Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Benchmarking - what's it all about?

Benchmarking is the process of comparing the cost, time or quality of what one organization does against what another organization does. The result is often a business case for making changes in order to make improvements. Also referred to as "best practice benchmarking" or "process benchmarking", it is a process used in management where organizations evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice, usually within their own sector. This then allows organizations to develop plans on how to make improvements or adopt best practice, with the aim of increasing performance.

The most prominent methodology is the 12 stage approach by Robert Camp (who literally wrote the book on benchmarking in 1989). It consists of;
1. Select subject 2. Define the process 3. Identify potential partners 4. Identify data sources 5. Collect data and select partners 6. Determine the gap 7. Establish process differences 8. Target future performance 9. Communicate 10. Adjust goal 11. Implement 12. Review / recalibrate.

Benchmarking can take various guises:
Process benchmarking - a firm focuses its observation and investigation of business processes with a goal of identifying and observing the best practices from one or more benchmark firms. Activity analysis will be required where the objective is to benchmark cost and efficiency.

Financial benchmarking - a company performs a financial analysis and compares the results in an effort to assess overall competitiveness.

Performance benchmarking - allows a firm to assess their competitive position by comparing products and services with those of target firms.

Product benchmarking - the process of designing new products or upgrades to current ones. This process can sometimes involve reverse engineering competitors’ products to find strengths and weaknesses.

Strategic benchmarking - involves observing how others compete. This type is usually not industry specific, meaning it is best to look at other industries.

Functional benchmarking - a company will focus its benchmarking on a single function in order to improve the operation of that particular function, i.e. Human Resources, Finance and ICT.

Internal benchmarking - involves benchmarking businesses or operations from within the same organisation (e.g. business units in different countries).

External benchmarking - analysing outside organisations that are known to be best in class provides opportunities of learning from those who are at the ‘leading edge’.

International benchmarking - best practitioners are identified and analysed elsewhere in the world; globalisation and advances in information technology are increasing opportunities for international projects.

Benchmarking involves four key steps:
1) Understand in detail existing business processes
2) Analyse the business processes of others
3) Compare own business performance with that of others
4) Implement the steps necessary to close the performance gap

Benchmarking should not be considered a one-off exercise. To be effective, it must become an ongoing, integral part of an ongoing improvement process with the goal of keeping abreast of ever-improving best practice.

Why Bother?
There are many benefits of benchmarking; the following list summarises the main ones:
· provides realistic and achievable targets
· prevents companies from being industry led
· challenges operational complacency
· encourages continuous improvement
· allows employees to visualise improvement which can be a strong motivator for change
· creates a sense of urgency for improvement
· confirms the belief that there is a need for change
· helps to identify weak areas and indicates what needs to be done to improve.

So how does all this apply to us - what are the benefits of benchmarking CAD performance?
· Gain visibility of core CAD skills
· Identify individuals’ strengths & weaknesses
· Implement better CAD training plans for staff
· Improve CAD recruitment processes
· Share performance data across an organisation
· Promote collaborative working between teams & offices
· Measure the performance of outsourcing or off-shoring partners
· Provide ‘best practice’ for CAD development
· Offer clearer staff inductions and more meaningful staff appraisals
· Enjoy better skills resourcing for projects
· Develop a continuous improvement process for CAD
· Save time and money on construction projects and offer best value for clients

In the end, it all comes down to better visibility of your teams and their real ability to use often complex technology and tools for maximum effect. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

CAD skills testing job applicants in the USA - is it allowed?

Is it OK to test the basic CAD skills of prospective employees in the USA? This is a question which seems to come up quite frequently from our friends in the US. A common conundrum surrounding CAD skills assessments is whether it is legally allowed to screen the CAD ability of prospective employees and contract staff, before they join your team.

The short answer is yes, in our opinion, but only under the right circumstances. Let’s examine some of the evidence.

The most important issue underlying the use of pre-employment assessments is validity. The question we need to ask is this; ‘Is the test valid for this intended purpose; does it support the decisions that are going to be made?’

