Tuesday, 8 December 2009

One door closes...

...another opens, as the saying goes.

This week, we pass another milestone on the winding road of CAD & BIM skills testing. The much loved CADsmart brand is being superseded by our new name - KnowledgeSmart.

All of our existing CAD skills tools are still available, but we are embarking on a new journey in January, with the introduction of our web-based testing platform.

More and more, we find ourselves involved not just in the traditional realm of CAD skills testing, but also straying into the wider field of learning and knowledge management.

Over the coming months, we'll be broadening the range of design and engineering software applications which can be assessed, whilst at the same time developing a community resource for building even more test content. And we have some exciting plans for our friends in the Revit community coming up in the Spring. Watch this space!

So, this will be our last post on the CADsmart blog. Thank you to all our followers for your comments and feedback over the previous two years.

For the next chapter, please join us at our new blog:

We look forward to the next phase of the journey..


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Three sons left home, went out on their own and prospered. The oldest became an architect, the middle son became a surveyor and the youngest became an engineer.

Getting back together, they discussed the gifts they were planning to give their mother for Thanksgiving.

The oldest said, "I built a big house for our mother." The second said, "I sent her a Mercedes with a driver." The third smiled and said, "I've got you both beat. You know how Mom enjoys the Bible, and you know she can't see very well. I sent her a brown parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took 20 monks in a monastery 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000 a year for 10 years, but it was worth it. Mom just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot will recite it."

Soon thereafter, Mom sent out her letters of thanks to her sons. "Michael," she wrote the first son, "the house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house."
"Martin," she wrote to another, "I am too old to travel. I stay home all the time, so I never use the Mercedes and the driver is so rude!"

"Dearest Malcolm," she wrote to her third son, "You were the only son to have the good sense to know what your mother likes. That chicken was delicious!"

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and customers in the US :)


Friday, 30 October 2009

New tools, new brand - KnowledgeSmart

Progress on our new suite of tools is coming along nicely. The i-Skills AEC web-based testing service will add a valuable range of flexibility to AEC firms wishing to capture knowledge across their organisation.

CADsmart has established itself as a reliable brand in the field of CAD & BIM skills testing, over the course of the last six years. More than half of the UK top 50 architects and engineers have assessed the skills of employees and new hires using CADsmart in recent years.

A recent industry survey, published in AEC Magazine, asked UK based firms how they test CAD skills (if at all). The range of options included Autodesk & Bentley certification, in-house testing and, of course, CADsmart. Among AEC firms with 20-49 users, 50-99 users and 100+ users, CADsmart was selected as the leading solution across the board - ahead of all other choices, including vendor certification.

With the recent push for BIM adoption, the way in which AEC firms are adopting and using technical software is rapidly changing. We've spoken to over 150 customers in recent weeks, and they collectively identified 107 separate software products currently in use in our industry!

We are regularly asked to cover a variety of CAD, BIM, modelling, analysis, civil, structural and design tools in our test modules. By implementing a web-based solution, we are able to cover many of these additional titles.

To go with the new tools, we will be launching a new brand, to sit alongside the established CADsmart brand. In the New Year, we will be adding 'KnowledgeSmart' to our portfolio of skills assessment solutions. This heralds a new phase in flexible, independent skills testing, never available before in our industry. AEC firms will be able to access a library of expertly-written test modules, edit and create their own material, tie results in to existing corporate learning resources, identify training and skills gaps across their teams, capture and disseminate knowledge throughout their business and benchmark performance against recognised industry metrics.

We'll keep you posted as we get closer to our launch date - scheduled for January 2010. We're excited about this new phase of business; as the world emerges from a deep recession, the ability for AEC firms to engage in reliable knowledge management practices is more important than ever before.


New BIM report from McGraw Hill

As more and more AEC firms embrace BIM in earnest, it helps to keep abreast of the latest news on the subject. One of the best annual updates is the SmartMarket Report from McGraw Hill Construction. This year's report focuses on the Business case for BIM.

Click here for a PDF copy:


Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Shall I Compare Thee?

As I enter sedately into the middle-age chapter of my mortal existence, I thought I’d better take up a new hobby, with the principal aim of attaining my prescribed 3 x weekly cardiovascular quota. Far behind me are the days of haring about a soccer pitch in search of County-level cup glory. And the old knees just don’t have it in them to take up an impact sport like squash or, Heaven forbid, jogging. So that left rowing as my activity of choice. Now, being rather land-locked where I live, I thought the obvious conclusion was to opt for an air-rowing machine, tucked away in a nice quiet corner of the garage. With this in mind, I did a bit of research and ventured into the online bidding world of Ebay, where I found myriad makes and models at my disposal. The interesting thing about buying a used rowing machine on Ebay, is that it’s very easy to compare like with like – and to tell straightaway if one is getting what my American friends would refer to as bang for the (sculling) buck.

It occurred to me that we are, in fact, becoming rather obsessed with the science of comparison, in all facets of our personal and business lives.

Look at the financial sector, for example; how many adverts do we see on TV for price comparison these days? Insurance premiums, loan interest rates, credit card APR rates, mortgages, savings accounts, utility bills, the list goes on and on. On one leading site, I counted 55 separate items that are up for forensic examination!

Anyone who has ever bought a used car in the UK will be familiar with the process of getting their old clunker valued by the shiny suited salesman at the auto dealer. What's the first thing he does, before he even sets eyes on your old jalopy? He reaches into his coffee-stained desk drawer for his dog-eared copy of ‘Glass’s Guide’ to used car prices, flicks to the appropriate page, and tells you that your car is worth about as much as a tank of petrol. But the point is this; they have an industry-wide accepted guide, a bible for used car valuations, and no-one ever questions the numbers in the Glass Guide, even though we have no clue how they are derived!

Look at the telecoms sector; how often do you see price comparisons for landline rates, mobile phone tariffs, or broadband speeds? When buying and selling property, a quick look at upmystreet.com will soon tell you if the real estate agent is being less than scrupulous in his valuation of your house! Supermarkets spend vast fortunes on telling us how much cheaper a basket of their groceries is than the competing megastore down the street. Schools and colleges publish their results in microscopic detail, whilst fretting parents pore over the league tables every year. Travel firms tempt us with deals for flights, hotels, trains, cruises, sunshine getaways. Local authorities publish annual performance charts, health providers regale us with a smorgasbord of medical data, police forces publish crime cleanup targets – we are literally drowning in a sea of statistics and information – all of it parcelled up for direct comparison and benchmarking against industry or society standards.

