/ Column / Managing the Model: Pay Once, Learn Forever

Managing the Model: Pay Once, Learn Forever

Mark Scacco on June 11, 2015 - in Column

A few years ago, a city not far from our office built a beautiful new high school. No expense was spared to ensure it was a state of the art facility, ready to meet the needs of a burgeoning community. From city council to community to school board, everyone was pleased, and funding was approved with little resistance. It was a victory for everyone, and construction proceeded smoothly.

It wasn’t until close to the completion of construction when a problem arose. This wasn’t a small problem either—it was a major show stopper. In all the excitement of budgeting construction, one key item was overlooked: there was no money budgeted to pay teachers. The brand-new building sat empty and unused, like a beautiful sports car with no driver, or like state-of-the-art design software with an untrained operator.

Why do so many organizations in the AEC industry build the “school” and either unintentionally or willfully fail to budget for the “teachers”? Why has this problem persisted for more than 20 years? I think we finally found the answer as well as the solution.

A Long and Winding Road

In 2001, after several years of working at consulting firms, designing and helping to drive adoption of CAD and modeling software, I started Engineered Efficiency to spread the CAD efficiency message as far and wide as possible. This took me personally zig-zagging across North America as well as South Korea and Japan, working with clients and providing practically every type of training and consulting service imaginable.

During the next 15 years, I was simultaneously encouraged and disheartened by the state of the AEC industry. I witnessed, with little exception, the same scenario: complex, frequently updated software placed in the hands of eager and dedicated users tasked with getting projects out the door, with little to no thought given to how these users would learn and use the software.

There’s a simple, undeniable fact in our industry: nothing gets designed or built without the use of CAD or BIM. Without exception, this software sits at the heart of every design firm, yet it’s often seen as a necessary evil instead of the critical business tool it really is. Why is learning and keeping up to date on such a vital part of our business treated as an afterthought?

Too Many Bucks

I’ve spent years dealing firsthand with this problem and its detrimental impact on profits. There are many reasons for software training as well as owners’ lack of enthusiasm to provide it: the dearth of adequate courses in school; inefficient self-guided learning; the ineffectiveness of live training and the lost productivity associated with it; and the many shortcomings of existing eLearning, DVDs and virtual books.

Nothing, however, has as large an impact on firms not providing companywide, ongoing learning resources as cost. All the ROI studies in the world have been unable to sway the masses into embracing a serious commitment to training and ongoing, on-the-job learning. Current methods simply cost too much. Let’s look at some examples for a firm with 50 CAD/BIM users.

  •  Live training: One three-day course on one topic at $170/user/day: Cost: $25,500/class
  •  e-Learning subscription: One-year, full-library access at $400/user/year: Cost: $20,000/year
  •  Software plugin productivity solutions: One series at $350/user/year: Cost: $17,500/year

Although the costs associated with lost productivity that accompanies these options typically greatly exceed the training costs, I’ll ignore those for simplicity sake. Training costs alone are reason enough to put an all-inclusive, perpetual training program out of reach for many firms. To make matters worse, the results from these methods are less than encouraging.

A Better Way

Can our industry train better? Can it be more productive? My company colleagues and I have been working for the last 14 years to find a way to say “Yes, we can.” We refused to believe the old paradigm that quality training for everyone is cost prohibitive.

Through the years, we experimented with and implemented a variety of free, ubiquitous, low-cost solutions. Some succeeded, some did not, but all taught us something.

We pioneered low-cost online live training to reduce traveling expenses and scheduling headaches. We created a systematic, remotely guided, software installation and configuration process to drastically reduce consulting fees. After years of in-the-trenches effort, we collected and coalesced user feedback and combined it with our experience to define the features and functions the industry is asking for. The result is a completely new solution.

This solution is Wareflix: a result of our years of research, effort and feedback from real-world users. It’s a private, fully customizable eLearning system designed specifically for the AEC industry. It comes stocked with thousands of lessons for all major vendors, including Autodesk, Bentley and Microsoft. Along with its technical features, the real advancement is the one-time setup fee, which brings the power of custom learning and HR management to your entire firm.

So please, tell your colleagues and bosses. Share this information with everyone who works in our industry. The days of information hoarding, high-priced training and endless payments are over. Widespread, affordable and quality training and reference are here for good.

Let’s change the AEC industry for the better. Let’s do this together.


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About Mark Scacco

Mark Scacco, P.E., is a 25-year veteran of AEC technology and design consulting. He is an AEC Industry Consultant with Scacco LLC and can be reached via email at [email protected].

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