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.

Welcome to the AVAIL Blog

We released AVAIL commercially a couple of months ago in late August after the better part of 4 years of development and eight months in beta.  It has been an exciting time and it’s gratifying to work with all of you as AVAIL progresses.

We’ll use this blog to keep you updated on the latest releases and features as well as glimpses of what’s coming next.  We’ve been trying to keep everyone up-to-date via emails which we’ll continue to publish but we thought a more permanent spot for the release notes and other communication was need, thus blog.getavail.com is born!

If you’ve been out of the email loop over the past few months here’s a synopsis:

AVAIL 2.9.3 Release

  • Took care of some nasty problems caused by the Windows 10 Anniversary update
  • Added ability to drag & drop Revit Drafting Views, Schedules and Groups directly into your current project through the AVAIL Content Browser for Revit
  • Added the ability to control auto-update for network deployments

AVAIL 2.9.0 Release

  • Added Analytics
  • Added support for Multiple Revit Sessions
  • Added email notification when an AVAIL Channel is shared
  • AVAIL Content Browser for Revit now includes update detection

Now you can gather the information you need to better manage your content including most accessed Channels in AVAIL and most searched for content.

AVAIL now supports viewing your company’s AVAIL analytics data in Google Analytics.  Setup a free Google Analytics account and enter your Google Analytics Tracking ID in your AVAIL Management Console.  (Be sure to follow the instruction in the Management Console to properly configure your Google Analytics account)

We’ve even created a sample Analytics Dashboard for you with some basics to get you started.  After creating your Google Analytics account simply click this link to import the custom dashboard – https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/template?uid=oWmkDMGbSWysDp2WJp-gbw

Some additional notes:

  • Information is tracked in Google Analytics as “Events” which are made up of Categories, Actions, Labels and Values.
  • To see all of the Events in Google Analytics click on Behavior | Events | Pages
  • Note that by default Google Analytics date range is set one day behind.  If you want to see current data you’ll need to adjust the timeframe to include today.
  • You can monitor Realtime usage of AVAIL but expect a several second delay (it’s like magic!)
  • If you’re using advanced BA and BI tools such as Tableau or Microsoft Power BI you can import your Google Analytics data for further analysis.
  • More to come including AVAIL Content Browser for Revit analytics!