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

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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!