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?


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