Sunday, December 17, 2017

BIM 360: One small step forward for Autodesk = Two huge steps backwards for the global AEC industry

 Last week I went to an Autodesk Event.
No need to be telling me to ‘eat my words up’ and recalling my history of Revit-bashing on this blog.
Just because I do not enjoy modeling with Revit, I can keep an eye on what is happening in the industry, especially while the authors of my tool of choice are merrily basking in their achievements having ‘invented’ the ‘Year of the stair’.

It also helps when the event is free and comes with a dinner, though I had paid for a hotel room to stay overnight, committed to keep the local economy in some sort of equilibrium.
While lapping up the free Christmas atmosphere of one of the better venues of downtown Abu Dhabi, I was introduced to the ‘Next Generation BIM 360 Platform’ of Autodesk, designed to connect the Entire construction process into a seamless ‘something’.

There is nothing wrong with the concept.  Nor is it terribly new.
What is interesting is, how Autodesk is once again focusing on the ‘Information’ as opposed to ‘Model Based Information’.
Combined that with their new licensing model and I can almost deduct that they have given up on BIM, altogether.

Not that anyone is admitting to be doing this, of course -  hardly one sentence of the presenter was uttered without the favorite acronym in it, but the doom signs for BIM were ‘on the wall’.

In a way, I cannot even really blame them for the move.
Autodesk figured out (finally) something that so many can’t.
There are zillions of people employed within the global AEC industry, yet only a tiny fraction uses ANYTHING digital specific to the industry, let alone any form of a moderately sophisticated BIM.

So why bother trying to sell and further the development of this complex, difficult to understand, even harder to use multi-dimensional system, when they can go back to the basics and leverage their market monopoly to snatch away the good ‘cash-flow cow’ of the market, that of storing and sharing basic information.
Mostly 2D or text based and PDF formatted.

This Autodesk Platform offers everything under one banner, cloud storage, easy accessibility, one-point control, automated task tracking, intelligent reporting etc. etc.
It also gives the perfect excuse for the introduction of a per/seat licensing that touches many more bottoms that any of the authoring software licenses ever had, even in the hay-days of the Flat-CAD, AutoCAD of the late eighties and throughout the ninetees.

Indeed, this is the case of Autodesk realizing that the true bread and butter of the industry is based on doing large projects and clipping the ticket on shifting mountains of 2D documents around, with a bit of 3D thrown in for keeping up appearances.
And BIM is going on the back seat big time.

This is the case of Autodesk biting in the pie currently shared between Microsoft, Aconex and a conglomerate of smaller document management systems on the market.

Unless I missed something, the business model is based on charging each user on the project accessing the cloud based information, no matter on the type of information or the tool used to access (or author/edit) it.
So, the more users and the less sophisticated they are, the better off Autodesk is.
(Please correct me if I am wrong).

And it kind of gets worse.
For those that feel uneasy about the new model and select to stick with status quo, they will be limited to use the software for the current version only and forever. No backwards – no forward compatibility.
A reasonable ‘stick’ from the software supplier for the naughty users?

Not sure.
With virtual Monopoly come responsibilities.
And, one of those would be to treat the industry with a bit more honesty.
To have come out transparently saying that they entered this part of the market to generate more income for R&D, for say increasing the critical mass of BIM users would have gone down much better.

For me anyway.

I rarely do this, combining my responses to comments triggered by a blogpost, but partially because of LinkedIn ‘s limitations on the length of each response, partially because I wanted to have these recorded with the original writing, I have added them here, together with the original comments:

Bram Lyng Andersen
 Most companies make highly annoying "tough management decisions" (the quotes are for sarcasm), at some point the group and power of the people making these decisions gets larger than the group of people that are actually inventing/believing/working. It seems AD have hit this wall years ago. Problem is success is money and money attracts management types/sharks :)

This is a very interesting statement Bram, and I wish to expand on it:

First: You are absolutely right, this is a significant problem that soaks through the entire industry. I actually see (what you mention to be ‘larger’) to be ‘much larger’ – i.e. the difference  between the  numbers of ‘hands-off, decision-makers’ and ‘hands-on, dowers’ is HUGE and weighted strongly in favor of the first group.
Not only because, they are by default in the decision making seats and call the shots, but also because, they rely on ‘advisors’, almost as hands-off and indoctrinated as themselves, to back up those decisions. These ‘advisors’ are made up of the promoters/sellers of the tools, but also masses of in-house engineers, middle-managers, team leaders, coordinators…etc..,
who due to their hand-off-ness will naturally support whatever direction will least compromise their own positions.

Second: Not sue that ‘AD have hit this wall years ago’ – or if they have, I think they actually managed to ‘use it’ pretty well in the past.
Give me any reluctant entity, faced with the need to make a call on where to go (2D, 3D …XD) and it will go Autodesk way.
After all, it is the biggest, best and Americanest.
Could just about be a slogan, ‘if in doubt, use Autodesk’.

