Autodesk Forge and the Benefits of Horizontal Thinking

I attended Autodesk University 2018 in Las Vegas week before last along with several others from the AVAIL and ArchVision teams.  That included participating in the Autodesk developer conference on Monday now known as Forge DevCon. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the AVAIL booth to say hi or attended one of our after hours events.  It was a great chance to catch up with longtime friends as well as make new acquaintances. These conferences are always a great way for us to learn more about specific industry challenges and trends as well as dig into the intricacies of workflow challenges you each face.  That’s the primary reason we attend and thanks to everyone who shared insights with us.

Long plagued by fragmentation, the AEC industry is at an inflection point.  There’s no doubt that consolidation is happening at all levels. I’ll focus here on the software and technology aspects of the industry.  I thought I’d share some thoughts on the prevailing theme for both Autodesk and the industry as a whole.

The AEC industry has not taken advantage of standardizing across design and production workflows as have vertically integrated industries like automotive and aerospace.  They’re not apples to apples comparisons I know but I think everyone can agree there’s much to be learned by studying these more vertically integrated industries and applying what we can.

I believe Autodesk is making some good moves with their Forge platform with this regard. Over the past three decades Autodesk has made its mark developing desktop applications that became the backbone of many AEC industry workflows.  The challenge was (and continues to be) efficiently moving data between these applications. The data is often stored (and transferred) via proprietary file formats and moving between modeling and visualization, documentation to construction and eventually facilities management has appealed only to the masochist among us.  With Forge, Autodesk is building a new common data layer on which multiple services and applications will be built. Forge promises to make the transfer of data across those services and applications more painless and they’re once again focused on supporting an ecosystem of 3rd party developers to build specific solutions on top of the platform.  Forge promises to break down the dozens of application silos Autodesk built (or acquired) over the previous three decades.

After talking with hundreds of customers over the past year it’s evident that application (and thus workflow) silos are one of the major hurdles facing every firm.  How do you efficiently manage data and information that needs to flow across dozens of applications you’ve chosen to use across your firm. There are multiple challenges with the siloed approach to application and data management that plagues our industry; 1) Infrequent use of secondary systems means employees must basically relearn applications with each use, 2) Inconsistent design philosophies and nomenclature across applications becomes confusing, and 3) the managerial cost of supporting multiple solutions is unbearable.

To add insult to injury we’re now muxing on-prem and cloud-based solutions.  This threatens to become the new bane when managing workflows across these new silos.  We’re paying extra attention the complexities this causes regarding “content” and file management.  “Where” a file is (or needs to be) is becoming increasingly ethereal in this new era.

At AVAIL we see efficient content management across the project life-cycle as one of the major challenges to the industry.  We’ve taken a decidedly horizontal approach to the problem ensuring that AVAIL can handle a variety of basic needs across oft complicated workflows.  AVAIL customers are managing their 2D and 3D models in the same system alongside their visualization assets, photos and other precedent materials, scripts and documents.  The design teams use the same solution servicing the marketing department. This approach ensures that everyone using AVAIL is learning to use the same solution regardless of the content or application.  By knocking down siloed solutions and replacing them with a single-point-of-truth AVAIL is doing its part to make you, your firm and the industry as a whole more efficient.

PRESS RELEASE: ARCHVISION & AVAIL KICK OFF 2018 WITH ADDITIONS TO EXECUTIVE TEAM

Lexington, KY – January 30, 2018 – AVAIL and ArchVision announced today that both companies have made new hires to augment their executive lineup. Corey Rubadue joins ArchVision as Chief Executive Officer and Jim Clifton joins AVAIL as Chief Operating Officer.

Mr. Rubadue has refined his knowledge of visualization development and software engineering during his experience with ASGVIS and Chaos Group. First-hand knowledge of the challenges faced in architecture led to the founding of ASGVIS in 2005 and pioneered the integration of the V-Ray renderer into SketchUp and Rhino. ASGVIS was acquired by Chaos Group in 2011 and Rubadue and his team continued to refine the software. In late 2016, he oversaw the launch of V-Ray for Revit. In August 2017, Rubadue founded Oonix Solutions LLC to expand his focus on visualization to support a broader range of technologies and applications.

“I’ve always had a great appreciation of the ArchVision technologies,” says Rubadue. “Joining ArchVision is a strategically aligned fit with where my professional sights are set.”

“Corey’s expansive experience in the visualization industry is unmatched and he brings a wealth of partner relationships he has developed over the past 15 years in the field. I’m looking forward to having Corey at the helm of ArchVision and know that he will lead the company to the next level”, said Randall Stevens, founder of ArchVision.

In Mr. Rubadue’s new role as ArchVision CEO, he will oversee Product and Content development, Sales, Marketing and Personnel.

Mr. Clifton comes to AVAIL most recently from Bluegrass Vascular Technologies where, as Chief Operating Officer/Founder, he developed technology from product concept to regulatory approval to initial market launch. With over twenty years experience in software product management, Jim provides energy, drive, and creative force to early stage, complex technologies.