So how does this apply to CAD & BIM? It's certainly an interesting time in the AEC industry, with respect to BIM in particular. Many firms are embracing the challenge of BIM adoption, whether by choice, or because clients and partners are pushing them down this path. One of the direct consequences is the huge range of tools now being employed on projects. Gone are the days when the average user could get the job done with a passable understanding of AutoCAD or MicroStation. Now, it would seem, it is necessary to become adept in half a dozen different software applications to produce the required data for modern-day construction projects.

This is reflected by feedback from over 100 CADsmart customers, when asked recently what applications they would like to see covered under the upcoming i-Skills AEC test format. We currently have requests for 102 - yes 102 - separate topics! Over 50 of these, predictably, cover tools from the Autodesk & Bentley stables. But that leaves more than 40 additional tools, representing a further 20 vendors, including; Graphisoft, Solibri, Google, Vico, Adobe, Gehry, Tekla, Nemetschek, Informatix, IES, ESRI and others.

In addition to the software applications themselves, we're also seeing an enthusiastic demand for quality control and accreditation of Standards and processes; we're currently working on content covering; US National CAD Standards, UK AEC CAD Standards, BIM Standards (bit trickier!) and general concepts of BIM.

Our aim is to deliver a suite of tools which encourage assessment of users’ ability, with the aim of benchmarking and comparing performance against industry standards. In this way, AEC firms can hire the right people with the right skills for each role; they can map training to recognised skills gaps in the firm’s skills matrix; they can create content to address specific project Standards and in-house work flows; they can create knowledge management processes for sharing best practice across their teams.

Benchmarks are all around us, telling us how to get the best deal, the most value, the most competitive terms. Clear comparison of how to get the maximum return on a significant investment in software technology and management resources is an essential ingredient if AEC firms are to reap the huge potential rewards that BIM presents.

As I write these lines, I can see that the clock on Ebay has turned red; I’m into the last 10 minutes of a 3-way bidding war for a Concept 2. May the best rookie rower prevail; Sir Steven Redgrave had better step aside; there’s a new guy in town. Although I’m not sure who looks better in a fitted lycra all-in-one..


Friday, 14 August 2009

Bus drivers, welders, CAD professionals - spot the odd one out...

What do bus drivers and welders have in common that CAD professionals don't?
Not sure? The answer is simple; bus drivers and welders need to demonstrate their professional credentials on a regular basis throughout their careers, in order to be allowed to do their job.

Bus drivers (and lorry drivers from next month) have to pass a 'certificate of professional competence' in order to drive their vehicles in the UK .
Here's the background; the CPC was developed as a requirement of the EU Directive 2003/59, which is designed to improve the knowledge and skills of professional LGV and PCV drivers throughout their working life. There are two parts to the legislation:
- An Initial Qualification that must be achieved by new (LGV and PCV) drivers along with their vocational licence to enable them to use their licence professionally.
- Periodic Training, which involves all professional drivers undertaking 35 hours of training every 5 years.

Now let's look at the humble welder;

Welder certification are specially designed tests to determine a welder's skill and ability to deposit sound weld metal. The tests consist of many variables, including the specific welding process, type of metal, thickness, joint design, position, and others. Most certifications expire after a certain time limit, and have different requirements for renewal or extension of the certification. Once a welder passes a test (or a series of tests) their employer will certify the ability to pass the test, and the limitations or extent they are qualified to weld, as a written document (welder qualification test record, or WQTR).

So if the driving industry has a recognised benchmark for performance and if the welding industry won't allow its members to pick up a blow-torch without first demonstrating they have the requisite skills, then why on earth does the AEC industry let anyone with a pulse loose with a CAD license??

A recent story on ENR.com highlighted the dangers of unqualified staff working on projects. A warehouse in Philadelphia suffered a major structural collapse, resulting in damages of $3.5M USD. A building-collapse expert concluded, 'The team committed several engineering errors of "amazing proportions" that caused the Philadelphia warehouse to fail under the weight of snow'. He found that the warehouse had only one-third of the steel roof framing it needed.

Someone using analysis software grossly underestimated the quantity of materials, the error went unnoticed, the building was constructed, the snow fell... and they firm got hit with $3.5M in costs. Plus a bunch of people got hurt when the roof fell in. Ouch! Suddenly a few extra bucks on testing a person's proficiency using engineering software, plus a few hours training, seems like a good use of the company resources!

A CIO at a large US design firm recently said to me; “The minute you give someone a CAD license on their desktop – you are effectively giving them full access to your end product. You want to be sure they know what they are doing!”. This firm doesn't allocate a CAD license to someone's desktop unless they have first met the minimum threshold competence level for CAD performance, as identified by the firms CAD administrators (using CADsmart, in this instance).

A bus company doesn't give someone the keys to its shiniest double-decker without making absolutely sure that they have the current skills required to drive the vehicle. Isn't it time that the AEC industry recognised the need for clear skills certification in core authoring, BIM, Civil and analysis software packages? And a continuous improvement program for design and engineering professionals to demonstrate their credentials to their employers on an ongoing basis?


Wednesday, 5 August 2009

CADsmart goes to MCMC Kansas

Well, I’ve been kicking my heels in the UK for the last month since returning from RTC ( Revit Technology Conference ) in Melbourne. It’s now time to escape the wet British summer and go on another trip, this time to Kansas, where CADsmart is sponsoring the MCMC (Mid-Continent MicroStation Community) event at Overland Park. You can find more about it here.

This is the second year CADsmart have sponsored the MCMC conference and we’re looking forward to being back in Kansas. Hopefully this trip I’ll get a bit of time to have a look at downtown Kansas, and see some of the over 200 fountains.

The MCMC conference is one of the main meeting places for MicroStation users in the USA. Lasting 2 days, the conference has multiple strands covering all the latest developments in MicroStation and workshop classes as well. If you’re attending please stop by the CADsmart booth and say hello.


Monday, 3 August 2009

Interesting times at CADsmart..

Gosh, there's been quite a bit happening at CADsmart over the past few weeks. Where to begin?!

First, huge congratulations to Ed & his wife, who recently presented a new baby girl to the family household. To add to the growing brood, my wife had twins (little girl - Erin Rose and little boy - Finnigan) . I think our new philosophy is to grow the team from within and save on hiring fees! :) All are doing well, although I think it's fair to say that Ed & I are not at our sharpest right now, given the reduction in sleep across the board!

Next, we just moved our UK HQ office to a brand new location - Paintworks - one of the premier spots for creative firms in the Southwest (http://www.paintworksbristol.co.uk/).

To add to the mix, I thought it would be a good idea to move house - we need more room to accommodate the new arrivals - so that's my next project in the coming few days! Life certainly isn't dull around these parts!

