construction. We asked attendees to represent their hometown sports team by wearing their favorite team’s gear. Unsurprisingly, the night also presented many opportunities for photo booth shenanigans.
On Monday, July 11th, our CEO James Benham opened the conference with a keynote session discussing what we’ve been up to with the SmartBid product over the last year and where we plan to take it over the next year. To no one’s surprise, James captivated the room and got everyone pumped up for the conference. He discussed how our products like SmartBid have advanced to fit into the mix of innovative construction technology solutions, and how we’re working to keep the pace. The remainder of the day was filled educational sessions. We had up to three sessions running at a time and attendees were given the option to choose between beginner, advanced, or “other” sessions relating to emerging construction tech.
Throughout the day our presenters, ranging from support agents to strategy directors to business development managers, covered the following topics:
- BID PROJECTS: BACK TO BASICS – Walking through each tab of the SmartBid bid project management features, from setting up a project to sending invitations and monitoring responses.
- SMARTINSIGHT: THE MATCH.COM FOR FINDING SUBS – For users who want to learn how to tap into SmartInsight, as well as our Public Agency Database to find, import and connect with subs in the areas and trades you need.
- BADA BID, BADA BIM – Learn how to optimize your preconstruction process and SmartBid to collaborate on BIM files, coordinate estimating and streamline data in your online plan room.
- BID PROJECTS: BEYOND THE BASICS – covers managing security roles, public projects, confidentiality agreements, changing the views for Bid Day, bulk updating and much more.
- CERTIFICATIONS: MORE THAN JUST A GOLD STAR – covers how certifications can be customized to filter and empower your database of subcontractors and, ultimately, your bid projects and also how to tap into our Public Agency Database to find more subcontractors that fit the certifications you’re seeking.
- JBKLABS: MAKING THE CASE FOR TECH R&D – Learn what our R&D department, JBK Labs, is up to with iBeacons, drones, VR headsets and more, and learn how you, too, can make the case for allocating R&D resources.
- PREQUAL: GETTING STARTED – Let us show you how to use SmartBid to set up a standard prequalification form using the integrated ConsensusDocs 721 form, add it to a project, customize the review process and send digitally to subs.
- COMPLIANCE: INSURING YOUR PROJECT & YOUR BEHIND – Learn how proper compliance management with the SmartBid Compliance add-on module can save your projects, your company and your skin when it comes to subcontractor viability and accountability.
- ACCESSING THE VIRTUAL PLAN ROOM NETWORK AND MORE PROJECTS – Learn how to access this integration and use it to find more subs and bid on more projects in your areas of interest.
- PREQUAL: A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE – This session will review building a customized prequal form, tying them to projects, testing and admin options, internal office and approval routing, organizing financial information, changes to live prequal forms and more.
- AFTER SMARTBID: MOVING ON WITHOUT BREAKING UP – For Users to consider how to use SmartBid post bid for document distribution, the buyout process, keeping superintendents informed, integrating cloud storage accounts and running submittals, sub uploads and more.
- USER LED SESSION: GFE REPORTING & CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS – In this session, one of our seasoned SmartBidNet users, Jennifer Bristow, DBE Coordinator from Kiewit, will present and focus on the Confidentiality Agreements features in SmartBid and using the software for Good Faith Effort (GFE) reporting.
At the end of each 75 minute session, users had 15 minutes for Q&A time with the presenters and seasoned SmartBid specialists for additional questions, feedback or sharing their best practices with other users. Users were encouraged to fill out a session rating card evaluating the session and presenter to help us improve for next year’s conference.
During the breaks between sessions and lunch, attendees were able to network with each other, our partner companies, and visit our JBK Tech Space. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about our JBKLabs R&D projects and try out virtual reality, wearable devices like Hololens, 3D printing, Google Cardboard and more emerging technology for construction.
On the evening of Monday, July 11th, our partner, Virtual Plan Room Network hosted a Happy Hour event at The Market/Tap Room in downtown Austin. The large space was filled with two full bars, Stubbs BBQ catering and some great discussions about construction, technology and the mechanical bull down the street.
The second and last day of the SmartBid User Conference included the following educational sessions:
- ADMINISTRATE THIS – This session covers the full SmartBid Admin menu, including but not limited to: assigning company groups, user security roles, audit log features, project settings, performing imports and more.
- BEFORE THE DRAFT: SCOUTING & SCORING SUBS – Know the strengths and weaknesses of subcontractors and suppliers before engaging them on projects.
- STACK YOUR PLAN ROOM FOR SMARTER & FASTER ESTIMATES – Learn how contractors are leveraging this powerful integration to more efficiently perform takeoffs and estimates.
- TRADE CODING FOR NON-CODERS – In this session we’ll cover the various CSI and NAICS coding systems available within SmartBid, how to add your own custom codes, and how to map between all of your code systems to set up packages and projects.
- SMARTBID SUPPORT: MORE THAN JUST BID THERAPY – In this session, we’ll review the extensive support and training materials available to current and new users.
- REPORTING LIVE FROM SMARTBID – We’ll show you how to create, customize, export and update project, data and prequal reports to keep your team informed and your projects on target.
- BUILDING SMARTBID INTO YOUR MOBILE STRATEGY – In this session, we’ll review the latest features of the app and how to build them into a broader mobile device and app program for your preconstruction department.
- OPEN Q&A SESSION: EVERYTHING BID PROJECTS – For Users to ask the hard, easy or funny questions you need answered to use SmartBid to the fullest when managing bid projects.
- KEEPING TABS ON SUBCONTRACTOR BIDS – To show Users how to use BidTabs to replace outdated and bulky qualification sheets and organize subcontractor submissions in an advanced format that will improve the collective sanity of your entire Bid Day team.
- OPEN Q&A SESSION: EVERYTHING PREQUALIFICATION – Users can ask specific or entertaining questions about SmartBid’s prequalification features so you can streamline your subcontractor review and selection process.
James Benham, then presented a closing keynote session that discussed the future of construction technology and presented attendee and staff superlatives and awards. This Closing keynote was filled with excitement and interesting products that can further the construction technology industry. Citrix ShareFile, a User Conference Partner, gave away a Gear VR headset + Galaxy Note Smartphone and we gave away a free registration to the 2017 SmartBid User Conference among other prizes.
If you’re a SmartBid user, you can access the keynote recordings in our customer service portal.
Overall, it was a successful event and it was a pleasure to reconnect with past attendees, and also meet clients face to face that we are fortunate enough to interact with online every day. We work diligently to develop, design and support the best possible construction bid software we can- and we wouldn’t be able to do it without your business and feedback. We have plenty of positive notes and constructive feedback items for next year’s conference and sincerely look forward to making it an even better for all users. Starting in late 2016, we will also start regional one day SmartBid Boot Camps to engage local users and help them learn how to use the software more efficiently. The annual conference will continue to be the SmartBid training conference of the year, but the regional conferences will provide more additional educational opportunities! Stay tuned.