So what is 'validity'? Validity measures how appropriate a test is for a specific purpose. Simply put, a test may be considered valid for one use and invalid for another. Why do pre-employment tests need to be validated? In 1978, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) created guidelines to ensure that the knowledge gained from testing is applied with impartiality to protect minority applicants from discriminatory employment procedures. What is the best method of validation? The EEOC guidelines do not state that one method is better than another; the method used must fit the needs of the business or organization.

There are three methods of validation set forth by the EEOC:

1) Criterion Validity: If data demonstrates that a test is significantly correlated with a vital measure of job performance, the test is said to demonstrate criterion validity. For example, if all the CAD users that scored highly on a selected test to measure CAD skills completed their projects accurately and on time, the test would demonstrate criterion validity.

2) Construct Validity: The term construct is a technical term for personality traits like intelligence and creativity. Construct validity is demonstrated if a test measures traits that have been found to influence successful performance of a job. A test that measures the interpersonal communication skills of a potential customer service representative would demonstrate construct validity.

3) Content Validity: This is demonstrated if the questions that make up an assessment are representative of content that is required to perform a particular activity or task. A test made up of algebra questions given to an applicant for a maths teacher's position would demonstrate content validity.

Many employers use employment tests and other selection procedures in making employment decisions. Examples of these tools, many of which can be administered online, include the following:

- Cognitive tests assess reasoning, memory, perceptual speed and accuracy, and skills in arithmetic and reading comprehension, as well as knowledge of a particular function or job;
- Physical ability tests measure the physical ability to perform a particular task or the strength of specific muscle groups, as well as strength and stamina in general;
- Sample job tasks (e.g. performance tests, simulations, work samples, and realistic job previews) assess performance and aptitude on particular tasks. NB CAD skills assessments fall into this category;
- Medical inquiries and physical examinations, including psychological tests, assess physical or mental health;
- Personality tests and integrity tests assess the degree to which a person has certain traits or dispositions (e.g. dependability, cooperativeness, safety) or aim to predict the likelihood that a person will engage in certain conduct (e.g. theft, absenteeism);
- Criminal background checks provide information on arrest and conviction history;
- Credit checks provide information on credit and financial history;
- Performance appraisals reflect a supervisor’s assessment of an individual’s performance; and
- English proficiency tests determine English fluency.

An important item to remember when interpreting CAD assessment scores is to put the results in context, and to compare them to an external performance benchmark. For example, a 58% score does not reflect ‘failure’. If this score is presented by a CAD user against an office average of 60%, it is likely the candidate will comfortably fit in to the team.

Test questions should also have a recognizable skill level; basic, intermediate or advanced. In this way, the benchmark data can be reliably used to compare CAD performance and make sound hiring decisions.

In conclusion, for a CAD skills test to be valid, it must contain content that reflects a representative sample of the target skill. A reliable CAD skills test should comprise sample job tasks (e.g. performance tests, simulations, work samples, and realistic job previews) and assess performance and aptitude on particular tasks.

Skills evaluations should not discriminate according to; race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age (40 or older), or disability.

Lastly, employers should ensure that employment tests and other selection procedures are properly validated for the positions and purposes for which they are used. The test or selection procedure must be job-related and its results appropriate for the employer's purpose.

More information can be found here:
http://www.uniformguidelines.com/uniformguidelines.html and


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The View from the Strip...

Well, we're back and just about caught up from our trip to AU2008 in Las Vegas, and I must say, overall we had a great time! This was my first time at AU as both sponsor and speaker - and it certainly made for a busy event!

The logistics of the conference are a sight to behold; even in an economic downturn, there must have been more than 8,000 delegates in attendance. Simply feeding and watering such a horde of enthusiastic CAD aficianado's was an impressive logistical feat!

The venue itself has to be seen to be believed; we stayed at the Venetian Resort, which is enormous! The walk from our suite ('room' doesn't do it justice!) to the exhibition hall took about 15 minutes! And yes, I did forget my laptop and had to make the trek back at least once! The attention to the interior detail was fascinating, with faux tapestries, ceiling montages, and even a frighteningly realistic blue sky above the shopping mall. It took me a moment to realise that I was still inside the building; and when we sat at the bar for a quick afternoon drink, my wife asked the waiter if we could sit 'outside'! :) I could tell from his wry smile we weren't the first! We then sat over a beer, to be entertained by a mini-opera just yards away!

