Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wrapping up on 2012, and getting ready for 2013

Man, what a year...we're seeing more and more projects based in BIM, and our staff continues to improve on their skill sets. Overall, despite the lingering tough economic conditions, we keep pushing forward and working to improve on the gains we've already made. Looking forward, next year should be an improvement, now that the election is past. But that doesn't mean we can go back to our older methods of producing projects.

We had a great conversation with one of water guys about BIM, and we talked about the issues we expose are not necessarily tool-based, but more design workflow based. CAD gave us a great ability to "hide" flaws in the design process, but BIM kicks the rock over and exposes all of the weakness you may have in a design. It's up to the project engineers and designers to get back to making sure their designs work first, and a 3D model really demonstrates this well. So next year will include more training for that level of employee, that will hopefully help alleviate fears about change, and keep them moving forward.

So here's my look back and look forward:

Autodesk University 2012 - this year, the crowd was really energized and wanting more. One of the general feelings I get now is that we can't rest on laurels from previous classes. Yikes - the students are on to us, and we (the instructors) really need to raise our game for next year. For the first time, it felt like the crowd had a better understanding of the basics of BIM, and fewer of the fears. The AU crowd's adoption of technology was very obvious. When I stepped out from behind a screen as Dr. Shots, about 50 iPads, tablets and cell phones popped up and started recording...I got a little "discombobulated" and almost cracked up...and yes, I promise to go slower in that class and cover a few less items (thanks for the feedback!). Nobody seemed to mind that they weren't any handouts - which is a great step for creating a more sustainable environment, as we used to kill quite a few trees every year...

One part that I left with mixed feelings about was the integration of shared data between BIM and other applications. There are a lot of new ventures out there, but it seems that we're only getting pieces, instead of the whole, big picture. At this stage in the development of BIM and other data-centric models, it seems that Autodesk would have a better idea of where they want this to go. We really need some focus to bring all the different pieces together, so that we're not all developing the same applications with different degrees of results. There are a lot of great new products, but some leadership from Autodesk on this other than talking about how we're all going to be in the cloud (without providing more specifics) would really be helpful at this point. Even in my own class, where the topic was about how we developed our own application to deal with linking data between applications, left me with more questions that answers. It will be interesting to see if they come up with a more uniform method for controlling the export and import of data - for example, the dbLink extension needs a lot of work (dynamic versus static, user control of what data is exported, etc.).

While there's lots of space at Mandalay, I'm personally glad we're going back to the Venetian - better quality of service, a more central location, which all lead to better attendance. Next year should really be a great event, and I can't wait. And yes - I'm already working on all NEW classes, with new material - keep doing the same thing and it gets stale quickly...

Changes in the Autodesk Sales Model - if you've ever been in a sales channel, you had to know this was coming. Web-based purchases, cloud-based software, annual versus perpetual licensing...all of these lead to the coming demise of the Autodesk reseller channel. Financially it doesn't make sense for Autodesk to keep supporting the channel, when in reality, we're no longer getting much out of them that bring additional value to the product sale. Support is direct with Autodesk through subscription, and most of the issues we have, the reseller can't fix since there either flaws in the program, or very simple " how do I..." questions. It's a bit sad, but savvy resellers should be looking to the add-in market, as well as the more refined services. Not every company can afford to have a BIM manager or developer on staff, so that market should be sustained...but it will have to be self-sustaining.

From the user perspective, the suites have been golden. They're still a bit pricey, but I'm using more of Inventor now than I ever have, and having a single version of Revit has been really nice. It makes the management of the tools much easier, but 50gb installations can be tough...hey, I'll wait. Next year, I'll be looking forward to upgrading to a more powerful system, so it will be interesting to see how the laptop versus tablet market is rolling along next fall.

Odds and ends:
-If you are in college, working on your engineering or architecture degree, take Revit classes - students with Revit experience or any 3D modeling experience are like gold to us.
- If you are a 30 CAD draftsperson, learn how to get up to speed in BIM AND Design - one without the other doesn't make for a very long term career outlook. Get at least a two year associates degree - that's better than nothing. If anything, really start looking at the post design market and tools. Applications like Navisworks still need solid users, and offering digital coordination/estimating/fabrication services is still not a bad idea.
- If you are a project manager or business owner, learn and understand BIM. Many people in the profession that haven't bought in to this are getting behind in the game. You've got to understand how this works and how it affects a project's bottom line. Stop hiding behind "how productive we are with plain AutoCAD"...with current trends showing BIM being more prevalent in the market that 2D now, all you're doing is kidding yourself.
- And if you are a facility owner, that hasn't starting requiring BIM as part of your deliverables, please step to the back of the bus...the rear door now opens automatically. Anyone had any validation or compliance issues lately, and had to deal with hundreds and thousands of paper documents, drawings, etc. with no real organization? Layer it - start with renovations, additions, and build your models over time, if you can't afford to get a good as-built modeled. It doesn't matter if it's AutoCAD Architecture/MEP, Revit, Bentley, ArchiCAD, or anything else. IFC is improving, and the next generation of users is going to wipe us all out if all we leave them is a stack of papers...go ahead...ask your kids...

For everyone, please enjoy the holidays. Spend some time with your family and friends - recent events have shown us that you can't take time for granted. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - we'll see you next year!

Take care - David B.

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