Earlier this month, it was announced that Applied Technology Group (ATG) – an Autodesk Platinum Partner – would be acquiring CAD Technology Center (CTC). This is the company’s second large acquisition this year – following its acquisition of CADSoft – and one that has the potential to deliver significant benefits to government Autodesk users.
How can an acquisition benefit the people that design and build things for government agencies? Simply put, this acquisition is going to give them increased and easier access to a suite of exciting tools that the CTC team developed for Autodesk users. These tools – layered on top of Autodesk’s software solutions – are capable of making Autodesk easier to use and can even enable workflows and processes that are impossible without them.
To learn more about this acquisition and the benefits that CTC’s productivity tools can deliver to government users, we recently sat down with Ben Hollowell, the President of ATG USA, and Oliver Turan, the Director of Operations at CTC Software.
Here is what they had to say:
GovDesignHub: Earlier this month, it was announced that ATG USA had acquired CAD Technology Center. Why was this a good acquisition for the company? What does the company add by adding CTC?
Ben Hollowell: Our company, ATG USA, has been focused on growth over the past decade or more. But, in the past few years, with the changes to the Autodesk program and the move to the subscription model, it gave us an opportunity to consolidate in the retailer channel, to form some partnerships and to transact some acquisitions to facilitate growth.
CAD Technology Center (CTC) had well-known and phenomenal presence in the upper-Midwest and Great Lakes regions that we had known about for many years. We were familiar with their Midwest University event that they held annually, which attracts thousands of attendees and featured hundreds of sessions on great, topical material for the industry. So, when an opportunity presented itself to start talking about a possible acquisition, we were very excited to engage CTC.
I had gotten to know Saeid and Oliver – the management team at CTC – over the years and had nothing but respect for them and what they had built.
Also, CTC had focused a lot of time and effort into the development of their own intellectual property – productivity enhancement toolsets around the Autodesk core products. That is an area where our business had not focused, but we saw how it contributed to the success of CTC – in their ability to win accounts and retain customers over the long term. And that is everything that a good business in this channel should be doing.
In terms of what we added, we added some fantastic staff – their technical bench was very knowledgeable and experienced – and that’s always a win. We added a great sales team. And we added access to this intellectual property that allows us to provide our entire customer base with access to these efficiency and productivity enhancement tools.
[These tools] make their lives easier and make working with Autodesk tools easier – while also making it easier for them to adopt the software more. That’s essential in the subscription software market, since if the customer isn’t using the software, they’re not going to renew their subscriptions. These tools created even more of an incentive for them to adopt the software.
GovDesignHub: The CTC acquisition is the second deal ATG has completed recently, after its acquisition of CADSoft Consulting. What was the reasoning behind that acquisition? What did the CADSoft deal add to ATG?
Ben Hollowell: CADSoft was another opportunity to grow our market footprint. CADSoft is based out of Phoenix, AZ, with a heavy footprint in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. ATG hadn’t historically pushed that far west. This was an opportunity to take a real presence in those markets because of the decades of experience and large number of customers that they had in that marketplace.
What we got out of it was very similar to what we got out of the CTC acquisition – a great technical bench and great sales reps. Also, CADSoft was one of the original, authorized construction partners of Autodesk, so they had a familiarity with the construction solutions – the BIM 360 product – and technical staff that was familiar with implementing those. They had a go-to-market strategy that our company had yet to develop.
GovDesignHub: What are the CTC Express Tools? What additional functionality and capability do they deliver to existing Autodesk solution users?
Oliver Turan: They’re productivity and workflow enhancement add-ins that install on top of Autodesk’s leading architectural and civil engineering tools – Civil3D and Revit. Tools in our BIM and CIM Project Suites focus on everyday tasks for software users. Tools in our BIM Manager Suite focus more on CAD and BIM management roles – helping people in that realm mass manipulate and standardize data from drawing files.
Our portfolio also includes content management with our Hive solution. And we also have some big data harvesting tools for business intelligence in our BIM Data Suite. Finally, we offer a number of starter project files with content that help organizations jump in and quickly adopt these technologies instead of trying to use the software out of the box and from a blank state.
GovDesignHub: How can CTC Express Tools and Autodesk solutions benefit federal government agencies? What are some of the use cases for these solutions at federal civilian agencies and defense organizations?