Next up, work is underway on our new service, which we discussed with our customers at the recent CAD Focus Group. In order to cater for a range of new CAD applications (in particular, in the BIM, Civil and Analysis tools space), we've been looking into additional ways to generate meaningful metrics across these platforms. Too many of the new tools are not especially API-friendly, including many of the core BIM tools, hence the introduction of 'CADsmart i-Skills for AEC' (the 'i' stands for 'interactive', in case you were wondering ;) ). So, with the inclusion of some exciting new technology, including MS Silverlight, heading your way, we feel confident that we will remain at the forefront of AEC skills assessment. It's too early to give you a sneak preview, but we'll keep you posted as we get close to an acceptable beta release.

Last, we just passed our financial year end. It's been quite a strange year, what with the recession and general malaise affecting wide areas of our industry. I've never seen anything like it; such a steep fall away in momentum, revenues and cash flow across an industry the size of the world construction market is truly a one-off event; a market correction on a scale we'll likely never see again. Looking at many of the key firms in our sector, a recurring pattern of 25-35% drop in revenues is commonplace. For us, in truth, the recession hasn't come at too horrible a time; a year later would have been better, a year earlier more damaging. On balance, I guess we are where we are, and that's OK. Our read on the market is that we have 9-12 more months of pain, before we gradually get back on an even keel. It's ironic that the banks are posting huge profits again, but keeping the bulk of the cash to shore up their own balance sheets, before helping SME's and individuals to restore their own finances. Some things will never change! Looks like bankers are the new lawyers (attorneys for our US friends)!

Our summer sale has just a few more weeks to run - it ends this month. The response so far has been tremendous. It shows that, whilst budgets are tight, firms are still looking for opportunities to increase productivity where they can. The simple fact is that, with staff numbers down, firms need to get more work from less resources (staff, licenses, hardware, etc.).

We're looking forward to our annual trip to Kansas City later this month; we're sponsoring the Bentley MCMC conference again - one of the most fun events of the AEC calendar year.

So, these certainly are interesting times at CADsmart! Hope to see you at an upcoming event very soon..


Monday, 29 June 2009

CADsmart sponsors Revit Technology Conference ‘09

I’m now back in the UK after a two week trip to Australia via Singapore. The main purpose of the trip was to attend the annual Revit Technology Conference (RTC) in Melbourne. CADsmart sponsored RTC ‘09 and was one of the exhibitors. I also took the opportunity to visit existing CADsmart customers in Singapore and Australia.

It was certainly a trip of “firsts” for me;
First time in the new A380 Super Jumbo – but in economy it was just like any other jet :-(
First time in Singapore - a modern, clean and tidy city. Very helpful and polite people - but very,very humid (note to myself– don’t walk for 15 minutes between meetings!)
First time in Melbourne – Great sporting facilities. I took in a footy game (AFL ) at the Etihad stadium and rugby league (NRL) at the old Olympic stadium ( from 1956 - and so small!)
First time in Sydney – played the tourist round the Harbour area
And…first time I’ve ever been given a business card out of someone’s bra! If that’s how architects do business in New Zealand then maybe I should get there next year!

Now back to RTC. The event was held in Melbourne from June 18th-20th in the Sebel Hotel, just opposite Albert Park where the Grand Prix takes place. It’s the Premier Revit and BIM conference in the region, attracting over 220 delegates. This is a truly user driven event, organised by Revit User Groups and with real users delivering presentations about practical Revit and BIM use. All the top movers and shakers of the ANZAC Revit community were there. Refreshingly, there were very few vendor presentations delivering their often overtly sales messages. The USA was represented by Steve Stafford of the RevitOpEd blog, who was one of the presenters.

If you’re a Revit user, or you’re thinking of migrating to Revit, then I strongly advise you to get to next years event, which will be held in May 2010. You can find out more about this years event here RTC '09

Thanks are due to Heidi, Sarah and Wesley for their hard work in getting the event organised, and for looking after me. In addition, Matt Rumbelow of AEC Systems and the Revitall blog gets a special mention for helping me out with hardware, transport and beer - and for not mentioning the result of the Lions test match.

RTC was our first venture into the ANZAC territory, although we already have some large customers “down under”. CADsmart was well received and our message about the need for CAD and BIM productivity metrics and training needs went down well. Now to follow up all those leads…


Tuesday, 23 June 2009

4 Engineers in a car...

There are four engineers traveling in a car; a mechanical engineer, a chemical engineer, an electrical engineer and a computer engineer. The car breaks down.

"Sounds to me as if the pistons have seized. We'll have to strip down the engine before we can get the car working again", says the mechanical engineer.

"Well", says the chemical engineer, "it sounded to me as if the fuel might be contaminated. I think we should clear out the fuel system."

"I thought it might be a grounding problem", says the electrical engineer, "or maybe a faulty plug lead."

They all turn to the computer engineer, who has contributed nothing to the debate, and ask; "Well, what do you think?"

"Ummm - how about if we all get out of the car and get back in again?"


Thursday, 18 June 2009

AEC Technology Strategies Conference 2009 - summary

Last week, I was pleased to attend ZweigWhite's 2009 AEC Technology Strategies Conference; http://events.zweigwhite.com/technology.

After an epic journey, lasting 29 hours door-to-door due to delays and stopovers, I finally arrived at the impressive Green Valley Ranch, Las Vegas, just after midnight, the night before the conference. I must say that Atlanta airport has a surprisingly good jazz pianist! :)
After a scant 5 hours of sleep, whilst adjusting to the 8-hour time difference, I arose to set up the CADsmart booth and meet the organisers. My thanks to Russ and the team at Stagnito Media, who proved to be extremely helpful and obliging hosts.

This was the tenth annual gathering of AEC leaders and it proved to be a worthwhile event. Attendance was very good, in what is clearly a tough year for event organisers. The genial MC for this year's show was Ken Young, CIO at HOK, who kept things running to schedule and offered his own perspective on how recession has affected technical decision making strategy at his own Practice, throughout the proceedings.

Notable keynotes on day one were delivered by Michael Tardif, Director of IPD at Grunley Construction, who discussed Aligning Technology with Core Business Strategy. This was followed by Walter P Moore CIO, Jim Jacobi, who covered the Importance of Leveraging Technology in a Challenging Environment.

The conference split into concurrent working groups after the break, covering topics such as; Communicating & Delivering IT Value, Intranets Made Easy, Leadership Strategies, Adopting 3D, Managing Remote Teams, WAN Optimization, The Reality of BIM and the Changing Role of Technology in the AEC Industry.

