Design Software = Commodity?

Over the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve spent my time working with the plumbing department on a large project using Revit.  Incidentally, I hear the same complaints about Revit as I do about civil 3d.  🙂

But what often comes up is that while each application has reached a certain stability and functionality, they may not work or function as we expect. Often times, I’ll hear a comment like “thank goodness the steering wheel in my car knows what to do when I turn it to the right…” or “would you buy a car with no rear wheels?”

Those comments are often in response to some aspect in the software that doesn’t do what it should or is missing what we deem a typical “part of the model.” So, I usually reply with something to effect that we have to take that blank car and customize it to how we work, kind of like trucks for instance. Mack trucks make the cab and frame and then supply them to many types of users who put all sorts of equipment on the back for their use.

But, then thinking to myself, is design software really to that point?  I think in some industries that may be the case, like auto manufacturing.  But in the AEC world, design software still has a bit of boutique feel.  Why do I think this?  Primarily 2 things.  First, the user base of Revit or Civil 3D is actually quite small compared to something like Photoshop.  That would explain the price difference . Second, because the funding of development is limited, design software often requires users to develop their own processes to generate a final product.  Think of the software used on the shuttle. I can only imagine that those apps are probably built from scratch or re-use & tweaking of existing modules to define a certain measurement or experiment in space.

So, are our expectations out of whack with reality? It seems so in this case.  More so to the point, do we have an expectation in today’s workforce that every tool should function like a commodity? Even MS Word needs a custom template for your office right? Unless, of course, your company name really is Northwind Traders.  🙂


About Kevin
Hi… I am a husband, father, brother and neighbor. I am employed as a Civil Engineer and have enjoyed playing the drums for the last 30+ years.

One Response to Design Software = Commodity?

  1. MWR says:

    I have to agree. I’m a developer for an outfit that supports thousands of users and I’m always amazed at how many users won’t use a tool because it only will do 90% of the finished product even though it saves them days (if not weeks of work) where they just have to clean it up.

    If every piece of software did 100% of the work then we could just hire anyone off the street to do the work.

    I was showing a user a piece of software the other day where by filling out a spreadsheet, running the application, then cleaning up the finished product it took 2 hours compared to it taking him 4 days to create the same ~50 sheets. He said he wouldn’t use it because he had to spend the hour at the end to clean up the results, it should do everything automatically! To top it off the software is free!


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