AEC Software Integration

The architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) industry is being bombarded with software vendors claiming they have the answer to the inadequate software that’s just not cutting it at your office. But there’s not just one software that will work seamlessly for all of the businesses in the industry. There are a multitude of software options available that fulfill the needs of each company’s niche. Then it gets even more complex trying to find different software for each department to meet their various needs.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a vendor say “we can solve all of your problems with our software,” I wouldn’t be writing about this issue. I’d be sitting on my private island sipping Mai Tai’s. They all want to sell you their product, so it’s important to be asking the right questions. To truly understand your needs the vendor must assess your current situation and processes including all of the software you’re already using. Companies can easily have their software get out of control by allowing each department to act as an independent company separate from everyone else. The last thing you need to do is add another balloon to the bouquet – you may start to float away.

Very few software vendors take a look at the individual company’s processes in order to integrate all of the software to reduce duplications and streamline the process. Implementing ideas such as “Lean Processing” integration between software could help minimize the number of various software used before introducing new software to the mix. One system that does this is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. The ERP system is a business process management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the overall business and automation.

Most ERP systems are great for larger firms that have dedicated teams to customize the data and handle upgrades or deployments of new add-ons to the system. Small to mid-size general contractors don’t typically have the IT staff to manage such system. These firms count on the software vendors to have some type of integration or application program interface (API) that can assist with integration of application already in use.

Often times when we start using the new software we quickly find that it’s underdeveloped and won’t integrate with our other AEC programs. We need to have an open source umbrella or increased API development on software that allows us to integrate it ourselves with our other applications. We should be able to use the best applications that best fit our needs easily integrate with one another and have an umbrella system that covered them all. When we work with the vendor we expect to get back the most accurate data without having to enter the information in two, three, fours times because the applications won’t easily communicate with one another. Let’s enter the information once have it automatically updated across all applications.

I believe this is possible with the software available today but it’s going to take an individual coming up with one open source umbrella, API or an integration tool that speaks the language of all the applications in order for them to communicate with one another.

These issues won’t be solved today, tomorrow, or next week but I have strived for the last 20-odd years as an IT Director in the AEC industry, who constantly communicates with software vendors, to help them improve the processes in their software to meet the AEC industry demand for some sense of cohesiveness. Using lean methodologies and helping one another, the more we can increase productivity and reduce waste.

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