The software vendors that really listen to what I tell them and adjust their products accordingly are the ones I want to work with. The Contractor-Vendor relationship is a two way street that when done correctly ends up doing a substantial amount of good for both parties. Software vendors get products that are better because when they listen to feedback from actual users they end up creating products that solve actual problems their clients face. Contractors get products that actually solve their problems and usually get it a little earlier than their competitors. And the Industry just gets better. With almost no down side I can't figure out why, in the construction industry, we are so bad at this.
Contractors still think that buying their software should be no different than going to Best Buy and picking it off the shelf. The only considerations given to the software are "Does it do what I want it to?", "Does it fit my budget?", and "Does it work on my network?". This is reflected in the ridiculously small amount of money spent by construction companies on R&D. Why spend time and money on unknown results when you have such a small criteria for what you need?
This type of thinking is what holds this industry back. I am writing this to help inform people that contractors relationships with their software vendors is much more valuable then the software itself. Don't get me wrong, I want good, functioning software. But we spend so much time trying to make software products work for us that don't quite match our needs. With a little bit of effort we can stop wasting enormous amounts of time with workarounds and start making sure the products we buy work for us. And that is just the start. I have gained so much from regular contact with software vendors that I really don't know where to start. But I think making a comparison would help explain it best.
One example of something similar is the contractor relationship with engineered forming system vendors. I have heard many stories of success and failure with choosing the right formwork system. In the last century construction companies have been made or broken based on the decision to use one forming system over another. I would bet that for the most part the companies that succeeded treated their vendors as more than just suppliers of a commodity. Many construction companies poured money into the research and development of these systems. This was done because contractors understood that advancements in the technology that we use to build is a necessity.
I would like to propose the idea that contractors relationships with software vendors at this stage is very similar. The choices we make in software and how we integrate them with our processes will make or break construction companies in the next century. Those that want to come out on top will need to make the proper relationships with their software vendors in order to really understand how to make informed decisions.
And that brings me back to the software vendors. ALL SOFTWARE VENDORS PLEASE TAKE NOTE. In the last paragraph, I wrote "integrate them with our processes". Construction has been around for a very long time. Individuals that are good at it are good for a reason. Our processes work. With BIM there have been many software companies that think up "better" processes in construction that (amazingly) happen to work perfectly with their software. I'm going to make this clear right now. You don't know how to build. You need to listen and adjust. Because there are many formwork systems that are not around any more either.