Design Cloud

Unleash your design teams with Single Sign-on

In the rapidly growing world of cloud powered applications and web apps, IT teams are finding new ways to manage the ever growing list of tools their users need access to. With this growing user demand for cloud based tools and utilities several of the worlds top AEC firms are moving toward SAML based Single Sign-on (SSO) user identity tools.

What is Single Sign-on? “a property of access control of multiple related, but independent software systems. With this property a user logs in once and gains access to all systems without being prompted to log in again at each of them.” – Wikipedia

The chart above shows a typical top 20 list of apps for an organization. https://www.onelogin.com/blog/legacy-iam-cloud-fail

The chart above shows a typical top 20 list of apps for an organization. https://www.onelogin.com/blog/legacy-iam-cloud-fail

When it comes to configuring and customizing apps used by every employee it makes sense for IT teams to spend weeks doing deployments. When you start moving down the list to the apps that only a certain department needs access to it may not make sense to make large investments in on-premise software and deployments. This is the point where IT personnel in AEC firms across the globe are trying to find a middle ground between security, providing their users the tools they need when they need them, and speed of deploying these tools. No IT team wants to be a barrier to their colleagues, but they are the gatekeepers of a firm. They must keep data security and employee access to this data a top priority.

Single Sign-on identity providers such as OneLogin, LoginRadius, OKTA, and PingIdentity are leaders in providing a single source of truth for users access to various cloud applications across an entire design firm.

Cloud identity providers are built in the cloud for the cloud, making deploying cloud software a breeze. Most SSO providers have app stores where you can search for thousands of existing cloud software and connect the two quickly and easily.

What are the top 5 reasons for looking into a SSO solution for your design firm?

  1. Lowered IT costs
  2. Improved security
  3. Increased workforce productivity
  4. More utilization of mobile
  5. Improved user experience

Design technology is moving rapidly and how AEC IT personnel adapt to it will be critical over the next few years. Security, ease of use, and scalability will be key factors of which technologies we choose for our design firms. This is why you will find the Unifi app in each of the four providers app stores listed above with more to come upon request! We have listened to our customers and made Unifi compliant with the SAML 2.0 protocol which will allow you to integrate Unifi with any compatible Single Sign-on provider.

I would bet we end up seeing more AEC software leaders move down this path eventually with SSO. SSO integration is just the beginning, its a fully connected world and API’s can turn a great product into a powerful platform. We fully plan to continue to expand our platform integration options further with various API’s and integrations into some of the most popular platforms such as Slack and Trello! More to come on that front in a future post.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment or question below.

Didn’t attend BCS? 3 Things you Missed

For those who didn’t attend the Building Content Summit a few weeks ago, here’s what you missed out on!  (And why you should become involved next year in Phoenix!) INVIEW labs had 3 directors present; Bryan Novotny, Steve Germano, and Myself.  It was a pleasure to see this event transition from a concept to such a positive outcome that it was.

1. You can’t beat the NETWORKING

AEC firms were there.. CHECK!  Manufacturers were there.. CHECK!!  Service Providers and Software vendors were there.. CHECK!!!  The BCS offered many different formats that allowed for discussions between these groups.  We had over 100 in attendance!  Pretty good for year one.  In a way, the collective group represented the best and the brightest in the BIM content world.  Whether you were talking with your competition (gasp!  how dare you!), or talking with others from a different group, you gained a different perspective.  Prior to BCS, some folks expressed fear to me of discussing their own solutions in front of competition.

“Perhaps the fear of losing competitive advantage may be overridden by pain of loss of efficiency due to recreation/duplication.  It’s not the interface stopping us, it’s fear of loss of differentiation stopping us.” Nancy McClure, Interior Architects

The truth is, aren’t we all passionate about the same thing?  The challenges we face are far larger than any single one of us can solve.  We each have many other areas where we can and should differentiate ourselves but content elements itself should not be one of them.  Come out next year and be sure to open up!