An excellent lunch of filets mignon, sponsored by TW Telecom, was followed by further working groups and a wrap up of day one's proceedings. This was followed by an entertaining evening's networking, which included watching the LA Lakers series win against Orlando Magic, and a round of 'beerpong' in the casino. I'm pleased to report that CADsmart were on the winning team, thus jointly holding the reigning title of AEC Tech Strategies Beerpong champions! :)

Day two began with a technical presentation from Dennis Shelden from MIT and Gehry Technologies. Then further working groups covering the following subjects; Collaboration Tools and Techniques, Document Management, Future of BIM, Training For Effect - Improving Your Firm's Knowledge Base.

The final keynote of the day was a fascinating presentation on Building a High Performing Virtual IT Team, by MWH Global's CIO, Micki Nelson. This was followed by an expert panel, comprising all principal speakers, and included a host of technology-related questions from the floor.

In summary, a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days, with many new connections made and friendships renewed. My thanks go to ZweigWhite for their hospitality and to the following delegates for taking me under their wing; John 'Pickle Loving' Robison, Chris 'Sharepoint Guru' Parsons, Chris 'Hustler' Pinckney and Karl 'Rainbow Trout' Fischer.

I thought the return trip couldn't possibly be more convoluted than the journey over; how naive I was! To start, we routed to NY JFK, via Salt Lake City. Then, we were held on the tarmac at JFK for an hour due to congestion; there were literally 30+ planes lined up nose to tail! We missed the connection to London Heathrow by 5 minutes, then took another 5 hours to persuade Delta to let us on the last flight out that night. I squeeked onto the flight with the last seat, only to be held up on the tarmac for another 90 minutes due to yet more Saturday night runway congestion! Grr! So, in fact, my return journey lasted 31 hours door to door!

Still, the rewards of a successful trip far outweighed the down side of a few too many cups of airport coffee. And the Atlanta pianist really is very good! :)

Monday, 8 June 2009

Engineer ID Test

You walk into a room and notice that a picture is hanging crooked. Do you...

A. Straighten it?

B. Ignore it?

C. Buy a CAD system and spend the next six months designing a solar-powered, self-adjusting picture frame (while often sighing aloud your belief that the inventor of the nail was a total moron)?

The correct answer is "C" (but partial credit can be given to anybody who writes "It depends" in the margin of the test or simply blames the whole thing on "Marketing").


Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Trouble with Software Engineers...

A Software Engineer, a Hardware Engineer and a Departmental Manager were on their way to a meeting in Switzerland. They were driving down a steep mountain road when suddenly the brakes on their car failed. The car careened almost out of control down the road, bouncing off the crash barriers, until it miraculously ground to a halt scraping along the mountainside. The car's occupants, shaken but unhurt, now had a problem: they were stuck halfway down a mountain in a car with no brakes. What were they to do?

"I know," said the Departmental Manager, "Let's have a meeting, propose a Vision, formulate a Mission Statement, define some Goals, and by a process of Continuous Improvement find a solution to the Critical Problems, and we can be on our way."

"No, no," said the Hardware Engineer, "That will take far too long, and besides, that method has never worked before. I've got my Swiss Army knife with me, and in no time at all I can strip down the car's braking system, isolate the fault, fix it, and we can be on our way."

"Well," said the Software Engineer, "before we do anything, I think we should push the car back up the road and see if it happens again."


AEC Technology Strategies Conference 2009

We're off to sunny Las Vegas again next week. CADsmart are sponsoring ZweigWhite's 2009 AEC Technology Strategies Conference on June 11 & 12. http://events.zweigwhite.com/technology/

This is the tenth annual gathering of AEC leaders and this year's event should be illuminating. It will be interesting to see how 100+ CIO's and technology administrators are coping in the most protracted economic downturn for a generation.

Main themes for this year's conference include:
• AEC Design and Business Systems • Corporate Strategy and the Role of AEC Technology • IT Infrastructure for the AEC Business • Leadership and the Role of the AEC IT Director• Maximizing IT Resources in a Challenging Economy

If you're attending the show, please stop by the CADsmart booth and say hello.


Thursday, 30 April 2009

Australia here we come!

The fifth Revit Technology Conference takes place on June 18th -20th in Melbourne, and CADsmart will be both a sponsor, and an exhibitor - link. RTC '09 is the premiere event in the region and we look forward to introducing many new companies to our live skills assessment for Revit. RTC '09 has a packed and interesting BIM / Revit agenda and I'm looking forward to being there. If you're going to be at the RTC '09 please stop by at the exhibition and say hello, or feel free to search me out in the bar and get me a beer!

Many thanks to Matt Rumbelow for introducing us to the event - and to return the favour, make sure you visit his informative online newsletter for Revit and BIM users - http://www.revitall.net/

It's our first visit to Australia, and I'll be stopping off en-route to visit customers in Singapore, and also going to Sydney after RTC. Luckily I'll be in Australia before the Ashes cricket series begins so I can't get ribbed over the England performance ( of course I'm confident we'll win.....)


Monday, 27 April 2009

JTB World

I was chatting with Jimmy Bergmark recently, and it prompted me to jot a few lines about his service which is, in my opinion, an essential element for any CAD & BIM administrators toolkit.

In particular, I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of tools:
First, JTB FlexReport, which makes it easy to track network license usage, presenting detailed lists and charting. With the usage reports firms can optimize how many licenses are needed and also split costs between different profit-centres by grouping users or work stations in the reports. FlexReport helps AEC firms manage their resources and and save money by not purchasing more licenses than needed. (NB Applications that are licensed using the FLEXnet (FLEXlm), IBM LUM or 12D are supported).

Next, SSMPropEditor (or Sheet Set Manager Properties Editor) is a big time saver for firms working with AutoCAD’s Sheet Set Manager or AutoCAD Architecture’s Project Manager. This clever tool enables administrators to select multiple sheets and edit properties without having to do it sheet by sheet. SSMPropEditor runs outside of AutoCAD making the information accessible for more users, for example those using AutoCAD LT.

Just take a look at JTB World's customer base, to see how popular these applications are across AEC firms of all shapes & sizes: http://www.jtbworld.com/customers.htm.
Jimmy also writes an informative blog: http://blog.jtbworld.com/.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Mid Continent MicroStation Community Conference

Here's a date for the diary this year; August 25/26, 2009.

Why? Because those are the dates for this year's Mid Continent MicroStation Community conference - arguably the most enjoyable event in the CAD calendar year!

In a year when the world has gone a bit topsy turvey, and big firm user conferences are being pulled faster than you can say, 'I've reduced my carbon footprint by going virtual', it's refreshing to see that the MCMC team are bringing out the big guns for the 2009 event.