There were a couple of moments which might have detracted from an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable week. When setting up the booth, a rather over-zealous security guard insisted we have our name badges re-printed because they were missing a label (which meant queueing again for 30 mins). And the Autodesk 'help' committee tried to charge me $25 for a replacement badge when I left it in my wife's handbag (she was shopping, naturally!) - even though I tried to explain we were spending $5k on a booth! Ah well, I guess they were just following the rules.

From a business perspective, I'd say the show was a resounding success. This year, CADsmart was involved in a new format for the AUGI Top Daug competition, which went remarkably smoothly. Over 500 assessments taken over two days, on 32 machines, and just two software crashes - a credit to Ed and Martin on our technical tem, for building such a stable app. The results were posted live to a 'Top 10' scoreboard throughout the event, and the eventual winner was determined by a drafting 'shootout'. Great stuff!

We also launched our new Revit skills assessment, which was tremendously well received. Over 100 companies signed up to trial the software, so we're looking forward to receiving their feedback in the coming days and weeks. We'll be creating an Imperial data set in the next few weeks, for those firms who refuse to work in the real world :) (just kidding!) and will be adding Structure and MEP content in the new year.

Tony & I delivered our class on making the move from AutoCAD to Revit to a full room, and received some good scores on our feedback survey, which is nice to hear.

And so to the gambling; we did have a dabble on the last day, just to be polite! Tony, Mel and I started with a 'pot' of $25 each and here's how we did; Tony - lost it all on a spin of the wheel. Myself - ditto (although I went red 18 and it came up red 19 - so near and yet so far - probably 6 words which sum up the history of Vegas!). Mel - hit the craps table, feigning an innocent ignorance, and walked away with $150, to the amusement of the croupier, who knew a hustler when he saw one! :)

And so, we left Vegas as winners, in more than one sense. Next year's event will be at the Mandalay Bay. Think I'll try my hand at Black Jack...


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Viva Las Bristol

While my esteemed colleagues Rory and Tony attend Autodesk University in Vegas I'm staying at the ranch making sure everything carries on working tickety-boo. And there's lots going on - our Revit release is now out of Beta (thanks to all the testers!), we launched our new product-focused website (see below) yesterday, and we're also involved in the Top Daug competition at the aforementioned AU, which saw 235 assessments in its first 3 hours of availability last night, and seemingly zero support issues.

Martin and I will be on tenterhooks tonight though, as apparently the Top Daug machines are going to be still available during the 'Beer Bust', which basically means (for any non-Americans reading this)  drinking lots and larking about. Oh, and networking of course.

The thought of hundreds inebriated people attempting [to break?] our bespoke pared-down version of CADsmart sends a shiver down my spine, as its a million miles away from CADsmart's intended context - a calm, formal, professional, sober atmosphere in which to be assessed. Either way I'll probably be staying up till 4am waiting for an email or two!

If British universities are anything to go by then Rory and Tony will come back from AU with huge debts having learnt nothing, however I suspect Universities are held in higher regard across the pond; I'm sure Autodesk will put on a great gig and R & T will have a great time, meet some great people and learn lots ot new stuff.

OK I'm jealous really. But 22 hours of travelling?


Thursday, 27 November 2008

People don't know...what they don't know!

The basic psychology of how people learn new skills is pretty fascinating - really!

Being in the business of measuring CAD & BIM skills of Autodesk & Bentley users, we find ourselves at the heart of the learning debate.

Part of the problem with traditional CAD training is that it can be a bit one-dimensional. Often, over the course of 1, 2, or 3 days, a variety of users from differing backgrounds, and with varying degrees of experience and ability, will gather in a classroom and attempt to absorb every detail of the latest release of AutoCAD, Revit, or whatever, in a torrent of technical information. Inevitably, the trainer has to gravitate to the speed of the slowest learner, and everyone else follows along at that pace. The assumption is (incorrectly!) made that all delegates possess a minimum level of basic CAD ability. Further, the material tends to be off-the-shelf or generic, with individual workflows and processes seldom covered; this can make it difficult for students to relate to the material and apply the information back at the workplace.

