Coast to Coast Solutions
A recent move by Autodesk of San Rafael, Calif., will be noticed greatly by the surveying and civil engineering sector. In August, Autodesk acquired a civil software automation tool provider on the other coast of the country: CAiCE Software Corporation of Tampa, Fla. Founded in 1989 as AGA Computer Services Inc., CAiCE (pronounced “KC” and standing for Computer-Aided Civil Engineering [and Surveying]) has made tremendous strides in advancing and enhancing software solutions for the transportation sector. From its pioneering product, Visual Digital Terrain Modeling, to earthworks, road design and hydrology/hydraulics solutions, CAiCE today services more than 10 state departments of transportation (DOTs) in the United States, and several in Canada and internationally in addition to its private sector clients.
Both Autodesk and CAiCE, on either side of the States, seem to have been doing quite well in business. So why did Autodesk acquire CAiCE?
The simple answer is that Autodesk was interested in expanding into new markets, including the public sector where CAiCE already had a strong presence. Autodesk had looked around to other companies serving the DOTs, but CAiCE was the one company that would be “interesting and synergistic,” according to Autodesk’s Vice President of GIS Solutions Division Larry Diamond.
“We looked at the [CAiCE] software by using it,” Diamond says. “We talked to the people [at CAiCE]. They were very knowledgeable; they could talk to you about it.” Autodesk made some blind calls to CAiCE’s customers and received positive feedback, reinforcing their desire to obtain the company.
Complementary ComplimentsFor customers, the acquisition will mean product enhancements for the transportation sector. Autodesk, according to the press release on the announcement “will add complementary functionality to its existing civil engineering solutions for highways, airports, railroads and other transportation-related segments, positioning Autodesk to expand into new markets.”
“Large transportation agencies are increasingly looking for a single vendor to bridge the gap between the planners using GIS software and the engineers using design software. We believe there is a continuum in our solutions, through mapping, design, infrastructure. We want to build out that solution,” Diamond says. “We don’t believe we’re the only vendor, so we’re looking for technology to really serve our customers. CAiCE supports both formats, DWN and DGN. We [at Autodesk] believe in open systems.”
Real ExpectationsWhat about product offerings? Since both companies highlight the fact that their approaches to the marketplace are complementary and that there is little overlap among product offerings, what are customers to expect in the line of new products?
Expected due out during the last week of September/first week of October is Onsite 7, a desktop lightweight analysis program. “This is a 3D version for civil engineers and surveyors [and] includes LandXML. [It is] complementary to our land solutions. It allows the professional and non-professional to do 3D analysis,” Diamond says. “It brings a benefit to CAiCE that they can work with.”
As for existing products, customers need not fret; nothing will change. “Customers will call the same phone numbers, talk to the same people and get better support,” Diamond says, highlighting the ‘Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke’ philosophy. In fact, soon after the announcement, CAiCE announced that its Visual PE suite of products now supports LandXML 1.0 open data exchange format, proving that enhancements have not halted. All CAiCE products will continue to be sold and supported, and all products will continue to be compatible with various data collection systems used for surveys, and with MicroStation and AutoCAD-based products.
Structural AlterationsCAiCE will be the foundation of the GIS Solutions Division’s Transportation Group at Autodesk and will specialize in transportation solutions. The CAiCE organization will continue to operate in its current offices in Tampa, Fla. Diamond said no layoffs are planned, that all CAiCE employees have been offered a full-time status or contractor position with Autodesk.
There will be no changes to product names or technical support services, so customers should notice no disruption in the business they are used to with CAiCE.
The Future of Autodesk/CAiCETo remain successful, Autodesk will depend on its customers, both old and new.
“Our short-term goals are built around making sure that our customers don’t see anything other than name changes for the next six to nine months,” says CAiCE CEO Alan Akman, the company's new director of industry marketing and transportation.
The first priority following the acquisition will be to solidify and strengthen relationships with current and prospective CAiCE customers. Diamond and Akman say they were already making personal visits to clients many months before the merger was announced. So far, according to Akman, feedback has not been negative. The joint trips to companies include those to the partnerships CAiCE has developed over the years, including Bentley and ESRI.
Akman says a lot of the partners have standardized on DGN platforms and are consultants to AutoCAD. The acquisition signifies that CAiCE, and thus Autodesk, will be delivering more complimentary formats. “Some have said they are going to gain out of this,” Akman says.
Akman hopes CAiCE will be “known as the global and customizable solution to solve many different problems of transportation issues—create once and use many times.”
“We want customers to know that we have the right solutions no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing,” Diamond says.