Third: let me quote Marek’s comment:
Marek Sopel: BIM in itself is not a goal of any commercial activity. And why should it be? 
From software vendors perspective there is no significant difference what product they sell, but what they make on it. All of businesses (including education business) involved in BIM are here for profits (even if sometimes they fail - note, you can look at Autodesk attempts to introduce BIM software since early 90s as a streak of failures. Still it can be promoted as a huge success in the end because the profits are being made);

Autodesk have ALWAYS been on the back-foot in developing and getting things to the market, from their very first 3D packages (in the eighties) then back to 2D (in the nineties, AutoCAD on DOS) then their own VR-quasi BIM (late nineties,- anyone remembers Architectural Desktop?)…then the hastily bought and rehashed Revit etc. etc.
They failed and failed but managed to make those failures look like successes.
Meanwhile, they totally missed to notice the achievements of Aconex and others paddling centralized, 2D focused document-systems over the last 1.5 decades and I contribute this to Autodesk’s lack of true understanding of the market, or worse even, INTEREST in the market, which is quite bizarre, considering how many companies worldwide are still purely AutoCAD users.
Finally, some clever dude with AD has recognized this and convinced the company to jump onto the bandwagon. Sure, maybe a good move, but is this innovation? No.

Jason Mounteer Information has always been the key to BIM. Why shouldn't they focus on it? Modeled shapes help many people, but not all of them. 
The information that model conveys is more important. I can get better data from a well-executed 2d AutoCAD Architecture-based CAD set than I can from a poorly-executed Revit set. 
Communication and data presentation is what plan sets and specs are ALL about.

Jason Mounteer Additionally, I agree with the sentiment expressed by many, many, many of my clients and former colleagues: we ARE still in a 2d world. 

Architects & Engineers must still deliver that 2d data in the form of plan sets. We are a long way from municipalities and smaller subcontractors being able to get their hands on the models and pull information from them intelligently. 

Plan reviews are on paper. Estimating is done on PDF or Paper by these smaller, less tech-savvy subs. Customers/ Clients/ Owners still have back-end processes based on paper or (maybe) PDF output. We're still producing those "flat" files as regular order of business. 

Autodesk is behind the curve here in providing project managers methods to facilitate these workflows and get a handle on all this 2d information. Doc manager is a step in the right direction. Still a little behind its competition but catching-u

Jason, I read through your comments numerous times and while each sentence makes some sense – altogether I am not sure what are you intending to promote here.

The second comment is easier to address, as you seem to be more straight forward.
Still, the statement, that ‘we are still in a 2d world’ I can be interpret in two ways:
(one), yes, we are and proud of it, let’s forget all the attempts we (as an industry) had made to get out of it, and focus purely on workflows and tools to facilitate 2D,
(two), we aren’t overly happy with this state we are in, but kind-of don’t really know what to do about it so we pretend to be ‘in a transitional state to a full XD’.

My perception is, that the industry constantly (regularly) toggles between those two attitudes and by doing so, confuses the hell out of everybody.

Autodesk, never been particularly good at leadership (in spite of the fact they think they are) has been swinging in regular intervals over decades –
this latest, via the pushing of BIM360 is a swing to the ‘don’t really know what to do about it’ – direction with the underlining recognition that, others seem to know little as well, yet are making quite a bit of money of 2D (i.e. the more mature online document management systems do) – so why would Autodesk miss out on that piece of the pie.

Sure, they are calling it ‘BIM-something’, in case the pendulum swings to the other way in the near future – then, they can switch back and carry on fiddling with, and paddling on, the half-baked BIM solutions they produced so far.

Going back to your first comment, the part…

‘I can get better data from a well-executed 2d AutoCAD Architecture-based CAD set than I can from a poorly-executed Revit set. ‘

While the above may be true, means absolutely nothing for the industry as a whole.
I.e. sure, I still know a number of extremely competent architects that design/document and detail buildings in their heads and with pencils on sketch paper and do this much better than a hundred of carefully selected Revit power-users can, but they will not get the industry out of the whole it is in.

Not only because my extremely competent, ‘old school’ architects re small in numbers and will likely soon die out and ‘well-executed 2d AutoCAD Architecture-based CAD sets’ in reality are just as exceptional (especially on large projects) and require the same type of knowledge and skills that my ‘extremely competent old school architects’ have, but because the industry is in trouble not, because it is doing 2D or 3D, good or bad.

It seems to be relying on companies like Autodesk to provide them with ‘checks and balances’ when it comes to how information is created and managed (it should not be doing so but it does) and Autodesk could not care less to do so. (note again my previous statement: ‘With Monopoly come responsibilities’).