Now, consider the following evidence from Rebecca Rupp, author of 'Committed to Memory';
'One hour after learning, 56% of material has gone to the wind; one day later, 66% has evaporated; and after one month, 80% is gone'.

With this in mind, is it any wonder why firms struggle to get a satisfactory bang for their training buck?! Should even a modest amount of time pass between the course ending and real work commencing, it is small wonder that much of the new material isn't applied on the job; the 'use it or lose it' factor.

Over the past four years, CADsmart has compiled results data from over 10,000 live CAD skills assessments. Analysis of the data makes for enlightening reading. By dividing the results into four performance 'quartiles', an interesting trend emerges. Based on accuracy & speed, and against a 'mean' score of 63% in 74 minutes, the following breakdowns occur; 37% comprise the upper quartile (4), which means they are faster and more accurate than the average. 1 in 5 users make it into the mid-upper quartile (3); more accurate but slower than the mean. Another 20% populate the mid-lower quartile (2); less accurate but faster than their peers. Finally, 23% of users (nearly a quarter!) make up the lower quartile (1), performing slower and with less quality than the rest.

In our experience, until they complete a formal skills assessment, most users have no real idea of how skilled they are, relative to their peers in industry. Many claim to be 'experts' or 'super users', based on nothing more than their years of service with Autodesk or Bentley tools! Simply put, they don't know what they don't know.

So what journey do we take, as we progress our skills from basic, through intermediate and advanced levels? The 'Conscious Competence' model explains the process and stages of learning a new skill (behaviour, ability or technique).

Stage one is 'Unconscious Incompetence'; a person is not aware of the existence or relevance of the skill and is unaware that they have a particular deficiency in the area concerned.

Next, we progress to 'Conscious Incompetence'; a person becomes aware of the existence and relevance of the skill and is therefore also aware of their deficiency in this area, ideally by attempting or trying to use the skill, or by formal assessment. The person is helped by evaluating the extent of their deficiency in the relevant skill, and a measure of what level of skill is required for their own competence.

A person achieves 'Conscious Competence' in a skill when they can perform it reliably at will; they need to concentrate in order to perform the skill - it is not yet 'second nature' or automatic and it is unlikely they will be able to teach it well to others.

Finally, with practise and persistence, the skill becomes so familiar that it enters the unconscious parts of the brain - 'Unconscious Competence' is achieved. Typical examples are driving, sports activities, typing, manual dexterity tasks - such as CAD! - listening and communicating. The skill becomes 'second nature', but arguably gives rise to the need for long-standing competence to be checked periodically against new standards.

We have a saying at CADsmart; 'If you can't measure it, you can't manage it'. By putting in place reliable performance metrics, including a formal assessment program, AEC firms can make the transition from basic 2D drafting to more complex 3D modelling and BIM skills with a higher degree of confidence.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

World first from CADsmart - interactive Revit skills assessment software

Well, it's been a while in the making, but we're just about there. About a year ago, we sat around a table with a half dozen leading UK Revit users from our customer base at HOK's London offices (thanks for the coffee & biccies, Miles!). Our aim was to determine how we should attempt to break down Autodesk's flagship AEC CAD (BIM?) software, so that a meaningful basic skills assessment, complete with accurate training needs reporting, could be developed.

Fast forward to the present, and we're nearing the end of our final beta test phase - and I must confess, we're pretty pleased with the result. Having battled with a somewhat (still) limited API and developer environment, we are on the cusp of launching a world first - a fully interactive basic Revit skills assessment. I should say that Autodesk's support team has been very helpful in responding to a host of technical support issues from our team - and things can only get better as they continue to tick things off their own Revit development wish list.

Our timing is just about spot on, as our goal was to launch the new software at Autodesk University 2008, which is now just around the corner. In fact, Tony & I will be teaching a class at this year's event, appropriately titled, 'How to make the Move from AutoCAD to Revit'. By all means come along! :)

In anticipation of the launch of the software, we are also sponsoring the show, so here's the plug; we'll be at booth 237 - and the first 100 firms to sign up for a demo of the Revit skills software will - if they like it - qualify for a 50% discount on their first year's subscription!

