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 ( 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 ( 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 -

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, 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.