Last year, the event was held in Kansas City's Overland Park Convention Center (www.tmcmcmc.org/meetings/2008/onsite_agenda.pdf), and it was a blast. The networking is first class; we took in a baseball game, rail museum, ate sheboygan hot dogs, ribs, steaks - in fact the red meat consumption was like Elvis heaven! :)

This year, the venue is the same - and CADsmart will be taking one of the Premier Sponsor slots.

The two day in-person conference covers a number of different knowledge tracts, including MicroStation, Civil, BIM, CAD Management, Structural Analysis, Plotting and Publishing and Collaborative working. To continue my food analogy, a veritable smorgasbord of content for users and CAD administrators to get stuck into!

And in light of the BE show being cancelled next month, I predict that the MCMC show will the the must-attend user event for the Bentley community this summer. With over 350 people attending last year, this year is shaping up to be even bigger.

For more details and to register, go to:

Social Networking: www.twitter.com/tmcmcmc

Last one to book their seats buys the wheat beer!

Kalexo - kind of a cross between...

I met a very interesting man recently at the AEC IT-Leaders Roundtable meeting in New York. His name is Hannes Marais and his company is Kalexo (http://www.kalexo.com/).

During the break at the Roundtable, I took a look at the demo tools provided by Kalexo, and I have to say, I was impressed.

How can I describe their main product, Teamwork? It's kind of a cross between Sharepoint, Buzzsaw, Skype and GoToMeeting, with a dash of Projectwise, a sprinkle of Yousendit.com, a hint of Newforma and a splash of YouTube. Confused? For a detailed look, read Paul Wilkinson's recent blog post: http://www.extranetevolution.com/extranet_evolution/2009/04/a-closer-look-at-kalexo.html

Users can share files, manage tasks, hold video conferences, record screen movies, create screenshots, redline documents, send instant messages and teleconference via VoIP, all within one tool which looks pretty straightforward to use. Teamwork offers a framework for communications, creating an electronic environment through which teams collaborate as easily as if they were physically located in one room.

I think as we progress down the road to BIM, that Kalexo might well become another must-have application for smarter, more efficient project working.


A little bird told me...

Yes, as Ed alluded to in our e-bulletin last week, we have joined the ranks of 'tweeters' on the rapidly expanding social networking medium, Twitter. :)

I have to say, whilst we still have our training wheels on, it's great fun - and, used appropriately, I can see some big potential for expanding our network of useful contacts across the AEC space.

So, for those of you so inclined, please feel free to 'follow' our daily ramblings at: http://twitter.com/cadsmart.

Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross, Demi Moore - watch out!


Monday, 6 April 2009

CADsmart CAD Focus Group, London, May 14th

We've just announced the date for our next customer CAD Focus Group. This gives us a chance to sit with our customers in an informal setting for a half day and receive direct feedback on the best (and worst!) aspects of our service. The meeting will help shape our technology roadmap over the coming 6-12 months. We're pretty much fully booked for this event, but if you'd like more information, or a copy of the minutes, drop us a line.

The date is Thursday 14th May, 9am - 1pm. Venue is RIBA HQ in London; free to attend, working lunch included, etc.

We have quite a bit to cover this year. The agenda hasn't been formalised, but will include some or all of the following:

- BIM Accreditation
- Creating custom content for skills assessments
- Autodesk BIM tools (basic & advanced Architecture, Structure & MEP)
- Bentley BIM tools (basic 3D MicroStation, basic & advanced Architecture, Structural & Mechanical)
- Geo tools (Geopak, Civil 3D)
- Vertical libraries (i.e. Rail, etc.)
- Version specific content (i.e. 2010, v8i)
- Presenting performance data, measuring improvements
- Managing large assessment rollouts
- Training & E-Learning


CADsmart present to AEC IT leadership in NYC

I've just returned from my first visit to the Big Apple and it was a fascinating experience. Unfortunately, due to a rather hectic meetings schedule, all I managed to see with my tourist hat on was a bit of Grand Central Station and the rear of about a dozen yellow cabs!

However, I did get to spend some time with my brother, who flew in from LA for a couple of days. For those of you who don't know, he's the famous one in the Vance family household!(http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0888496/).

Anyway, the main reason for my trip was to deliver a presentation to the AEC IT Leaders Round Table meeting (http://aecitleaders.org/). A gathering of IT & CAD principals from AEC firms across the US, and hosted this time around by Holly Schulz at BBG-BBGM, whom I thank for the generous NYC hospitality.

I delivered a session on BIM skills assessments, mainly covering Revit, but also touching on Bentley BIM, which is currently under development, and was pleasantly surprised by the warm response, and interactive discussion which followed.

My list of NYC attractions remains woefully unchecked, so I feel a return visit may well be on the cards this year!


Thursday, 2 April 2009

CADsmart joins Bentley's Be Employable initiative

So, the recession continues to dominate the headlines, and the world's leaders descend on London for 5 courses of Jamie Oliver's finest cuisine and a chat about the best way out of this mess. These are unprecedented times, and our industry is at the heart of the storm. Many firms have no option but to cut costs, and with it comes the very real challenge of layoffs. In a BBC article this week, it was reported that 'the number of architects claiming benefits has risen by 760% in a year'!

And yet, despite the economic chaos, it is refreshing to see that businesses can still display a human side, giving something back to an industry that has served them well in better times. One such example is Bentley's 'Be Employable' initiative. In a nutshell, Be Employable provides free software and training to designers, architects, engineers, and any other infrastructure professional who find themselves temporarily out of work. The reason? To help them improve their technical skills so that they can increase their competitive edge in a highly competitive job market.

As of this week, we're pleased to announce that CADsmart has joined the Be Employable initiative, providing free use of its skills assessment software.

CADsmart enables Bentley Community members to:
- Benchmark MicroStation skills against a recognised industry standard
- Highlight skills gaps for targeted training
- Focus learning using the Bentley Systems suite of training tools
- Measure improvements in personal CAD performance post-training

Each Bentley Community member gets:
- 2 free CAD (MicroStation) skills assessments
- A certificate with breakdown of test scores
- A personal training plan for use with Bentley Learn tools & resources

To register for the scheme, go to: www.bentley.com/beemployable.

This recession will end, albeit maybe not for another year or two. And when it does, I hope that some of the tough lessons we are learning this year can be retained. Perhaps in this way, and by supporting each other in times of difficulty, we can avoid a repeat of the mistakes which created this bubble-bursting maelstrom in the first place.


Friday, 20 March 2009

CADsmart development update

We are quite regularly asked what we have scheduled in our technical roadmap. The truth is, it can vary, depending on customer feedback, focus group activity, market trends, strategic decisions by the major vendors, and so on.

