For decades, the construction industry operated strictly off of paper forms and drawings, but with the quickly rising popularity of tablets and the increasing power and abilities of smartphones, those documents are becoming more accessible by the minute. Because of that, there are many companies looking to become “the” construction document management software.
The construction industry as a whole is at a crossroads right now. The old guard, who still prefer paper documentation, is slowly fading away and technology is creeping into the job sites. For those who are more open to technology, the fact there’s not a clear leader in this type software development poses a major problem. There are tons of construction document managers currently available on the market right now, but subcontractors could work for several different general contractors in a given year and general contractors could work with many different owners and architects in a given year. Each company has their own reasons for liking one software in particular, whether it be price, security, or function, but until one software becomes a leader, the industry will be spinning its wheels.
Every industry has one or two clear software leaders. Why? Because people don’t have time to learn a new software with each new job they work on. Imagine an architect working on a set of drawings in AutoCAD, while simultaneously working on drawings with a pencil and paper, while also using a different software to complete a third set of drawings. Not only will that get convoluted very quickly, but that architect’s overhead will skyrocket in order to keep up. They’ll need additional admin support and your office workers will be slowed down to the point where you can’t accept an additional project. That’s exactly the situation technology is supposed to help us avoid, but that’s exactly the situation the construction industry has gotten itself into.
All that leads us to this: Autodesk has put its hat into the ring with regards to construction document management. For me, this news is both exciting and frustrating: exciting because Autodesk has the money and resources to completely take over the construction document management arena, finally giving our industry an industry standard, but frustrating because Autodesk may be too late to solve the problem. Autodesk is a top 25 global software leader and the construction industry has been relying on their software for years, with products such as AutoCAD, Revit, and Buzzsaw. With those extremely popular products in their arsenal, it only makes sense for them to step into document management.
Autodesk’s BIM 360 Docs touts the fact that their software will combine all of the abilities of the industry’s other applications into one platform. That includes the ability to organize and track an unlimited amount of drawings and documents, link 2D and 3D drawings, perform drawing markups, and assign security access levels. The software is set to launch commercially some time in 2016, but they’re making a preview available for free on their website, so you can get a look at how the program will function before it’s released. The software will also allow some functionality on a mobile device, but it’s only optimized for Apple users at this point.
The video below gives you a glimpse of the software and its abilities:
It obviously remains to be seen whether or not it will catch on and, without a formally announced release date, that gives other software developers more time to establish a deeper customer base, further dividing the industry. It will be interesting to see if this development forces smaller software companies to merge their teams to battle Autodesk. Whether or not Autodesk is the one that takes control, it’s clear that the construction industry needs some type of technological stabilization.
Tell us what you think: What document management system do you prefer? Does it meet all of your needs?
The following is a guest post written by David B. Lever.
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