Oliver Turan: On the building side, agencies such as the [General Services Agency] and NASA require very specific deliverables -perhaps out of BIM. Many times, these deliverables are required to be in an industry standard, such as COBie. This data that’s leveraged out of COBie is often times leveraged in facilities management and maintenance management scheduling. Our tools help the consulting parties ensure that data is included in the deliverable. It also helps the government agencies to ensure the completeness of the deliverable – making sure each “T” is crossed, and each “I” is dotted.
These agencies are always receiving different models and drawing files from outside design and contracting parties. Those tools can be very cumbersome. We have tools to help such agencies automatically export the needed information for both internal, and external use. That could enable activities such as automatically printing a drawing set on a specific schedule, or exporting to various file types for other parties, or exporting files for coordination such as NavisWorks or IFC.
We also have tools to check models and drawing files to ensure they were created to the requirements outlined – that’s a very big deal as many of these agencies put out requirements around these deliverables.
Many of the tools were actually created in conjunction with design, engineering, and contracting parties that were actively working on government projects. They came to us with a specific project need, and we saw that a broader audience could make use of them – that’s where many of these tools came from.
On the civil side, there is often a need to split work up among different consultants, or perhaps project scopes and budgets have changed over time. So, we’ve built tools to help split apart existing corridor objects and roadways, and then merge them back together where appropriate.
GovDesignHub: What about at the state, local and municipal level? What use cases exist for these solutions with state, local and municipal government?
Oliver Turan: If you think of something as simple as bringing in new survey data – which is done daily across local, state and county governments – that process can be error prone and slow. Even if something seemingly mundane was left out – or a single point was mislabeled out in the field – it can impact productivity. We have tools that can assist with big issues and help to deliver small, everyday productivity gains.
For example, Layers and Styles are features in AutoCAD and Civil 3d that define graphical and data standards within those files. This is a huge part of ensuring deliverables are consistent and documents are accurate. Counties and State DOTs need tools to set those standards and manipulate or clean up incoming files, either for their reference or for use in the future or on other projects.
GovDesignHub: Do you have specific examples of government organizations utilizing CTC Express tools? What were the results like?
Oliver Turan: In the past, we’ve worked with a number of state agencies – including state DOTs – and various counties and cities across the upper Midwest. As I mentioned, counties and cities are constantly sending out data sets for future projects and then bringing completed project data back into their data stores to ensure they have the latest data on their built infrastructure.
Meshing these files together, and often needing to split out specific information for future projects is a constant part of their process.
Doing this with the [Autodesk] software out of the box is very difficult, at best, and often impossible. So, we’ve built tools to take the very difficult, and make it easy. In fact, in some cases, we’re making the impossible workflow possible.
When you think of the ROI of being able to shave minutes off of a process that is done daily, that’s certainly beneficial. But, in some cases, our tools are enabling a completely new, more efficient way of managing and sharing data. And that really changes the game for a lot of these municipalities that are now able to do things that weren’t possible with the out of the box software.
A specific example I like to share goes back a number of years. We had a large client working with the GSA. They needed to push hundreds of data parameters into a design file across thousands of objects in an extremely large project model. To accomplish this manually would have delayed the project and taken – what the customer estimated – to be about 1,500 hours. This was at the end of the project, too, when scheduling was very tight.
Using just one of our tools that’s focused on that type of issue, they were able to accomplish this task in just under three hours. Not only did this save nearly 1500 hours, it also ensured the project got done on time and eliminated the possibility of human error in doing the requisite, time consuming work manually.
GovDesignHub: What are some of the government technology adoption trends that you’re seeing that could help agencies overcome large governmental problems or challenges in the future?
Oliver Turan: I would say that the adoption of BIM, building information modeling, and CIM, civil information modeling, are the two biggest shakeups for our industry since moving from drafting boards and pencils to CAD. Since these are information modeling technologies, the tools can leverage intelligent object classifications within the design files. that is very important because it lends itself greatly to automation.
Before, we worked with lines – either hand drawn or CAD-based. Now, we’re working with objects. These objects have performance data, classifications and their 3d geometry.
In the CAD realm, we can help draw lines faster all day, and that’s fine. But in the BIM and CIM realm, we can help place objects faster, we can also automatically document, create views, sheets, schedules, and mass change things because we are working with an information model.
Since the design and engineering tools are becoming more information modeling tools, they can often be used for other downstream purposes that government agencies are already doing – or trying to do, but looking to improve, such as Computer Aided Facilities Management, Computerized Maintenance Management Systems, Building Automation Systems, and being able to leverage design data in future renovation, reengineering, and repurposing work. Those are all huge steps forward that we’re looking to do across the industry – especially in government.