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Meanwhile, although its annual survey may be useful, it is not enough to prove Autodesk really cares about its customers Autodesk recently published its second annual survey of issues and trends in the UK's design and newproduct development community, which focuses on building and construction. I am always sceptical of surveys and statistics, as the results can be manipulated and presented in a fashion that benefits the point being made rather than representing the true situation. That said, I don't believe these survey results were manipulated to paint a rose-tinted picture; indeed the image sometimes contradicts Autodesk's own strategy and so I think it has been brave in publishing the survey results. However, I would warn against seeing the 102 respondents from the sample of 1,220 people as representative of the industry, since they were selected from Autodesk's database of users.

There is another indication of the nature of the respondents. An entire section of the survey is dedicated to file format usage, and it highlights the growing popularity of DWF, which comes a clear third behind PDF and DWG. This suggests that the survey respondents were largely key proactive and reactive Autodesk accounts, as it is the proactive accounts that typically embrace all that is Autodesk.

Even then, the proactive accounts embrace new technology with the caution and scepticism that is typical of our industry. The results could therefore be read as indicative of the attitudes of users that care about and embrace changes, rather than as a broad view from the industry at large.

This year's survey adopted an approach of tabling a theory and then seeking to prove the theory through the use of targeted questions. It aimed to identify four key areas that were structured to form a rational development brief for software development and sales-led generation, as opposed to recording true industry reaction.

The four areas were:

l current trends;

l key issues and challenges;

l identify major road blocks;

l investigate potential solutions.

While the survey results are on the whole consistent with what I would have expected to see, it must be worrying for software vendors that their latest (future) money spinners - Building Information Management (BIM) and Building Lifecycle Management (BLM) - are viewed as largely irrelevant by most information creators, such as architects, engineers, main contractors and subcontractors.

I have long believed that, while the owner operator will benefit from the organisation, coordination and enrichment of all design data for future and seamless integration of BLM systems, the mass producers of the information (the designers) do not benefit and therefore do not care.

Unless the designers are rewarded either through bonuses, shared ownership of the product or penalties large enough to matter, this situation is unlikely to change.

This apathy is further underpinned by the statistics derived from the question about how each company views its own ability to deliver BLM. It seems the current culture, levels of organisation and understanding, coupled with a lack of training, commercial incentives, integration with partners and investment, combine to build barriers to adoption. This could be a good platform for architects to start to educate themselves about the inherent benefits of BIM and BLM in the hope of winning back some of the credibility and responsibility that project managers have taken away from them in recent years.

Unfortunately for Autodesk and other software vendors, the survey suggests that successful adoption of BIM and BLM as a concept has little to do with the software vendors' product or its functionality, and everything to do with the financial sponsor, the person or company that will benefit the most from its deployment, and the point at which the wheels are put in motion to structure, capture and construct the information as it is created.

Autodesk, however, shoots great holes in its own BLM feet every time it kills off an old version of AutoCAD to force people to part with more money and upgrade to the latest version. How can a company choose to build its Building Lifecycle Management database around software and file formats that have a lifespan of approximately three years?

Come on Autodesk. By producing this survey you look as if you care, you even sound as if you care. Is it not time you actually started caring about your customers and providing them with what they need and desire, rather than simply serving up what you can create and sell?

How about running some seminars that truly set out to address some of the key areas highlighted by the survey, such as how to affect and manage successful culture change and how to attract improved investment?

Furthermore, if you really care, you will avoid hijacking the seminar by demonstrating your software, as the survey clearly showed that IT systems were the only issue not seen as an inhibitor to the adoption of BLM.

Who knows, with an educated and understanding user base, your software could be selling itself, which surely must be the objective.

The Autodesk 2003 Survey of Issues and Trends in the UK Design Community - Focus on Building & Construction can be downloaded from www. autodesk. co. uk

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