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2. PROBLEMS were defined

How refreshing it was to have a day focused on CONTENT!  This was unlike other great events where content challenges are only one of many items discussed. At INVIEW, we believe content is THE foundation for all else.  It was great to see BIG problems being exposed and hear some of what was proposed as solutions.

It was particularly interesting for me to hear folks express more frustration centered around DATA in BIM content than GEOMETRY. Though, maybe I have selective hearing since DATA is so much of what we talk about in UNIFI development discussions.  It does seem that folks ARE more accepting of manufacturer models than in the past, but those models are difficult to use because they lack compliance to firm-wide parameter standards.  My favorite quote of the day:

“One-size-fits-all is great for socks, but bad for BIM” Marcus Fich, Grundfos

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the day:

“Maybe we need to upload all of our content for all to use. Open source it!” Jason Bailly, HDR Architecture

“The better you understand a problem, the closer you are to the solution”, Chris Needham, AECOM

“The conflict of content creation for BIM: Detail depends on context which depends on creator and consumer”, Phil Read, Read | Thomas

I also enjoyed hearing about the HUGE effort from Bentley to consolidate around a single content authoring and distribution tool.  I know most everybody attending BCS works in Revit, but you gotta hand it to them.. THAT’S cool, and something we haven’t seen from Autodesk.

My hat goes off to Jose Fandos who is doing some impressive things with the CIBSE and ASHRAE standards.  This and his concept of Product Data Templates (PDT’s) is the first standards (dare I say it??) effort that seems legit.  How can we help, Jose?

You’ve got to visit the #RTCBCS twitter action here to get a feel for the fun we had defining problems with BIM content.

Oh, and did you see that awesome graphic at the top? There’s more graphics on the twitter feed you can look at..  These are a great summary of discussions we had.

3. MANUFACTURES showed up

Problems were defined in front of the right group.  This was and will be a disruptive event.  The more manufacturers can understand the needs of their customers, the better everybody will be. The fact is though, the sales process of BIM content to a manufacturer is often devoid of the realities of content.  Now, through the BCS, manufacturers get a raw exposure to how widely used it is, what the value is, how to do it right, etc. I anticipate many interesting partnerships forming between these groups as a direct result of this summit.

I had some manufacturers come up and state their surprise at some of what was discussed.  Some were surprised that at one table, only ~30% of design firms desire manufacturer content. Others were excited about being able to meet the actual users of the content.  One thing is certain, all manufacturers surely took one thing away:  if there is one group you need to impress with your BIM geeky-ness… it is BCS!

IMG_1551 (1)

It was also great to hear so many mentions of Unifi in the table discussions .  We’re thrilled to see those individuals who have helped us develop features enjoying the benefits. This event embodies so many of the same goals of Unifi.  We look forward to supporting it through the years to come!

We’ve all done it: Musings on the challenges of content strategies

We’ve all done it…

…made a bad or downright ugly family really quick just to get a submission package out the door.

You say to yourself, well this is just a temporary family. I will have time in between submissions or projects to update and make it better later.

Then you go from submission to submission, project to project, and completely forget about it! Sometimes these bad families stay isolated in a single project, sometimes they make it into your company library and get used on many projects. This scenario happens a lot in firms and over time these bad or downright ugly families start to creep into your corporate approved content libraries!

In discussions with several of our customers they find that they just eventually loose control over their libraries. They started off with a great standard, trained their staff, and over time built up a powerful Revit content library. Then as time goes on, staff comes and goes, the jobs keep on coming, and more and more content is continually being created with no mind to standards. They loose control over time unknowingly.

Another global design firm I talked with recently had the struggle that they had over 40 offices globally and could not get their design teams to use any type of consistent content libraries. Each office ended up with their own spin of the corporate approved content library with local code variances added for parameters. This caused all sorts of issues as this region specific content would eventually creep into the global libraries and designers where using content meant for the UK region in the US causing incorrect parameter data to be shown on submission sheets. You would argue nothing should be going out without review, but we all know how fast projects progress in our industry and it happens at times.

