Here at ZenTek, we work extensively in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) space. It’s our primary industry because we’ve been working in it for decades as designers, tech staff, trainers and even sales folks. The thing that always surprises me is how very slowly the AEC industry changes its internal technologies. For an industry that is noted for leading the way on field technology, it is way behind on the tech scale when it comes to internal, everyday use of software that will help them be more productive. Study after study shows that AEC firms lag far behind other industries when it comes to using new tech to improve their workflow.
Now, you may be saying “My firm has the latest CAD/BIM/VDC software on the market! We’re at the leading edge of technology!” Well, that might be true in some cases (fewer than you’d think though) in most cases, AEC firms only invest in upgrading their design technology (i.e. CAD). They are notoriously slow about upgrading their management, collaboration, estimating, and presentation software. For most design firms, they still rely heavily on decades old processes for those areas. Take presentation software for instance. Almost every design firm I know of is still using static renderings (often hand colored!) glued onto whiteboard for presenting design ideas to clients and at public meetings. Why is that still an accepted standard when they have ready, affordable, access to tools like Bluebeam Revu, which can present 3D models that can be controlled by the audience? Why aren’t AEC firms using Microsoft Office 365 tools like Video and Yammer to present design ideas and get interactive feedback from stakeholders?
In the end, I think it comes down to the fact that design firms run in a high-stress, low profit margin environment. Project managers, lead architect/engineers, etc. are under immense pressure to complete jobs in shorter time frames, with less budget. They’re caught in a horrible “Catch-22” where they need better tech to make that happen but can’t afford the potential downtime of learning curves and software that doesn’t perform as promised. It’s kind of like an 18-year-old kid who needs a car to get to college, but to afford a car he has to work full time, which means he doesn’t have time to go to college! It’s a horrible position to be stuck in. At the end of the day, it’s a downward death spiral for a design firm if they don’t find ways of getting out of that rut.
One answer is to develop a partnership with a technology consultant that you trust. Not just someone who sells you software, there are a million firms who do that. You need to work with a firm, like ZenTek, that works with you to configure and test that software works the way you need it to before rolling it out. A partner who will train your staff on the best way to use that software in the real world, not just show you how to use basic commands. Someone who will provide what I call “Usage Support” not just tech support when the software crashes. You need to move your staff to the latest tech without the fear of having the implementation costs being posted against your individual project. That requires careful planning and support with a partner and executive understanding of just how important those upgrades are to the bottom line.
That’s never an easy discussion to have, but it’s vital to a design firm’s success in this technology-driven world. If you want to escape the death spiral and move ahead of your competitors, you need to move beyond just upgrading your CAD systems regularly. As always, ZenTek is here to help you with that!