Look forward to meeting you in Vegas!


Monday, 10 November 2008

6 degrees of Kevin Bacon...

For quite some time now, I've manfully resisted the temptation to join in with the whole 'social networking' phenomenon. Thinking a guy in his mid-thirties is far too old to be 'tweeting' or 'poking' old friends on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, et al.

In fact, it was quite by accident that I first signed up to the 'business' network LinkedIn, back in the Spring of 07. Almost a year went by, and my network had grown to a mighty 6 'connections'. Then, I happened to pause my finger over the delete button one morning a few months ago, when reading an auto-update email from the site - and realised that I had kind of missed the point about just what potential there is to be had in reaching out through cyberspace to make fruitful connections with like minded people across our industry.

So I began to do some homework. Armed with my copy of 'LinkedIn for Dummies' from Amazon.com, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and started inviting...

After just a few short months, my network stands at just under 200 '1st level' connections, each one personally invited, and with a particular interest in CAD & BIM technology within the AEC space. But the amazing thing is that I now have nearly 60,000 people just two connections away and a further 4.5M people one step away from that!

It reminds me of the old college game, '6 degrees of Kevin Bacon', which was based on the theory that any actor or actress can be linked through his or her film roles to the actor Kevin Bacon. This, in turn, was a derivation of the '6 degrees of separation' idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is an average of six 'steps' away from each person on Earth.

With that thought, it only remains for me to say that, if you have an interest in, or responsibility for, improving CAD & BIM productivity, I extend a warm invitation for you to join my expanding network; http://www.linkedin.com/in/roryvance.

I look forward to 'meeting' you! :)


Friday, 7 November 2008

Need to save money? Sack the CAD Manager!

It never ceases to amaze me how short-sighted some firms can be! Over the past few weeks I've seen first hand three separate examples of otherwise perfectly sensible firms of architects, who are experiencing a temporary down-turn in their fortunes as a result of the current economic squeeze, suddenly have a brain-freeze. So what do they do? Tighten their belts by cutting back on non-essential services? Cancel the standing order to the local organic deli for the Friday afternoon buffet? Look at non-core expenditure or sub-contracted items which can be temporarily placed on hold? No, let's sack the CAD Manager - that'll save us a few bob! When will design firms learn that CAD & BIM tools are an essential ingredient to the successful delivery of quality projects on time & budget? And a good CAD Manager is worth his or her weight in gold, and should be one of the last people to be shown the door!


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Language and progress

With the imminent release of our skills assessment software for Autodesk Revit, we have been musing here at CADsmart Towers as to whether the term 'BIM' or some other acronym might ever fully usurp the term 'CAD' and make our name and corporate identity look a little dated.

But today it struck me - it doesn't matter, because one of Europe's biggest companies has a corporate name that is so dated due to a rapid change in technology that it would be laughable if it were proposed for a new firm today, yet they continue to dominate in their field with a very clear message about what they do.

Step forward The Carphone Warehouse. If you go to their website and search for 'car phone' you get no results - they don't sell any. Of course they don't, and everyone knows this. Consumers are so familiar with their high-street name that nobody thinks twice about it. 

Long live CADsmart!


Friday, 31 October 2008

Mr CEO, meet the CEO

I travelled to Florida this week to sort out a few legal details for our new office in Clearwater, and to sign a few forms for our new US business - CADsmart LLC. I now have the title of CEO to add to my resume :) Whilst over here, we are also pleased to be Silver Sponsors of the Bentley Florida User group conference (http://www.flugsite.com/) in Tampa. I delivered a class on 'Measuring & Improving CAD Productivity' to a full room, which was well received; I think they liked the accent! The conference was well run, albeit a little down on numbers this year; no doubt a result of the current economic squeeze.

One of the highlights of my trip came when I had the chance to spend a few moments chatting one-on-one with Bentley Systems' CEO, Greg Bentley, following his keynote speech. I found him to be warm, intelligent and personable; refreshing in today's world of big business. Mr Bentley's keynote delivery was interesting; the man clearly has a sound grasp of economic matters, and shared his vision for the next phase of Bentley's strategic plan. With 142 different products to manage, they certainly have their work cut out! The pending release of the 'Athens' suite of products - he wouldn't be drawn on the actual product name! - looks to spell a new chapter in the support of global infrastructure projects. To quote a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, '...the future is engineering'. Recession or not, there will still be plenty of opportunity to develop new business in the coming year and beyond.