“Jim’s experience with every phase of the product development process makes him the perfect candidate for his new role as Chief Operating Officer”, said Randall Stevens, CEO of AVAIL.

Mr. Clifton will focus on developing and refining AVAIL’s go-to-market process and provide oversight for Sales and Marketing, Operations and Finance.

About ArchVision

Founded in 1991, ArchVision improves design modeling and visualization with RPC technology that provides architectural entourage in the form of people, tree & plant and automobile content and environment clutter. The newest product to the ArchVision lineup, Family and Detail Warehouse, is a collection of over 27,500 Roof, Window, Door and Foundation details, available as native Revit Drafting Views and AutoCAD DWGs, with unlimited downloads. ArchVision currently serves customers located in over 100 countries. For more info visit www.archvision.com.

About AVAIL

AVAIL’s enterprise and content management software solution indexes content and helps users find it in new ways. Based in Lexington, KY, AVAIL grew out of a need for a better way for AECO professionals to access the voluminous content being managed across their enterprise. With over 50 combined years in the AEC industry, the AVAIL team is passionate about helping firms discover a new way to find and manage content. For more info visit www.getavail.com.

Optionality in Content Management

One of the observations we’ve made regarding the current state of content management is the strong reliance on two tools to manage your company’s files be they on a WAN/LAN or in the cloud; the ability to create and name file folders and the name of files themselves.  I don’t have to tell you how limiting those tools can be.  Our only option for decades we’ve all become somewhat numb to the pain.

We think there is a huge opportunity to improve both management and access to content.  In many ways the existing file folder and file name means of storing and retrieving files has pitted the needs of centralized control and file management versus the ease of finding what you’re looking for.

AVAIL is providing a new alternative, a way to separate where a file is stored from how it is retrieved.  A way to reduce your dependency on those cumbersome folder and file names for retrieving content.

Optionality

One of the themes we’ve developed over the past couple of years during the development of AVAIL is optionality.  Optionality should be a good thing.  Given optionality you take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself.

Optionality is present in several ways at the core of how AVAIL has been designed.  If you’ve used AVAIL or sat through any of our webinars you’ll hear us talk about the important of context in retrieving content.  That’s a form of optionality that lets the publisher and consumer of content in AVAIL get to the same content in different ways mirroring the way you’re thinking about it at the time.

With the new 3.0 release of AVAIL you’ll find a couple of additional features that play on this theme as well.  We’re extending the ability to contribute to the management of content in a Channel in AVAIL beyond the firm-wide Publisher/Consumer role definition.  Now, the owner of a Channel can allow anyone they’ve shared that Channel with the ability to contribute via a new “Can Edit” setting that is controlled per user.  This means a Publisher of a Channel can invite select others to add or remove content and tags from a Channel without having to make that person a firm-wide Publisher.  Optionality.

Another update in 3.0 are initial moves toward providing each individual control over how they organize and consume Channels and content.  You’ll see this manifested in a redesigned Channels panel that now provides each desktop the ability to “Pin” the Channels they consume most.  Additional features that let everyone customize their experience while letting you maintain administrative oversight and control will continue to make AVAIL more powerful and customizable to fulfill differing needs and workflow preferences.  Optionality is a good thing.

 

 

AVAIL as a System of Engagement

I just returned from Autodesk University where we engaged in numerous conversations about the value of employing content management systems.  There’s obvious value in the immediate task-at-hand of organizing volumes of files (content) and making them easier to find and use throughout your organization.  A topic that isn’t quite as obvious is the value of a content management system as a System of Engagement (SOE).

In traditional enterprise speak a System of Record (SOR) is defined as a conventional enterprise system designed to contain the authoritative data source for a given piece of information.  A System of Engagement goes a step further.  According to Forrester, “Systems of engagement are different from the traditional systems of record that log transactions and keep the financial accounting in order.  They focus on people, not processes…. These new systems harness a perfect storm of mobile, social, cloud, and big data innovation to deliver apps and smart products directly in the context of the daily lives and real-time workflows of customers, partners, and employees.”

Being able to capture knowledge throughout your organization in the form of the content that is being generated and more importantly, where, when and how it is being used is of tremendous value.  Knowledge can be fleeting.  At AVAIL we’re focused on helping you capture and manage that knowledge.

To help you engage and capture feedback related to the content you manage with AVAIL we’re introducing a new feature we refer to as Flags & Comments.   As a start, Flags are labeled as “needs attention” and provide a mechanism for your users to alert you or your content admins.  Tightly coupled with Flags are Comments.  You can require that a Flag be accompanied by a Comment.  For example, if a user triggers a “Needs Attention” flag they can then be required to include verbose notes on what problem they see with the content.  AVAIL then provides the admin an easy way to filter the content containing Flags and take appropriate action.  Over time we plan to let you define a Flag’s meaning (“needs attention”, “mark as complete”, etc).  We will also soon introduce Notes which allow you to provide information to permanently accompany any content managed with AVAIL.

Flags, Comments and Notes are just the first step in providing you with valuable workflow tools to manage content and an important piece of a System of Engagement solution.