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Conversations with Customers: Autodesk University 2018

What a great event Autodesk threw in Las Vegas this year! We were fortunate to have two customers speak at the event; these architecture, engineering & construction (AEC) firms shared their experiences deploying Workspot cloud workstations on Microsoft Azure. The business outcomes are really exciting for them (and we’re excited for them too!). Tune in here to our conversations with customers for some key insights for AEC IT leaders. As I engage with more people in the AEC community, I become even more impressed with the level of knowledge sharing and goodwill among the IT teams who offer advice and solution ideas to each other. Pretty cool in what is thought of as a very competitive industry. Although the firms don’t always compete. On many jobs throughout the year, the firms are partnering. Because of this they see sharing technology successes makes everyone better, so when it comes time to collaborate on a project, everyone is ready to go with the latest and greatest computing solutions. Just yesterday we hosted a webinar featuring C&S Companies’ CIO Eric Quinn and Mead & Hunt CIO Andy Knauf to tell more cloud workstation stories. Be sure to watch the on-demand webinar when you have some time so you can hear directly from Andy and Eric.

Speaking of sharing, I learned so much from our booth conversations with IT execs, CAD engineers, BIM pros and so many others, I’d like to share some key takeaways from those discussions in hopes that it helps your team support your firm’s growth objectives. This week I’ll focus on the IT team perspective, and in a subsequent blog, I’ll share my discussions with CAD engineers, along with what happened when an impromptu customer demo put Workspot to the test on the show floor!

AEC IT Leaders Face Business Challenges

The IT leaders I spoke with in our booth are clearly important contributors to their firms’ business strategy. Most expressed similar challenges around CAD and BIM productivity, joint venture operations, and supporting the firm’s roadmap for growth. Anyone who had tried traditional VDI (there were very few) had deep concerns about performance, and not surprisingly, a healthy skepticism about how Workspot would perform. More among these challenges are difficulties around hiring great people and collaborating effectively, both within the firm and between companies involved in joint venture projects. Do these challenges resonate with you too?  IT is instrumental in solving these challenges.

CAD & BIM Productivity

We hear this over and over during prospect calls and this primary challenge was validated once again in our face to face discussions at AU. CAD engineers and BIM professionals are highly skilled, highly valuable (and expensive!) personnel. If the technology they use slows them down, or worse, causes them to pause their work while waiting for something to happen (such as a file download or a screen refresh), it’s a huge, expensive problem for the firm. There are a few factors that contribute to limitations in productivity – everything from slow workstations, and inefficient collaboration, to an inability to quickly gain access to needed files and data – these are all productivity killers. The good news is that change is here! In this blog post from last summer, guest blogger Andy Knauf talks about how they gave their power users instant access to data, files, and applications, which immediately improved collaboration. That was just the beginning. Definitely watch the on-demand webinar to hear about Mead & Hunt’s technology evolution and Andy’s latest take on their cloud workstation implementation. They’ve been in production for a while now and the downstream benefits they’re seeing are pretty great!

Joint Venture Partnerships Are Hot

Whether you refer to it as “partnerships” “multi-company collaboration” or “joint ventures” (JVs), firms from small to large participate in projects where disparate companies come together to build something great. There’s no doubt that JVs are core to how most AEC firms operate. What’s astonishing to me is that some of the larger firms I spoke with at the show reported that JVs comprise 75% to 80% of their business! During our webinar yesterday, attendees reported that 86% participate in JVs, and 21% of those participate in 50 or more JV projects in a year! Just contemplating how a firm would manage 50 or more joint venture projects is kind of mind-boggling considering the mix of players and the mix of technology platforms to deal with, not to mention the problem of providing access to the data everyone needs to get the job done. So when you think about how these partnerships operate in your world, if all your partners on a project could easily work together using the same technology stack, share files efficiently and get the speed and performance needed for power users, that would be pretty amazing wouldn’t it? Consider the impact on cost management, productivity and project timelines. This is where things get really exciting for the Workspot team because our Workstation Cloud solution is totally transforming the way joint ventures operate. As Eric Quinn, CIO of C&S Companies puts it, “When we talk about multi-company collaboration or joint ventures, this is the holy grail that everyone is fighting for. Today we cannot collaborate with another company that has almost exactly the same infrastructure and software. Workspot is going to give us that opportunity.” The pain Workstation Cloud alleviates for AEC joint ventures is profound, and because the whole operation runs more smoothly, the end client benefits from accelerated timelines and higher quality products. Hear what else Eric has to say about the promise of cloud workstations. Yesterday’s webinar is available on-demand now!

Traditional VDI Just Doesn’t Make the Cut

Only a couple of the firms we spoke with at the show tried virtualizing their own workstations on-prem. There are good reasons why legacy Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) just doesn’t work for AEC firms. Power users, such as CAD engineers and BIM experts, have a need for speed – slow physical workstations or virtual desktops with horrible latency are productivity killers. Indeed, the few people we talked with who had tried VDI or were using it pointed out latency and performance problems. This is why AEC firms have never been able to adopt VDI – performance comes first. During our webinar yesterday, both Eric and Andy spoke about their experience using legacy VDI. As Eric says, “With Workspot you go from ok to Awesome!”. VDI can work for knowledge workers who are close to their datacenter, but it’s just not acceptable for the CAD and BIM power users any way you look at it. You can hear more about Andy’s and Eric’s experience with VDI, and why they’ve chosen Workspot instead.

Transforming AEC Firms

Mead & Hunt and C&S Companies are great examples of how transitioning away from dated technology  – such as on-prem VDI, local servers, remote desktops, WAN accelerators & physical workstations – in favor of a cloud-first strategy, opens up a whole new world of opportunity. The people I spoke with at AU share the same challenges Mead & Hunt and C&S faced. Workspot Workstation Cloud is  solving those challenges. As a core element in your cloud-first strategy, Workstation Cloud provides performance and workstyle flexibility for power users, it dramatically simplifies IT infrastructure, freeing those resources to focus on more strategic initiatives for the company, and it opens doors to pursue new projects globally, using the best talent no matter where they are located.

See it for yourself when you schedule a live demo and ask about access to your own sandbox for testing Workspot Workstation Cloud.