One final observation from my trip this week; apart from some unhappy Tampa Rays fans (their team lost to Philadelphia in the world series) I couldn't help but notice how many people mentioned the 'cold' weather they've had over here this week. Now, when I left Blighty at the weekend, it was wet, grey and cold. Here, the temperatures have barely dropped below 60 degrees! I'm walking around in t-shirts, shaking my head at the locals in their winter woolies! :) Ah well, it's back up to 80 degrees tomorrow; now where did I put my sun-block...


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Comparing CADsmart and Autodesk Certification

We often get asked how CADsmart compares to the Autodesk Certification Exams, so we'd like to share some of our our thoughts on the matter. Let's first start by saying that we believe all forms of skills assessment are worthwhile. Whether it's simple on-line multiple choice quizzes, or detailed live skills drafting, any process that helps a CAD user develop their skills by identifying training needs has to be good.

Anyone involved in a competitive sport gets a regular opportunity to see how they, or their team, shape up against the competition. In business, companies can measure turnover and profit against their competitors. However, there are very few times when CAD users can measure themselves against their peers, or a benchmark, in order to figure out where they can improve. As far as I know the AUGI Top DAUG is the main public CAD competition out there - Top DAUG

Autodesk Certification and CADsmart are both excellent ways for a CAD user to find out more about their own capabilities. Certification is a valuable tool for an individual to demonstrate their competence in a specific Autodesk product, and version. Certification is only possible after extensive training, real-life experience and exceeding a minimum standard. It's a significant investment in time and money for the individual, or their employer, if they are paying.

By comparison, CADsmart is very much a training needs analysis tool with benefits for both the CAD user and their employer. CADsmart assesses core CAD skills in AutoCAD, MicroStation and coming in December, Revit. We look at measuring what one of our customers has described as "CADmanship"! We're not product or release specific and there's no pass or fail with CADsmart. We simply report the results and provide a training needs recommendation report. The individual CAD user can use this report as the basis for personal development, whilst the CAD Manager is able to pull all the assessment results together to develop a time and cost effective training plan for the whole team. CADsmart provides CAD Managers with comprehensive review, reporting and data analysis tools.

One of the unique strengths of CADsmart is the independent benchmark, based on the results from many thousands of assessments. The benchmark allows an individual to see how they compare with the rest of the CAD world, and provides the CAD Manager with a way to see how their team stacks up. Regular CADsmart assessment also provides a way to monitor personal and team improvement. Here's an interesting article in AEC Magazine about Ramboll Whitbybird for those who want to read more on the subject - RWB story.

In summary, Autodesk Certification and CADsmart are different beasts. Certification is a great way for an experienced and skilled CAD user to prove their skills in a specific Autodesk product and version. CADsmart is a training needs analysis tool which can be used by CAD users of all skill levels to help them, and their employer, identify paths for skills improvement. Take your time to look in detail at both and you'll see where they fit in to the world of CAD skills assessment. Both are valuable, and it's not a simple choice of do one or the other. In fact, why not do both!



Tuesday, 21 October 2008


As part of the day to day running of a software business, I'm quite often called upon to present at CAD conferences and exhibitions - which in truth I enjoy. A few weeks ago we sponsored an event in London, which was pretty uneventful, that is, until the final day. Now, being in IT, you could rightfully assume that we travel with a range of tools to do our job properly, such as laptops, projectors, etc., which of course is true. However, on this occasion, I made the cardinal error of leaving my laptop at the booth (albeit tucked away) and headed off to attend the evening networking event. I don't know why I didn't take 5 mins to pop it back in my hotel room, but simply assumed the room would be locked, and left it at that.

