May 5, 2014


Last week I spent a day performing an onsite demo with a client of mine. The conversation progressed as most do in this situation from the tech specs to deliverable formats. At this point I usually start asking the questions as I firmly believe that success comes from being able to incorporate your data into the client’s current workflow (initially, at least) and from understanding the problem(s) the client is hoping you will solve for them. Sometimes it is as simple as being handed a scope of work. Usually it is less than clear, as was the case last week. Finally, the client said, “Truthfully, we’re having a hard time pinning the client down. They seem to be set up with each discipline in a silo, and it makes sharing and consensus rather difficult.” We had a bit of a laugh at the absurdity of this and how incredibly common it is. As collection technologies improve and those outside of the measurement sciences are provided the tools to leverage 3d imaging information the tipping point for moving this industry beyond surveyors and engineers must surely be near. However, I firmly believe that these silos are a huge impediment; and I don’t just mean in large client corporations. You see the same silo concept at hardware & software manufacturers, engineering firms, architectural firms and more.

This delineation can be traced back to the guild system in medieval Europe when specialists started taking over from generalists. Our current culture of subcontracting has only served to further codify the isolation. In fact, one of the earliest selling points I heard for BIM was to further communication between the different subs that would be designing structural versus electrical versus HVAC and so on. So let’s flip that statement on its head. How can you devise a better system for recording and delivering reality to groups within a company if those groups can’t get together and share their needs?

I’ve seen a few articles in the last week asking where the “innovation” or the “game changers” were as the industry seems to be moving at a slower pace. As a consultant, I think the market is moving more today than ever before. It’s a bigger tent and I’m personally all for that. However, many of us will have to exit our comfort zones or silos in order to understand what these new attendees to the party need or want from 3D imaging. I submit that Matt McCarter is right when he says that, “listening to customers that are nearly all from the survey industry is potentially part of the reason for only a slow evolution of laser scanning technology”. So why do the manufacturer’s do this? Well, surveyors and engineers are the original customer base. Imagine the fall out if they did not do this! Also, because of their intimate knowledge and experience with the systems they have specific requests as opposed to general what-if’s that are much more difficult to scope out. I think we’ve all had the “pleasure” of supplying a client with exactly what he/she asked for only to find out that it was never used because they didn’t understand what they needed in the first place.

So, what is to be done? Here is what I’m thinking:

– NDA them – Starting off with an NDA allows you to start the conversation with a new theme in mind. We’re all in this together – risk and reward. IF you want the most bang for your buck you have to help me understand your problems and that requires sharing.

– Who else might find this useful? – It’s a question we have to keep asking. The wider the user base, the more departments across which costs can be spread. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered a place where a 2% increase in field costs to add something (HDR photography, thermal imaging, web viewer deliverable, etc.) brought a whole other department to the table.

– Break down your own silos! – If you are siloed in-house change now. Your experience in changing it in-house will provide great insight into the challenges your clients will have if they try the same. However, your biggest benefit will be from the cross pollination of ideas within your own firm. Even if you don’t see this right away, the open sharing of not just how, but why (and what the other options are) will provide valuable training to others on your staff.   

I’ll admit that my ideas might lead the horse to water without any guarantee of accomplishing the end goal. However, I am convinced that the key is in changing the thought pattern in a way that makes silos look as counterproductive as they are. The success of any one discipline or silo does not make a project successful. It is deemed successful when all silos perform well in the aggregate. So, don’t plan in the silo either, plan the way you will be judged – all together.      


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