Is your firm challenged with some of these scenarios? How do the leading design firms deal with mitigating this scenario today? Here are some ideas you can implement in your firm right now that will help.

1.  Hire a dedicated Design Library Manager

Very few firms have dedicated personnel who’s sole job is to manage libraries, but if your firm has identified the value of this position it will mitigate this risk as you will have a person dedicated to these types of problems. While the most costly solution, it just may pay for itself in months. Here’s a quote borrowed from Sean Burke, Senior Associate at NBBJ.  Follow Sean on Twitter @seandburke

As a firm becomes more sophisticated in its use of BIM, the quality of content standards and the library to support our design work becomes more challenging to fit in with all the other activities and responsibilities of a Digital Practice manager. As a multi-discipline firm who works on many building types, we decided to create a dedicated role for content management . This new role will assess needs per design studio, direct in the creation of and manage the high-performance, data rich content that works seamlessly with our project templates. This enables us as a practice to focus more on design, rather than building content per project.

2.  Schedule yearly content reviews

Most firms do not have the luxury of hiring a dedicated library manager, but the existing company BIM managers can be intentional about reviewing all of the content in their libraries every so often to purge the bad. This is a very time consuming task and you should educate management that the BIM staff or BIM management team need dedicated time toward this task. Perhaps its an annual review, perhaps its a quarterly, it really depends on how messy your current situation is.

3.  Create & enforce strict content creation rules and standards

Creating standards takes time, but almost every firm has some type of content standard in place. This would include a company shared parameter file, 2D symbology standards, and a project template with all the view filters etc needed to interact with families and system families. Creating the standards is one thing, educating and enforcing the standards is another.

Enforcing standards is like going to the gym, we all know we should do it, but its a hassle and therefore is never adequately kept up.

4.  Restrict the rights to your corporate content libraries

Most of your users will only need to read from the company network library folders to load content into their projects. You can request that your IT department lock down these folders so that only BIM managers have write access, while all other personnel only have read access. Educate your staff that when they need new content to be added to the company libraries it has to be sent to management for QA first. This is the most common scenario in design firms that I talk to.

The cons to this strategy is that there will always be those special few designers that start modifying the content and nest it away on their personal hard drives completely bypassing any company standard and again causing project inconsistencies.

Many firms have no processes in place to review and update their family libraries which causes inconsistencies on projects. The real problem is with really ugly content, the ones with imported cad geometries and such, which can cause print problems, naming convention issues, project speed issues, and ultimately project delays.

There has to be a better way to analyze what content is being frequently used, what is not, what content needs some work, and what content just plain out doesn’t work at all. The Unifi team set out to provide firms with ammo to fight this battle!

How can Unifi help?

User Ratings

Many Revit content management applications offer content ratings that your users can rate and rank your content. While this sounds like a great feature most designers don’t take the time to actually rate the content they use. Don’t get me wrong this is a great feature to have, Unifi has this feature also, but it has to be implemented the right way. Most of the apps on the market do not reset their ratings when the content is updated.

Thats like iTunes not resetting the ratings when a new app version is released!

This ongoing average rating becomes a useless metric as it does not represent the current version of a family which may have fixed earlier deficiencies in the family. Unifi’s rating system will reset based on the current version of the family.

Usage Analytics

Unifi’s cloud is constantly monitoring your firms content usage 24/7. What are your users searching for, what content are they inserting into projects, what families are in what projects and what versions, and how often is the content in your libraries being used? While not all of this data is accessible in Unify today, a lot of it is, and the Unifi team is working on ways to show more soon. Lets take a look at what analytics can be easily accessed through Unifi today.

  • Highest Downloaded, Highest rated, Lowest Rated, Never Used
    • Using Saved Searches Admins can configure a search to show them several types of analytics. Quick access to the highest rated content for example, in all libraries, in a single library, or from a certain family category.

Because Saved searches are fully customizable you can configure as many of these quick analytic “tiles” to show you the information you want to keep track of.