Naturally the next morning, when I returned to the booth, I found my laptop bag, laptop, notebook and all my recent work - had disappeared. Not wanting to assume the worst, I contacted hotel security and the event organisers to ask if someone had perhaps moved my bag, but it was nowhere to be found. At this point, I had that horrible sinking feeling (the kind you get when you lose your wallet, or your house keys) and you know that the next few days are going to be an absolute pain! Visions of calls to the police, checking security cameras, logging a crime number, claiming on my insurance, replacing my laptop, and being WITHOUT EMAIL for days swarmed through my mind.

Then, to make a bad situation even worse, I realised that I hadn't backed up my files for at least a month! I was as annoyed at myself as I was at the light fingered individual who was probably at that moment flogging my treasured Toshiba in a smoky back room of a London pub for a handful of used notes. How could I have been so dumb as to bring my machine on the road with a bunch of files which had no copies?? It was enough to put me off my full English breakfast! Happily, my fears were short lived, when the head of hotel security informed me that they were holding a laptop in the 'lost & found' room - and by sheer good fortune, it was indeed my trusty Tosh! As the relief flooded through me, I resolved to a) back up my files religiously from that point on and b) make sure that none of the team goes on the road without making sure they have everything copied.

As soon as I got home, I logged on and copied everything on to my 320GB hard drive. And then for good measure, I found a really handy online backup service called Carbonite (http://www.carbonite.com) and uploaded all my files onto their system as well! So now I have backups for my backups - and I hope never to have a repeat of this episode again! I'm off to Florida on Sunday to present at a Bentley user conference, so my calendar has a BIG note to do a full backup before I go. Which leaves just one question - when was the last time YOU did a full backup (including your pst files)??


Thursday, 16 October 2008

Who borrowed our name!

This month we released Version 6 of CADsmart skills assessment for AutoCAD and MicroStation. To celebrate, we decided we'd embark on our first serious PR campaign.  We sent out information to the many friends we have in the CAD press, CAD industry observers and world renowned CAD gurus.  We also used a number of online Press sites, some of which are free, some you pay for.

The following day we thought it would be fun to see how much of the PR had been picked up by Google.  Doing a search for CADsmart on Google we found that the top result was a sponsored link from an Autodesk reseller, advertising the Autodesk Certification exams -  see the image below

After at first feeling a little shocked we checked with Google that this was actually legal, decent and honest.  Actually, it is!  Anyone can bid on a brand name, including registered trademarks like CADsmart, and use them as keywords for searching -  here is the link for the Google facts - http://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=92877

So beware in case your company's brand name gets hijacked by a competitor.  It's all within the rules, just a bit of sharp (maybe smart ) practice!  Or, if you haven't already done so, why not hijack your competitor's brand and improve your Google results.

Actually it's quite flattering that the Autodesk channel can feel CADsmart are so important that our name is a key search word.  So on reflection it's a real confidence boost to know our growing skills assessment business is taken so seriously in the Autodesk world. 

Finally, we often get asked how CADsmart compares to Autodesk certification exams and next week we'll explain how they fit together in the world of CAD skills assessment.  Until then - farewell and have a great week


Friday, 10 October 2008

Introducing 'CID'

My first entry on this blog might be slightly controversial so I'll start with a caveat: I'm not an architect, I'm not an engineer, and I'm not even a CAD user in the normal sense....so, now that's out the way you can casually discard my opinions without getting too annoyed.

I've been developing in .net with Revit for a while now, and despite the API's immaturity I'm impressed with Revit as a very powerful design tool. CAD software has been around for decades, but this new generation of 'BIM' tools, the advent of which presumably only became viable with the ever-increasing capabilities of accessibly-priced desktop hardware, provides the fingertips of architects and engineers with power never seen before.

Recently I saw a live demonstration of Revit where a seemingly complex 100-storey building was modelled before my eyes, with twists and angles you couldn't draw by hand - at least not in weeks, let alone minutes. Model a floor, stick a few numbers in, click a few buttons. Hey Presto - a building.

But here's my controversial bit - when does Computer Aided Design become Computer Influenced Design? I'm starting to think I can spot a 'Revit Building'; perverse angles, not one element identical to another, an impossibility 10 years ago.

Does Revit help an architect create from the concepts already in his mind, or does it reduce the design process to experimentation with buttons, numbers and formulae?

Does it matter?


A blog is born.

Not another CAD blog? I'm afraid so.

But this one is different.