In spite of the economic backdrop, we remain pretty flat-out on our technical deliveries this year. BIM is clearly a big influencer in our current workload.

Our plans are sometimes subject to change, but to give you an idea of what we're focusing on this year, I've outlined our technical delivery roadmap, as follows;

- Feb 09-Mar 09 - MicroStation Rail x 10, Revit 64-bit compatibility (upgrade to SQL Server) and 2010 compatibility
- Apr 09-May 09 - Revit Structure basic x 10, MicroStation 3D x 10 and Bentley Architecture basic x 10
- Jun 09-Jul 09 - Revit MEP basic x 10 and Revit Architecture basic x 20
- Aug 09-Sept 09 - Revit Architecture & Revit Structure advanced x 10
- Oct 09-Nov 09 - Bentley Structural basic x 10 and quiz wizard module

We're also working on creating a framework for BIM accreditation; more to follow on this item later. Plus a development to compliment Bentley's Be Employable initiative. We also go live with a link to 4D's CADLearning training tools - 'Curriculum Builder' - in the next month or so.

Looking ahead to next year, we'll be continuing work on our existing portfolio, but also plan to create assessment libraries for the following; Geopak, Civil 3D, AutoPlant, Bentley Mechanical and maybe Inventor. Plus the usual Dashboard and reporting developments, not to mention custom library work for existing customers!

Hope that's useful; if there are any items you don't see mentioned here, or if you have any questions about the CADsmart development roadmap, why not give us a call?


Friday, 6 March 2009

CADsmart presents to AIA CIO LFRT meeting

I've been on the road this week, and it's been an eventful trip. My week started in Exton, PA, for a meeting at Bentley HQ. No sooner had I rented my car from Philly airport, than the local radio announced that Pennsylvania was expecting 10 inches of snow overnight! And so it proved, when I awoke on Monday morning to a scene from the movie 'Winter Wonderland'. I think my GPS had a Machiavellian streak, because the 30 mile drive to Exton took in just about every icy, snow laden side road in the county, studiously avoiding the nicely gritted Interstate!

The meeting at Bentley was very positive; we'll shortly be releasing news about a collaborative program, where CADsmart is contributing to their recently announced 'Be Employable' initiative.

Oh yes, and one other highlight of my visit to Philly; I found the 'Rocky steps' by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and couldn't resist running up to the top (though I stopped short of doing a little dance) ;)

Next stop was Tampa, Florida, a complete contrast in meteorological fortunes! 75 degrees and sunny, I decided to take a walk from my hotel to my morning appointment; some 9 or so blocks. Clearly this wasn't a bright idea, as I forgot just how vast distances are in the US versus the UK. After 20 minutes of walking (the first 5 in the wrong direction!) I soon realised my schoolboy error. Murphy's law of taxis kicked in (when you need one, they're nowhere to be found) and I was creeping towards being late for my meeting. At that moment, I happened to see a battered blue sedan pulling out of a car park in front of me, so I jumped out in front of the mildly traumatised driver and said, 'Ill give you $20 to drive me 1 mile in that direction!' When he realised that I was a mildly harrassed and geographically challenged (lost) corporate executive, rather than a car-jacker with poor taste, he eagerly accepted my offer and the deal was sealed.

The meeting with Axiom was very useful; more news to follow, but we're in discussion to co-promote CADsmart and Axiom's LearningBay training suite for Bentley users.

And so, on to the beautiful city of Charleston, SC, for the AIA CIO LFRT (large firm round table) meeting, where we had been invited to present a session on capturing performance metrics for CAD & BIM teams. My thanks to George Temple, CIO at LS3P and Shawn Foster at Jacobs, for their hospitality during my stay. Charleston is a wonderful place to spend some time, rich in history and southern charm; it also helps that my visit coincides with their annual food & wine festival (http://www.charlestonfoodandwine.com/2009/) :)

The CIO LFRT meeting was an information packed 2 days, covering a host of topical issues facing AEC firms in the current climate. 30 large architectural practices were shown how CADsmart's performance metrics provide a powerful source of business intelligence for firms using Autodesk & Bentley software, particularly in these challenging times.

I think I'll book ahead for my taxi back to the airport.


Friday, 20 February 2009

CAD & BIM - A Business Critical Resource

What's that noise? It's a delicate, almost musical sound, like a light falling of rain, only slightly more metallic. Could it be the sound of pennies dropping in boardrooms across the AEC industry?

For too long, CAD has been seen as a bit of a pariah within many architectural & engineering firms. The poor cousin; the whinging child in the corner. CAD 'Managers' are dismissed as slightly odd creatures, always working late (unpaid), often crawling around under desks with a pen or mini-screwdriver firmly planted behind one ear, slightly dishevelled, with odd socks and bits of network cable dangling around their necks like ill-conceived costume jewellery. And I use the term 'Manager' lightly, because how many firms actually extend their CAD leaders the courtesy of a senior management position? And yet, they are often the unsung heroes (or heroines) of their firm. Try being without them for a week and see what anarchy ensues!

But lately, it would seem, perhaps as a necessity brought about by the decline in our collective economic fortunes, that things are starting to change. There is a shift in the breeze and senior AEC management are waking up to the idea that CAD (and more likely BIM) might actually be a bit more relevant than they first thought. And furthermore, it might even be the very thing that keeps them in business long enough to enjoy the inevitable upswing in the economy.

Because what is the main deliverable of an architectural firm? Designing buildings, you say? No! The chief deliverable for an architect - it's 'product', if you will - is working drawings, production information, models! Ditto for engineers. And what medium do they use to create said products? That's right - CAD (or latterly BIM) software.

So the firms who have had their lightbulb moment, their penny dropping experience if you will, are now involving CAD & BIM not just at the periphery of their offices - but at the very heart of their enterprise. Not just as another costly, balance-sheet-sucking IT resource, but as a business critical investment that can be the difference between bids won and lost.

Take, for example, clients such as ASDA or the Army Corps, who are now specifying BIM tools as part of their project briefs. Without the ability to demonstrate proficiency in these tools, firms won't even make the long-list, let alone the short-list for future work.

CADsmart finds itself at the heart of this technology debate. Consider the following testimonial from one of our large customers (400+ users, multiple offices, mix of Autodesk & Bentley tools);

“CADsmart is fundamental in the assessment of CAD abilities for existing and potential staff. It provides increased business awareness of current skill-sets, records valuable cross office KPIs and enables management to better resource and deliver training within budgets. It improves business efficiency, productivity and profitability, enabling staff to gain skills and confidence to the mutual benefit of all concerned. It enables line managers to better assess their teams’ skills and contributes to annual staff reviews. The business is able to recognise and reward the best staff whilst encouraging them to become mentors to others. It fosters a healthy competitive environment amongst staff and establishes a desire for self improvement. CADsmart drives capital investment in CAD/BIM technologies and has become an important business management, analysis and ROI tool.”

