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A developer’s story

“When working as a project engineer, I made an error worth hundreds of thousands because I couldn’t read my own handwriting, but no longer will I confuse 1s with 7s”.

At the time of writing this, I am a 37-year-old entrepreneur and a father of two daughters whose passion is to produce tailor-made custom applictations for different purposes and to help construction professionals with their job. As I sit writing this in our Puutarhakatu office in Turku, Finland, the Dotag application has been in development for 4 years and through several stages. The first plan I made for Dotag was in the summer of 2013 and a bit different, when Dotag was known by its project title Construction and Communication Cloud Platform, or CCCP (as a fresh entrepreneur I thought that the acronym was at least somewhat funny and memorable).

The original idea was to help with the flood of e-mails and the chaos of construction projects by developing a simple communications portal. The thought was that the communications associated with construction projects could be facilitated by a simple communications center, through which all project communication could take place without the disorder of e-mail. In addition to e-mail management, a central idea was worksite data collection with mobile devices. Supported by Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation), I went to see a few leading global construction companies to hear their opinion on this. Their response was that while the idea was very noble, it was also not simple enough to be implemented in a way that would allow these large corporations to get their operative personnel to use the planned application package. Undaunted, I had to go back to the drawing board and rethink my angle and the main user group.

Enter chance: The first mistake: In the early 2010s, when I was still working as a project engineer in ship building alongside my own business (I had to make my money somewhere, since there weren’t enough gold spoons to inherit for the son of a grave digger and a bank clerk), I made an error that I’ve been recovering from to this very day. I mixed up a 1 and a 7.

I was visiting a worksite to dimension out a location for prefab planning. In a hurry, I had recorded my measurements carelessly onto some floor plans I had printed out. When I got back to the office, I could no longer read my own handwriting. There was no time for a new measurement, so I had to choose. Because it was less risky to choose the larger measurement, the plans were made based on that. After a few twists and turns, my employer had to suffer a very significant financial injury and I was almost fired (why I got to keep my job is still a mystery). The second mistake: This time I was doing contract cost calculations based on materials provided for me. The materials consisted of on-site photographs, the architect’s plans for the coming renovation and current ground plans. This time I hadn’t been at the site myself, but was relying on second-hand materials. It turned out that the understanding I generated of the current state of the renovation site and of the amount of work required for the demolitions on the basis of the materials was very different. As a consequence, my cost calculations were way off in terms of the time required for the demolitions. It was only a miracle and the ability of the workers to work around the clock that saved this project from being a complete disaster.

Traumatised by these mistakes, I was left thinking that I could not possibly be the only one grappling with these issues.

I thought about the commonalities between these mistakes and came to the following conclusion: If you were to remove the paper, pen, unclear handwriting, out of focus photographs and mistakes due to lack of time from the equation, the above mistakes would probably have not happened to the extent that they did.

The idea of a data collection application for mobile devices was born.

At the heart of the idea there was a mobile data collection app that would work in offline-mode as well, and where all data collected at a worksite would have its own location in the drawings. The app would need to be both simple and fast, and yet better than paper and a pen. An app that would be always available regardless of the quality of network connections. An app that would expedite data collection while also almost completely removing the possibility of human errors. An app that facilitates communications between one’s own organisation and other interested parties, both before and during a construction project. We think we have accomplished these goals very well. At the time of writing this, the date is 2.4.2018 and we have almost completed the programming of the application package, we are currently removing the last remaining bugs and carrying out commercialisation operations such as this website that you are currently on. You can read more about our future software development stages in our blog.

2.4.2018 Turku, Finland
Aki Vänskä, entrepreneur
Developer of the Dotag application

Aki Vänskä