If we were to think of an office like a tree, the birthplace of the company and the visionaries who enabled its footing would be considered the seed. The roots formed from that seed could be thought of as IT, acting as information conduits and the support of the tree. As it grows, the trunk is formed thanks to the sum of its workforce as these people are what makes the office strong and stand above others. The leaves are the projects born from the strength of the people, nutrient-rich ideas, and the supported climate in which it grows.
The office is a delicate ecosystem that must have the proper conditions and nutrients to function and flourish. If any one aspect of this ecosystem is missing or damaged the tree will not produce leaves and eventually will eventually wither. Strong nutrient-rich ideas, well-connected infrastructure, and quality people have to work in harmony to deliver a vibrant outcome. To extend this metaphor further, if an office is a tree, then a company is a forest. Recent studies have shown that if one tree in a forest is missing key nutrients, a tree nearby will often share its bounty to support the deficient tree. This is not greatly different than the global support provided by large companies such as IBI.
Typically, AEC firms rely on IT to provide all computer related services including hardware specs, licensing, servers and networking, communications, security and software. For largescale multi-office companies like IBI, it’s essential to stay on top of opportunities for license savings or hardware specializations that’s critical to design. To ensure this happens successfully, IBI has developed a special division known as Design Technology (DT).
DT’s purpose is to use subject matter experts (SME’s) to manage parts of IT specific to design. These SME’s come from the design industry and are responsible for outlining hardware, managing purchased and licensing for design tools, create custom Installation packages, corporately deploying software, standards, training and finally troubleshooting files. These SME’s can belong to 3 variations of DT:
- Support: these are the people directly responsible for answering helpdesk tickets and interacting with users in their day to day operation.
- Systems: those responsible for hardware, software and licensing efforts.
- Project SME’s (BIM staff): the people responsible for maintaining project standards, educating end-users and driving change into processes to enhance project outcomes.
This granularity of service is not generally seen in typical IT scenarios, though it benefits the end-user from the inception of the hardware to the final delivery of the model.
In Deltec’s 40th annual A&E industry report for 2018, SME development was seen as one of the top challenges for the adoption of new technology facing engineering and architectural practices today. IBI is well ahead of the curve with developing this line of expertise and, in some cases, have already silently saved the company millions of dollars through thoughtful planning and analysis. It should also be noted that high performing A&E companies have the highest overhead percentages as compared to their counterparts, which could mean the top performers continually invest in technology and the support systems around them.
This all brings me back to the importance of support. is often seen as the silent partner whose contributions are not tangible in profit. Yet without support much of the corporate ecosystem falls apart. The old saying that nobody talks about IT until something is broken is often the case. Oddly the most praise and recognition for support generally come after fixing a major catastrophe and not in the daily grind of maintaining eco systems and keeping the lights on.
The next time you encounter support staff weather it be DT or IT remember they are your silent partner and without them the skyline would be very gray.
Ted Martin has almost 25 year experience with AutoDesk products and consulting services. His background is in civil engineering and had previously worked as a mechanical/manufacturing designer prior to joining IBI. He now manages a small team of professionals supporting Design resources for IBI Group in Toronto.