Not surprisingly, this firm has posted some of the highest test scores amongst our large customers. It has a well managed CAD & BIM resource, which sits at the heart of the business - and which has the attention of senior management.

Could this be the model for all firms to follow, as we head down the road to BIM? How seriously does your leadership take their commitment to CAD & BIM?


Monday, 2 February 2009

Recession - a good time for CAD & BIM training?

As the recessionary typhoon continues unabated, drawing us all into its swirling centre, the question of staff development crops up time and again.

It seems as if everyone is looking at their budgets to see how they can be reduced. In most firms, financial controllers are looking at training budgets and assessing the benefits of immediately using some of the funds elsewhere or removing them all together! It is a difficult situation and one that presents CAD & HR Managers, and others responsible for training staff, with a serious challenge. How can they reach their targets - and keep projects on track - if their workforce is under-developed?

In Britain, the Learning Skills Council is encouraging businesses to take advantage of government funding for training, which may increase motivation and productivity; "Those (businesses) that make the right investment in training and development will be in a much better place when we come out of the recession. Training is one of the cornerstones of any successful business today, as it makes the organisation adaptable to change and therefore more productive. The last thing you should do is cut your training; now is not the time to lose employees to competition."

Research from the Cranfield School of Management shows that it is cheaper and more effective to 'grow your own' employees rather than shop around for talent. Cranfield's 'Nurturing Talent' report, which canvassed the views of 1,200 training and recruitment decision makers, found that three quarters of employers would rather nurture and develop talent in-house than recruit externally.

Almost half of small and medium sized businesses that develop in-house talent noted a cost saving, 20% recorded improved staff motivation and 45% increased employee retention. The report concludes; "For employers, the nurturing talent concept means managing and developing employees to achieve business goals. This could include training, employee coaching, staff mentoring and job enrichment to stretch employees with new tasks."

A leading US business performance coach states simply; "Train intensively in tough times... and less so in good times. In good times you want employees to be working hard, setting new performance records and serving customers; taking advantage of the good times. Prepare for the good times with intense internal training in tough times - you won't get a better opportunity!"

From our experience at CADsmart, we see AEC firms falling into two distinct categories; those who 'get it' and those who don't. The ones who do understand these principles have a rolling, continuous improvement environment for their CAD & BIM teams, including regular assessment, targeted training, buddying & mentoring schemes - and a clear path from basic skills through to advanced CAD & BIM applications for projects.

The ones who don't, seem to be taking more of a head-in-the-sand approach to their planning. They cut skills assessment from their priority list, along with training & development programs. Their rationale? We're not hiring, so we don't need skills evaluations. These same firms, when it comes to the unfortunate position of letting people go, have no real clue who their best - most productive - users are! They slice 5%, 10%, 20% from their payrolls - losing super-users alongside inefficient ones - without thought for the medium-term consequences!

Sensible business leaders are keen to keep staff motivated at all times. Good leadership is critical during times of fear, uncertainty and pessimism such as these. Companies need leaders who can manage their emotions, stay positive and show resolve. Providing development through internal mentoring, using senior users to mentor less experienced colleagues, can be very effective especially if salaries and promotion are temporarily pegged. The best CAD users will stay only if they are receiving development.

So, when faced with that budget challenge from your FD or CFO, make the case as strongly as you can that your training resources should take priority - and your training programs should be tailored and targeted. If you can achieve this - you can guarantee it will be effective.


Monday, 26 January 2009

All things BIM

I just finished reading an interesting offering from McGraw Hill's Construction division; it's a 'SmartMarket' report on Building Information Modeling - and quite an insightful read!

The report has a number of commercial sponsors, notably Autodesk, but in fairness it does try to remain vendor neutral for the most part.

Having spent my $25 USD plus £27 USD postage (!) with ACEC for a hard copy, I noticed this morning that a full PDF copy is now available online.

Worth a look, I'd say.



Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The legacy of Empire

Imperial [im-peer-ee-uhl] : Of, like, or pertaining to an empire. Of or belonging to the British Imperial System of weights and measures.

I was disappointed to watch Mr Obama's inaugural speech yesterday to see he had missed something that would be high on my agenda, up there with the world financial crisis (which has its own logo on BBC news) and the war in Iraq (which thankfully doesn't).

I'm calling for the immediate abolishment of Imperial measurements. They are clunky, ugly, unintuitive, awkward, cumbersome and antiquated. Only a few weeks ago I was an opinionated bystander on this subject, but having recently prepared our first set of Imperial models for our Revit test I feel a little more qualified. All I can say is three cheers to France and Europe for the metric system, who dragged us Brits into the modern world by the scruffs of our necks in the 70's and 80's prior to the advent of mass computerisation.

But perhaps it's too late for America? Is it now so ingrained that 'going metric' is near-impossible? May be, but perhaps the White House should consider the origin of Imperial measurements, as implied by the name.

They were established by the British Empire in 1824, a full nine years before the abolition of slavery, and 48 years after American independence. Surely Mr Obama would like to shake off this legacy?

By the way, here's a smiley face in case you think I'm serious :)


Monday, 19 January 2009

Green shoots? Not yet!

Clearly the economy is at the forefront of everyone's mind these days, which is understandable. We've noticed a number of small trends during the past few months, which indicate that the 'green shoots' mentioned in the British media this week may just be a teensy bit premature!

AEC firms are still at the sharp end of the crunch, with some faring better than others. It seems that those firms with a mix of projects and locations, whilst still feeling the pain, are better geared to cope with the downturn than those with all their eggs in one project sector or country basket. Architects continue to struggle with their business models, more so than their engineering counterparts, it would seem. 'Cost-cutting' is rife, along with downsizing of staff numbers, which is unfortunate, but I suppose necessary.

Another problem appears to be that of simply getting paid for work or services delivered. UK Government guidelines state the importance of paying all invoices within 30 days of receipt, unless a longer payment period has been agreed or the amount billed is in dispute. These days, most UK firms appear to pay on closer to 60 days, and large firms are the worst offenders! This causes a ripple effect throughout the economy, where smaller suppliers have to expend their energies chasing debts, instead of generating new income, and in turn are forced to pay their own creditors late.

