Friday, March 27, 2009

Revit for the Unemployed

I read a facebook status update the other day from a friend who was laid off from an architecture firm due to the economy. He wrote that while unfortunate, it is allowing him time to work on his exams, study for LEED and to learn this BIM thing. It got me thinking about how he would actually learn BIM. He could download the Revit trial, use books to train and try to learn it but what can you actually do in the 30 days of the trial version. Is 30 days enough to learn? When I first started on Revit, I had gotten a demo while at Autodesk University 2004. I had demos beforehand but you just start getting into it when the demo expires. The demo that they gave at AU 2004 was either a 60 or 90 day (can't remember). What I do remember is having adequate time to learn and start implementing it.

While pondering this, I thought about whether Autodesk could do something to help the numerous unemployed which would not cost much but could lead to significant gains for Autodesk's future. What if Autodesk could provide Revit to the unemployed using the cost structure of the Student License and also have the similar 13 month license? Of course, there would need to be some type of proof (unemployment check, call to the last employer or something similar). This would allow numerous individuals with the ability to learn Revit, become proficient and be more marketable. The benefit for Autodesk is that there would be many more users of the program for when the market rebounds. When these users go into their new jobs they will essentially be your sales force within those companies. Another senerio is that many of these individuals may end up starting their own practices. After seeing the benefit of Revit, what software do you think they would choose to buy when the license expires?

Something interesting to think about and I would like to hear some of your comments.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Revit Innovations

In one of my previous emails I may have been slightly harsh about the releases of Revit. In my mind, the time and energy spent on the UI is not worth while since not enough of the actual tools have been perfected enough yet to take the fustration out of day to day use. While I stongly believe that there are serious flaws in the workflow and use of the tools, the Revit team has been innovative on an actual tool that should help with the early design of a building. The conceptual massing tool is that innovation and is a great first pass at a Sketchup like flexibility to massing.

Kudos to the team that worked on conceptual massing. You are definately going in the right direction and I look forward to where you take it from here.

But my comment still stands... make the product work as perfect as it can and then pull some of the programmer's time away for other things. I know Revit as a whole can never be completely perfect but it CAN be a lot better.

Product Comparisons

Continuing on the previous topic...

Version Comparisons can offer more than just justification for upgrades, it can actually help your users find which product is best for their needs. For instance:

Navisworks - Do I need Manage, Simulate or Review? There is also Freedom but that is just the viewer but where do the options of the viewer overlap the others?

Max or Max Design?

Alias - Would I need Design, Surface or Studio?

There are probably others but I think my point is made. The moment that you start creating a disconnect by increasing the options for a single product line it is imperative that you include some type of comparison. At least Navisworks tries to do it but only on a high level. For example, all have Review Toolkit and 3D File and data aggregation but what does that mean to someone who has not used it? I challenge the people who created this list to go home and ask their spouse (or better yet call your mother), show them the list and ask them what the differences are between the products. Ask them what Review Toolkit is and see if they can come up with a remotely similar description to what you think is straight forward.

Why make this confusing when you probably already have the information at your fingertips. You spend a huge time marketing your but you missed something big when you don't allow the users to understand differences without extensive research.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Comparison Charts - What Autodesk is missing...

With the economic downturn affecting many architecture firms, there is a movement to re-evaluate what they spend money on. One significant aspect of every budget is software. Do the companies who almost force you into subscriptions really give you the benefit of getting each new software release? Adobe gives you a comparison chart to help you evaluate what has changed and thus puts the power in your hands to determine if the software advances from the company warrant the payment for the upgrade. Autodesk will give you a feature summary but is that enough?

I was recently asked to look into Ecotect training since there are only a few individuals using our network license within our office at a limited capacity. We would like to leverage the product more throught our design process and on more projects. With that research, I thought I would look at the upgrade of our 5.6 version to 2010 since the users would most likely be trained in the new version. I was shocked to see that the price has risen to $3,500 and then they want $750 on top of that for subscription which they try to justify by giving you Green Building Studio.

But what has been improved?

By Autodesk putting their name on it after aquisition, the price increased significantly. With the next release (2010) it increased again by $1,000. So what justifies this increase? Give me a product comparison since the product detail brochure and questions & answers paper do not mention one benefit to upgrading. Is there even a new feature? Autodesk, How are you going to get new customers for these products if you make it cost prohibitive? I can't sell this to our CFO in this market but if it was less expensive (like Pre-Autodesk days) I would be able to. If I could sell it and train it then they would see the benefit, use it a lot and need to buy even more licenses thus providing Autodesk with even more money then at the current cost since we will not buy it. How will you even get people to try it at this cost?

In the past, Revit was worthwhile to be on subscription. With the aquisition, they started a strong push to improve the product with frequent updates which has seemed to fizzle. Are they in the "the dip" or do they need to find their new "Purple Cow". Both are fast read books by Seth Godin and if you have not read them then you need to. I used to look forward to the improvements of each release but I have not seen this in the last couple releases. They always seem to focus all efforts in one area. 2009 brought us the rendering and 2010 will bring us a new user interface but what happens to all of the issues that you may think are little but really significantly affect the everyday use?
Autodesk, Please keep up with being innovative and make it worthwhile to be on subscription.

Another example of product version comparisons from Techsmith on Camtasia. They allow you to pick your version and have it compared to the current. Simple idea that most software companies do...

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