It is just about that time of year when ArchiCAD users get their hands on the latest release of ArchiCAD. The cries can be heard already "where is the Stair Tool?" etc. I used to be one of these people that would focus on what Graphisoft wasn't doing and missing out on the opportunities that their development brought with the new release. Yes there are things that need attention in ArchiCAD and as a client that pays for the software we should be getting software that enables us to meet our deliverables, but I hope by the end of this post I might bring you closer to my way of thinking.
I start with an analogy, one that will be familiar with us as Architects in the design industry. As Architects we have two budgets to work with. The Project Budget, we must design the project to meet a client's budget and secondly we have a budget to manage regarding our own fees and how we resource the project to get the best quality outcome for the set fee. We are all in business to achieve profit otherwise there is no purpose in opening the doors. So as an Architect there are two constraints that we have to monitor to ensure that we achieve budgets. Think if our fee was twice as much, you could put twice as many resources onto the project to achieve a higher quality design, but can that higher quality design be constructed within the client's budget.
The next point I make is in your office environment itself and Strategic Planning. You need to undertake a number of steps to achieve the greater goal. The steps need to be made in a particular order to gain the best outcome. Meaning you can't jump ahead without expecting to have to do some rework. Once again this can be linked to the design process and we use a Boulder Diagram to explain the design process to our clients. The idea behind it is that you start at the bottom with few major decisions and as you work your way up you need to make more and more decisions, these decisions are influenced by the previous decisions and need the previous decisions to be made to be worthwhile proceeding with. An example of this is knowing the site that a building will be on before you start planning it out. If the site was to change then you would have to re-plan it again. So the idea is that you do not want to have to remove the previous decisions as it effects a significant number of other decisions.
Now lets bring this back to ArchiCAD. As a client we pay $X each year to be provided with software upgrades and support. As a business model the budget of the development and other business expenses can't be greater than the income from the client base. The big question is would you pay twice as much to get those features you have been crying out for, for years?
Addressing the second factor of the timing in which development occurs. The challenging part of software development is that it is similar to Strategic Planning and Goal Setting it needs to be done in a particular order. Graphisoft do have a roadmap in place and it does change depending on a number of factors, but the reason things are fixed are because there is an order to get it done.
So why am I so passionate about this topic to write about it? Why take the side of the software company? Well the answer is this, look at the problems that are in ArchiCAD with Attribute Management. Because of that problem we looked at workarounds to prevent the issues that we were having with Attributes and multiple files. This constraint within the software unlocked our thinking to create a very powerful high quality system that we have today. So just like in design, a constraint can create a great design opportunity. You can read about the concepts of our system in my previous posts.
I look forward to the debate in the comments, so leave you thoughts below.