Don’t know if you are getting the idea, but it is hard to respond in a cohesive matter to statements that cover multiple facets of the industry, like the people, tools, approaches and somewhere down the line the manipulative moves of Autodesk where my post started from.


  1. As much as I hate to admit, it's the bitter truth. And it's all because of the dinosaurs in control of the AEC industry.

  2. Bonsoir Évry body
    Il faut beaucoup beaucoup beaucoup d'arguments, pour renverser un développement inéluctable, toutes les inventions et innovations majeures, obéissent aux critères des lois du marché et de la concurrence (vieux comme le monde me dira t'on). l'évolution Géographique humaines chemine dans ce sens (IA).On n'y peut rien.Cordialement.

  3. As far as I can see, this is just an anti-Autodesk rant. Nowhere in your article did you provide any tangible or objective appraisal of how, why or where BIM360 has failed or taken the industry "two steps back". The blog article has a very catchy title that successfully entraps the curious. But in terms of substance, I would score your appraisal 3 out of 10. And I am in a generous Christmas mood.

    I doubt that you have ever used any of the technologies in BIM360. By the way, it is not ONE technology: there is BIM360 Team, BIM360 Docs, BIM360 Glue, BIM360 Field, BIM360 Plan, and I think BIM360 Ops. I appreciate that not all of them may be popular. BIM360 Plan and Ops are still in the alpha testing phase, I believe. The point is unless you have tried and tested each of these tools in the BIM360 family of products, and unless you can provide an objective (and clear) critique of their workflows or the way they present/handle data, information, etc, (e.g. in comparison to Aconex, Asite or 4Projects) then you are being disingenuous with your criticism. There is no way in the world you can appreciate the entire BIM360 based on one seminar. Like seriously???

    In any case, you gave yourself away as someone with an anti-Autodesk mindset (or was it "Revit-basher" you called yourself?) at the start of your rant. So while I respect your right to have an opinion, you should also respect the right that readers have to an "informed critique" on such a delicate topic. I go by the golden rule that states: "whoever criticises a thing or process must provide answers about how exavtly it is wrong (relatively) or how it can be improved, otherwise they have no business criticising that thing/process". Something cannot be wrong or bad simply because we feel that way. It can be wrong or bad but in comparison to what or against which criteria? Now, in the current landscape of BIM where many people could do with proper direction and advise, you have not provided tangible value or guidance about what exactly is the problem with any of the BIM360 products. You have probably just succeeded in scaring some of your readers (who have no experience of cloud based AEC collaboration tools) from coming within a country mile of "BIM360". Maybe that was your intention?

    In summary, I am guessing that the closest BIM360 product that resembles what you are referring to as "Document Management" is BIM360 Docs - which again (in case it hasn't sunk in to you yet) is just a sub-set of the entire BIM360 family of products. BIM360 Glue for instance, is purely a coordination and clash detection tool. BIM360 Plan (not yet rolled out publicly, as of today, I think) is your scheduling tool for Gantt charts, work breakdown structure and resource management, for which they have made a decent effort, if I may say. BIM360 Team helps "Revit users" (perhaps like your reluctant self) to sync and share single Revit models with a cloud-based version, and it is not a "document management" tool per se. So for you to now criticise the entire BIM360 family on the basis of just one of the many tools, i.e. assuming you were indeed referring to BIM360 Docs in your article (a tool that you most likely have not even used), is unfair and unfortunate, to say the least.

    Your analysis of BIM360 is half baked in my opinion because you don't even understand the various technologies behind it. If you did, you would have pinpointed specific issues within each product, unless of course you have an agenda or inherent bias. I have professionally used (and taught) several cloud-based AEC (BIM) technologies like Aconex, Asite and 4Projects as well as most of the BIM360 products. None of these tools is perfect, but I would not criticise any of them in the random, ones seminary based, wish-washy, fluffy and uninformed way that you have just done. It is bordering on the unprofessional. Your readers and followers deserve better. Thank you.

  4. Dear Doctor Zed,
    Thank you very much for your exhaustive comments. I will be more than happy to respond, providing you come clear on who you are and who you work for.
    Best regards,
    Zolna Murray

    1. Just respond to the message please and forget the messenger. If you feel the points raised by Doctor Z are not valid, the onus is on you to disprove them. Your reply should not depend on who the messenger is.

    2. Sorry Anonymous,
      But I do not respond to people that are too scared to put their names to their opinions.
      (I know I just contradicted myself with writing this message – but this is as far as it goes)

  5. I also wan to know who is the Docta!

  6. Very narrow-minded article.

  7. You really dont have a clue, do you?

  8. You really dont have a clue, do you?

  9. You really dont have a clue, do you?