Beaten Down By Box Droppers – The Suffering of AEC Firms

June 12, 2017


Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) firms deal with a ton of advanced software. With CAD systems, CRM’s, accounting, and estimating systems the typical firm in the design/build world holds more software than just about any other professional industry out there. You’ve all heard me preach before about how far behind they fall on the technology curve. AEC firms are always those last adopters of any new software, or technical advances, despite the desperate need they all have to increase their profit margins. This begs the question: why the huge disparity between practical need and apparent solution? Well, it’s what I call “Box Drop Syndrome”.


Box Drop Syndrome is when software VAR’s (Value-Added-Resellers) sell a firm software that they promise will solve all their problems, and as soon as the check clears, the VAR “Drops the Box” and disappears. They’re onto the next client, looking for the next sale because they’re sales-driven houses whose bottom line depends entirely on selling you the software they’re pushing. The problem is, that approach leaves the purchaser (i.e. your firm) scrambling to figure out how to properly implement this new system in some rational, cost-effective, manner. That leads to large time loss, mistakes, lost data and huge amounts of aggravation all around. Box Drop Syndrome is one of the most damaging conditions in the current AEC market. It’s why AEC firms are so slow to adapt new software; they’ve heard too many promises, and been burned too many times before, to readily invest in another Box Drop scheme.


The Box Drop problem arises out of the VAR model that was developed by the large software houses back in the early 1990’s. Resellers are—usually—just a staff of sales folks with one or two tech staff, who re-sell the software publisher’s product for a percentage commission on each seat sold. This way, the publisher doesn’t need to maintain a huge sales/marketing staff and resellers can build their own small, yet profitable, businesses off selling a handful of products. It’s not a bad system and it does work, if the reseller is a trustworthy partner and not a Box Dropper. What do I mean by that? Well, I’m going to use ZenTek Consultants as my example (no surprise there!) At ZenTek, we focus more on the services and support that we extend to clients rather than the software we sell. Now, that’s not because we’re altruistic, it’s because at the end of the day, it’s more profitable for us, and better for our clients, which makes them trust and respect us, and keeps them with us as long term clients.


Here’s the simple example. ZenTek is a Bluebeam VAR and we run regular classes on Revu (a powerful design review/estimating software). I would say that better than 75% of the students I get for each class didn’t even purchase their software thru ZenTek. Of course, I always ask why students come to our classes instead of getting trained by their initial reseller, and it’s always a case of Box Drop Syndrome. The original vendor sells the software and “support” contracts but they don’t actually know how to use the software in a production environment. At ZenTek, we make a point of not selling software that we don’t actively know how to use. We never sell seats of software without at least offering detailed training and ongoing support. I don’t mean just technical “the software’s not working” type support either. With our support contracts, we make ZenTek specialists available for your staff to reach out and ask project-related questions whenever they need help on the “how” of making the systems work in the real world. AEC firms need a partner they can depend on to help them be productive with the software systems they purchase, not just a technician who knows how to install it. That lack of partnership is why AEC firms lag behind on technology and can’t boost their profits the way they really want to. Find yourself a reliable technology partner (may I suggest ZenTek?) and those problems disappear . . .  and that’s how you cure yourself of Box Drop Syndrome!


Jim C.

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