Response to fostering the “Next Big Thing”

Re: http://bimcompletethought.blogspot.com/2014/02/creating-next-big-thing.html

In the interesting article linked above, Brad Hardin poses the following question:

“So how do we create this atmosphere of wow and early adoption?” [in the AEC Industry]

I started composing a comment to his post, but realized it was quickly approaching Manifesto-type length and that this might be a better forum for its content. Hope that’s o.k. with you, Brad!

Now, back to your question:

“So how do we create this atmosphere of wow and early adoption?”

I believe this very atmosphere may be an unintended consequence of the severe “correction” our Industry has just endured.

Many capable people were jettisoned by Companies attempting to cut costs and survive the downturn. These refugees are more likely to band together with former associates – both local and otherwise – in purpose-built Teams.

Such Teams are ideal platforms for deploying new Technology (especially if that Technology is affordable).

They’re agile, they’re unencumbered by legacy Solutions, they’re highly motivated. They carry sole responsibility for the success of the Project. The Buck stops there.

No disrespect, but the Mega-firms have so much inertia resisting Change that they’re pretty much stuck with the incremental “improvements” upon existing Solutions to which Brad alludes in his blog.

I’ve had conversations with several Start-ups along these lines. Sure, it takes more leg work to land sufficient Small and Midsize AEC firms, but those are the firms that will provide timely and useful feedback which will improve the Product and are most likely to result in marketable Success Stories.

So, I humbly submit that, rather than pursuing 1,000 user increments – Solution Providers would be better served by deploying more 10 user installations and honing their product before scaling it up. Besides, once it’s proven, they may even be able to convince those Mega-firms to pay for it, rather than getting severely discounted….or even comp’d.

I also submit that Brad’s “Next Big Thing” will not be created by the AEC Industry but, rather adapted to/by it.

After all, AEC didn’t create the Pencil – it commandeered it. AEC didn’t invent the Personal Computer – it adapted it. AEC didn’t develop the Database, it just accesses it with a different Front End.

The “Next Big Thing” may already be out there – albeit in disparate pieces.

Often times, it’s the combination of existing elements that results in a new Productivity Tool we wondered how we ever lived without (think glue+paper=PostIt™ ).

Therefore, I don’t think it’s necessarily critical to encourage brilliant developers to write code specific to the AEC Industry. While that’d be great, let’s face it – we’re a relatively small market. Better to encourage development of “building blocks” that could be stacked in such a way as to improve AEC processes. Note that connecting the dots, as it were, could take place externally or internally – as long as the readily available blocks play nice with each other.

One very important piece of the puzzle keeping us from deploying more spontaneous, universal Solutions is proprietary File Format.

Granted, Autodesk (for example) has opened the Revit API to outside developers. But, Revit still writes to an .rvt by default and exporting to other formats can result in loss of information.

I rather doubt that, left to its own devices, Autodesk will voluntarily publish Revit in a robust open source File Format. This is where we, in the AEC Industry, bear the responsibility to voice that need (over and over, again). Be an agitator for Progress. OCE still hasn’t changed the color of their plotters from that sickly green to anything else, but that doesn’t mean I don’t ask for it every time I speak with them. If you don’t ask for it, it’ll never happen. If you do, it might. If you ever happen to see an OCE in a new color; you’re welcome!

This isn’t intended to pick on Autodesk, as Bentley, Trimble, et al are “guilty” in varying degrees.

Back to an earlier point;

Are the Mega-firms doomed to lumber along until someone even larger gobbles them up and dictates a change in their Processes?

No, certainly not. From my perspective, Mega-firms would be well served by creating “Rapid Response Teams” that try anything and everything to improve existing Processes. Who is better suited to absorb the costs of “kissing a lot of frogs to eventually find a Prince” than they? Make sure the Team Members are geographically dispersed to replicate real-world challenges. Include Members who do NOT think alike. Free them of daily Production obligations and give them Executive attention so they understand the importance of their mission.

When the “Next Big Thing” has been identified and completed its Proof of Concept / Pilot Project, the Rapid Response Team can move to deploy it Company-wide. Affecting Cultural Change in a large organization is a topic for another day.

So, to recap “How do we…?”:

1) Look to small, agile, forward thinking firms as early adopters and development Partners
2) Be aware of existing Solutions or Modules that could be repurposed for AEC
3) Harass all Industry Vendors to write to 100% neutral and robust File Formats
4) Think and act like a Start-up – regardless of firm size

That’s just my brief take on the topic 😉 .

By the way, if your Small or Mid Size (or even MEGA) firm might benefit from a fresh perspective, drop me a line!

Dave

About Dave Pluke

Dave Pluke served as "the man behind the curtain" (Principal and VP of Technology) of a successful Structural Engineering firm for over 2 decades. Overseeing the transition from two, stand-alone 80286 Personal Computers, through Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) and Design to a fully networked, Building Information Modeling (BIM) integrated environment has provided plenty of "life lessons" (sounds better than "battle scars", doesn't it?). This blog's purpose is to share those experiences and apply lessons learned to better assist meeting the challenges of the future.
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