  • Saved Searches are live analytics into your content usage
  • Here are some examples of some basic analytics setup through Saved Searches

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 9.56.59 PM

These are a couple of OOTB solutions that UNIFI provides but keep an eye on the Tips and Tricks portion of the blog. We’ll be offering sound methods to help you TAKE CONTROL.  Let us know your comments!

Building Content Summit: Why we care

We’re getting excited for the Building Content Summit!  Here’s a little background on Inview’s involvement in the event:

Over a year ago, a few of us at Inview started bouncing the idea around of a conference where manufacturers and designers could openly collaborate.  Inview has always had strong relationships with manufacturers and we often work to provide them with a strategy around BIM.  One thing has become clear to us as we’ve done this: for the building process to improve, manufacturers and designers must be willing to share much more information than they currently do.

Apparently, we were not alone in this sentiment.  Others at the same time were thinking the same thing.  Randall Stevens, CEO from ArchVision, approached us last year after mulling on the idea for some time.  Randall also had discovered that RTC Events had been contemplating it.  From there, we formed our committee and got planning!

We are proud to have a solid representation in the event. We will have Steve Germano (Chief Development Officer), Bryan Novotny (Director of BIM Development) and myself (Director of Technical Solutions and co-chair of BCS) in attendance.

We’re excited to now see over 40 different companies coming from 8 different countries represented in the registration so far!  Many have commented “This has been needed for a LONG time!”  We feel the same way.

There are serious challenges related to BIM content and we look forward to the chance to work with others that not only feel the same way but can help effect a real difference.

For more information on the event: http://bit.ly/1CpvIgC

Follow the BCS blog: http://bit.ly/1KOQRUa

(It’s not too late to register!!)

Interview with the Chief Development Officer

I recently was able to interview Steve Germano, Chief Development Officer for Inview Labs.  Steve’s responses to the following questions do a nice job at revealing the value proposition and objectives of Unifi.  Enjoy!

 

 

Q – Why did INVIEW labs create the Unifi platform?

A – To provide an intuitive, reliable, & scalable platform for solving the myriad of Revit content management challenges that AEC firms face in today’s competitive market.

Q – What are some of the industry challenges in managing Revit content?

A – There are many challenges design firms face with managing tens of thousands of pieces of content. These challenges are much broader than just managing files, they encompass team workflows, user access, collaboration around content creation, and a lack of analytics and insights into content usage.

Q – What does Unifi offer that your competitors do not?

A – Unifi has a robust, scalable cloud that incorporates a Revit cluster for mining metadata, editing parameters, and performing deep analysis of Revit content. We are the only industry offering that has developed a cloud powered Revit cluster.

Q – What makes Unifi such a diverse solution?

A – Product Depth. Unifi manages far more than Revit families, the .RFA format which people refer to as content. Content is more than just families, Unifi can extract System Families, Drafting Views (Details), Model Groups, and Schedules (coming soon).

Q – What do you feel your customers value the most about the Unifi product?

A – Customer support. It might sound funny as it has nothing to do with the actual product features or tech, but the best software on the planet is no good without support. We pride ourselves on providing an extremely high level of customer support. We have customers around the globe, and that puts pressure on our support team to be available 24/7 and some customers have jokingly asked me if our support staff ever sleeps. The majority of the time when our customers reach out for assistance, our support team is chatting with them instantly. If you are deploying an enterprise level software internationally, you need to have trust in the support of that product by the developers and that is exactly the message we want our customers to hear.

Q – Unifi is updated very frequently. Can you explain the idea behind this as compared to annual product releases?

A – Our development teams utilize agile methodologies which enable us to quickly and effectively make incremental improvements to the Unifi product and release these improvements to our customers rapidly. Most software companies in our industry do a major feature release annually with service packs (bug fixes) once or twice a year. Our cloud architecture enables us to release certain types of changes daily if needed. The quicker we can get new features into our customers hands the more value we can offer our customers. Technology moves quickly, we have designed our company from inception to be able to quickly adapt to stay ahead of industry trends.

