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Getting to grips with IT

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An AJ survey reveals what you think about the information technology available and how you use it BY RUTH SLAVID

Architech readers have trouble extracting sensible information from the mass of computerspeak. They rely on word of mouth as their most reliable source of information when making decisions about buying IT, and they make regular but not excessive use of the Internet.

These were among the findings of an independent survey of AJ readers, conducted with the support of Cambridge Data Systems and Hewlett Packard.

More than 500 readers responded, from practices of all sizes. Ninety per cent of you report having access to PCs; 53 per cent to Macs. Ninety per cent of you also have CD-ROMs, 85 per cent e-mail, and 80 per cent access to the Internet. Laptops are evidently still an extravagance for some - only 31 per cent of you have access, and 38 per cent can communicate by ISDN.

We asked which methods influenced your IT buying decisions. Top of the pile was word of mouth (62 per cent), followed by IT press (59 per cent) and architectural press (48 per cent).At present only 16 per cent are influenced by the Internet.

Internet use is significant but still not as great as one might expect. Only 7 per cent of you say that you use the Internet 'more than daily'. For 22 per cent use is daily and a further 33 per cent of you say that you use the Internet weekly.

Next we asked you questions to establish your attitudes to IT and the way it is changing working practices. Not surprisingly, 92 per cent agree that 'I expect to do an increasing amount of work on computers', and 87 per cent concur that 'computers make the practice more productive'.

Three-dimensional drawing is still not a requisite for everybody, with only 62 per cent saying 'The provision of 3D drawings is very important to me'. And only 61 per cent agree that 'using computers allows my designs to be more flexible.' Nearly two-thirds (59 per cent) think that 'a lot of unproductive time is spent on the Internet', and 53 per cent of you think that 'most of what is written about IT is aimed at experts and impossible to understand.'

Fewer than one-fifth say that 'computers reduce the need for project architects to be resident on site.' The rest may be interested in our profile of Sheppard Robson in this issue of Architech.

So this is what you think, but what CAD systems do you use? Not surprisingly, Autocad dominates, with 49 percent of you using it. This is followed by Minicad (now Vectorworks) at 19 percent, Microstation at 9 per cent and Archicad at 7 per cent. One per cent of you use Micro GDS and another one per cent Intellicad.

Many thanks to all those who responded to our survey. We will continue to develop Architech and the AJ computing pages to reflect your needs and interests.

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