Most Civil/Survey Firms Are Not Well Served by Civil 3D

Smaller Civil Engineering Firms Are Better Serviced by Smaller Developers

It is my belief that many of Autodesk’s Civil 3D users would be better served by smaller developers who are laser focused on the Civil/Survey market. Why?

  • Surveyors should not have to purchase a full Civil package to process their survey data. Many continue to use Land Development Desktop even though it has not been even supported since 2012 and are actively seeking alternatives.
  • Most of the small to mid-size civil engineering firm’s work is residential and commercial subdivisions. Civil 3D is corridor based (think highways). Even after 12 years, Civil 3D does not address the basics of subdivision design when compared to alternatives.
  • Autodesk’s planned integration of their rental and perpetual license maintenance programs will drive the annual price to a level that will cause many users to seek alternatives.
  • Most importantly – One of the basic tenants of business is that companies benefit from doing business with companies of comparable size.

Autodesk is listening to large civil firms who work on major projects- they drive the bulk of Autodesk’s AEC revenue.

  • Autodesk’s software rental program is attractive to large firms because they can write off these costs annually and can license software on demand as they staff up and down based on workload.

Autodesk is not listening to the small firms with few licenses – the very customers who drove Autodesk’s growth in its early years when it too was a small technology company.

Smaller application developers are much more responsive to the needs of surveyors and civil designers. They often better understand user needs and tailor their software accordingly.

So What are the Alternatives?

BricsCAD is CAD engine I examined in detail in my blog – Is BricsCAD a Real Alternative to AutoCAD.

  • In many ways better than AutoCAD and 100% DWG compliant
  • Priced at only $1050 for the PRO version required by 3rd party developers
  • A commitment to end users and bug fixes that is unparalleled. BricsCAD V19 has over 20 point releases in 1 year incorporating both new features and bug fixes.
  • Leadership with a clear vision
  • A growing 3rd party developer network

Stringer Topo – for surveyors is a $745 application that runs with Civil 3D, AutoCAD and BricsCAD.

  • Written by surveyors for surveyors
  • Flexible with support for virtually all field instruments
  • On-line help, tutorial and videos
  • Great support system that is responsive to customer needs

Spatial Manager – provides access to GIS data in BricsCAD and AutoCAD for as low as $189.

  • Powerful tools for importing GIS data into AutoCAD and BricsCAD
  • Responsive development team who will quickly correct bugs or respond to new feature requests
  • Excellent web blogs and help system

Civil Site Design – for designers is a $2,495 full feature civil design package that operates with Civil 3D, AutoCAD and BricsCAD.

  • Users with legacy versions of Civil 3D can continue to use the features they like while getting increased performance and more stability.
  • Feature rich civil design software with an extensive video support system
  • Extremely responsive support group with dedicated Webex support for users
  • Ambitiously adding new features such as the integrated Model Viewer and most recently the Satellite to Surface More are coming this year.

Let’s wrap with a comment from James Maeding on Steve Johnson’s blog – Autodesk Perpetual License Owners to get Screwed Big-Time.

“The interesting thing is $1,000 a year for Civil 3D maintenance subscription is pretty easy to justify. When you jump to $2,500 for rental, it does start to become something you think about. The first stage of minimizing Autodesk products has already begun with several civil companies I know. They stop giving everyone Civil 3D, and limit it to only those that actually use it. The rest get AutoCAD.

The next step is to get the AutoCAD users to BricsCAD, and the Civil 3D users to civil software for BricsCAD. The guys from Australia that write what used to be ARD, (now Civil Site Design) have adapted it to BricsCAD and US design patterns. That is a real alternative to Civil 3D, even if you use AutoCAD. The fact is, any software vendor makes Autodesk service look horrible. That is sad, as the technical people at Autodesk are great. The organization just got too big and now its all about pleasing internal review instead of true customer review.”

About the Author

A professional engineer and solution architect with direct experience in a wide range of industries including GIS, water, sewer, power, transportation and oil and gas. Currently focused on delivering software for the civil engineers, surveyors, utilities, local governments and their supporting organizations.

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