It's a vicious circle - and don't expect any help from the banks; I spoke to a 'Relationship Manager' last week at a large British Bank (3rd largest in the UK) and their advice was simple; 'Stretch your creditors as far as you can'(!!) So the banks, in their efforts to make record profits, single handedly wipe out much of the existing world economy as we know it; they go cap-in-hand to their respective Governments for a taxpayer 'bail-out', they take advantage of falling interest rates, at the expense of businesses and home-owners (by not passing on the full rate cuts), and when you ask for their opinion on cash flow their advice is simple - don't pay your bills! Great!

In fairness, I think the picture appears to be different in the US, because every deal we've done in the past year Stateside - every deal - has paid their bill either on time, or ahead of the 30 day terms. What a difference in attitude! Hopefully with the incoming President this week, we'll start to see more of an upward spiral happening in the global economy, led by the US stimulus package currently under discussion. ENR posted an interesting article about a breakdown of the money last week: http://enr.construction.com/business_management/finance/2009/0116-StimulusBillBreakdown.asp.

But receiving an injection of capital is only part of the answer. The former Trade Minister Lord Jones, when describing the efficiency of the British Civil Service, told the Commons Public Administration Committee in the UK this week; "Frankly the job could be done with half as many (people). It could be more productive, more efficient, it could deliver a lot more value for money for the taxpayer."

As well as securing new deals or lines of credit, it is still vitally important for firms to focus on productivity, and delivering more efficiency from less resource; particularly on projects where taxpayers' money is on the line. And let's face it - that's most of the new projects in the pipeline!

My read on the market, for what it's worth, is that we seem to be bottoming out on the worst of the slide, and will soon start the slow climb back up to 'normal' trading conditions, which are still 18 months away. It is my strong belief that by helping each other, we'll all survive this economic downturn in one piece - and hopefully be a little bit wiser than we were before!


Saturday, 10 January 2009

This just gets gooder and gooder!

I managed to have a few days off over the Christmas holidays this time around, which was great. No emails, no phone calls, no spreadsheets, just good company, (too much) good food and drink, time relaxing with family - all good stuff.

My two year old daughter made me smile amidst a tornado of shredded wrapping paper on Christmas morning. When her mum asked her if she had everything she wanted from Santa, she shrieked, 'This gets gooder and gooder!'. Naturally, we fell about, but the phrase stuck.

As with all software products, they're never really finished, as such; there's always more that can be developed, especially with great customer ideas streaming in for each new release. CADsmart is no different in this respect. But during my holiday down-time, I indulged in a bit of reflection about the past 5 years or so, back to the early days of our fledgling attempts to capture reliable metrics on how people use CAD. Things have moved on a bit since then, and everything on our original wishlist of features is now live in the current software - something we could only dream about back in the day.

Just last year, we completed a major upgrade of our core architecture, adopting the latest programming technology and web services functionality, to make our user journey that much smoother. We also undertook and delivered our first Revit release, which was challenging, but extremely rewarding.

During a web demo to leading US-based CAD consultant Robert Green last week, it suddenly dawned on me that, based on the enthusiastic feedback we received, we have actually created a damn fine piece of technology! And not just our software, which is world-class in the skills assessment field.

The lightbulb moment for me was more to do with the feedback we received on the quality and range of performance metrics which are created when the skills assessments are completed and uploaded to our customer 'dashboard' - a secure online login area where customers can access and interrogate their results data. In fact, the comment was made by Robert that the testing software is really just a tiny part of the big picture - and he's absolutely right! The testing phase is just a means to and end - it's the capturing of the CAD performance data for individuals, teams, offices and whole companies, which is the key.

We've been working hard on providing innovative and useful ways for our customers to engage with and apply their CAD metrics to improving performance across their respective organisations. In the next couple of weeks, we go live with even more functionality for CAD Managers and administrators to present CAD skills data in more of a 'management' context. We're excited at some of the new features, particularly when I look back at how some of the data was presented (using Excel and Word!) just a few short years ago.

In addition, our training reports now dovetail neatly into corresponding web-training sessions from Evolve (http://www.evolve-consultancy.com) and E-Learning classes from 4D (http://www.cadlearning.com/) which adds even more value to our user base.

To quote a wise-beyond-her-years toddler, this business 'just keeps getting gooder and gooder!' :)


Monday, 5 January 2009

Egon Brunswick's 'Lens Model of Perception'

An obscure title for a CAD blog post, you might think!

In 1937 Professor Egon Brunswick conceived of a model of social perception, called the "Lens Model". The essence of the Lens is this, "What we think we see in others will determine, for the most part, how we will treat them and respond to them. The accuracy of what we think we see will dictate the appropriateness of the behaviour we utilize or the actions we take and the resulting productivity of the relationship."

As humans, we demonstrate the same behaviour in all aspects of life, not just in respect of how we see other people, per se, but in just about everything. We tend to develop pre-conceived ideas about all manner of topics (rightly or wrongly) and form opinions on them instantly when the subject is raised. In effect, we view everything in life through our own personal 'lens', based on a combination our experiences up to that point.

OK, enough of the psychology 101 - which brings me to my point! I had a good chuckle last week upon reading a post on Autodesk's discussion forum. The poster asked, 'Has anyone used this (CADsmart software)? If so, can you give me your opinion on it?'

A perfectly valid question, you might point out - which of course it is. The replies, however, demonstrated some interesting facets about the personalities of people who frequent these boards. Of the replies posted, only one had actually read the question fully - 'has anyone used the software?' i.e. can they give me an opinion based on the facts, not personal opinion based on heresay, ego, etc. etc. This person had used the software, and replied with an honest, positive account of their experience.

The remainder simply seemed to want to vent their collective CAD spleen on the virtues (or lack thereof) of testing CAD skills in general, based purely on their own personal biases on the subject (their 'lens' if you will). Not surprisingly, none had anything particularly positive to relay, but were nevertheless happy to share their (ill-researched) opinions with the world - don't they always?!

The most amusing post stated, in apparent horror, '$500 for a 10 minute test ? WOW ! I can't imagine anyone spending thousands of dollars to find out which candidate performed the best on a ten minute test. The money might be better spent hiring an private investigator to check out their resume!'

Which is funny up to a point, but demonstrates only a partial grasp of the facts and a huge (incorrect) assumption, which they were happy to splash all over the discussion boards.

Oh, and for the record, the $497 subscription for our Xpress software, which does indeed take 10-20 minutes to complete, offers unlimited assessments for a whole year - slightly better value, wouldn't you think? And for a more detailed assessment, including training needs analysis on a user's weak areas, the Premier service typically costs $10 - $60 per user per year, depending on the firm size.

Happy New Year!