Q – Unifi looks very different than many apps in the AEC market place, can you talk about why your app design is a contrast to the industry norm.

A – One of our company core values is simplicity. “Simplicity is the origin of freedom” and that is a very powerful statement. There are many powerful softwares out there in the AEC industry, but they are so complex to learn and use that their usefulness is reduced. We have designed Unifi to be an intuitive, simple interface with limited buttons and a non-cluttered UI. The goal is to allow the user to focus on their content, and not the tool being used to find that content. When we design our interfaces the first question we ask ourselves is “what can we pull out, what can we simplify, how can we direct the user to what they are after as quickly as possible”.

Q – What’s next in store for Unifi?

A – We still have a lot of work to do. We will be launching our first major release this year, v2.0, that will encompass a streamlined design, faster search engine, and a better overall user experience. We also have other products in design that we are very excited about, that leverage the Unifi cloud platform. We are continually working with several NDA customers to explore new tech we can build that will solve their industry problems. Hearing our customers excitement about our Unifi product really motivates our team, pushes us to never be complacent.

Unifi Wins a Race!

I needed to see for myself how much faster I can work with Unifi vs. without.  Some of you ROI hunters out there need to know also, so pay attention!

So I put my lab coat on, got scientific and put together an experiment.  (We are after all a LAB!) A fair experiment.  An honest to goodness, fair experiment.  Remember, I needed to know for myself too.

I built a sample environment.  Then I created a script of components to use in a mock design.  First, 2 walls, then, an opening, then the doors, and on down till the last item. This script was on my other monitor so I could replicate the sequence for each video.  I then placed these components into a large Unifi library.  I also placed them into their respective folders in the generic content library in Windows Explorer.

I wanted to test the time difference to complete the design.

  • Method #1: Use the ‘Load Family’ button to load the families, then use the project browser or component drop down to place instances.
  • Method#2: Use Unifi to load and place instances.

Here is the recorded result:

Unifi WINS!!  By a lot, actually. (2.1 times faster to be exact – There’s that ROI!!)

In both tests I was honestly trying to complete the design as fast as possible.  I found that the traditional load/insert method is plain clunky to use.  There’s a lot of mouse movement required and there are multiple points of access for load and insert commands.  With Unifi, there’s only one place you need to go.  This is especially easy when Unifi is pinned to the top and auto collapsed.

We’re looking into ways of making it even faster, so keep paying attention!

Unifi Browsing : Rethinking an old concept

Unifi has always been about quick access to only the content YOU care about. When content is added to Unifi, our servers immediately begin parsing and storing information for each file. Unifi’s browse mode feature is able to leverage this data to quickly get you what you need. This provides many advantages over other content management strategies.

Browse Mode

This feature was added in the 1.5.2 release as a result of user feedback. While our users love and utilize our search page, the feedback was clear; provide a familiar way to ‘browse content’. Administrators of content libraries care not only about accessibility, but also believe that good content should effectively present itself to designers even when it wasn’t originally sought after. Searches are great for finding specific elements you know exist, browsing is great for discovery of elements you don’t know exist.

Here’s the common problem with browsing (on platforms other than Unifi): content is stashed into containers or folders that are difficult to maintain. These folder structures are rigid and require that administrators manually maintain new, outdated or unpopular content.

The old way: a user provides an administrator with a new file. The administrator has to first open it up to find the category assignment then find the matching folder for that category before placing it there.

However, in Unifi, the browse feature automatically sorts and organizes the content based on the information we automatically extract.

For example: a user uploads a new file to Unifi. The file automatically appears within the correct folder based on the family catagory.

This system works because Browse mode is essentially a pre-configured search query. This means that if something shows up in the wrong folder, you know the problem is with the content only. We hope you also enjoy the automatically created tile images and view display options [Large, Medium and Small]

We’re not done!

As you may know, Unifi stores a variety of different Revit elements including loadable families, drafting views, and system families. More are coming soon so stay posted. Because of this, you will start to see subtle changes in the organization of browse mode.