August 29, 2018 – Managing Total Cost of Ownership for Utility Design Software

Dennis Beck, David Wilbur, SBS 

We have recently released the latest version of our Automated Utility Design™ product and are quite excited about the continued progression the product has made as we focus on our three primary themes of improved design throughput, world-class configurable integration and a continued commitment to reduce total cost of ownership.

The last 4 releases of AUD and Utility DataHub™ have been consistently moving toward achieving the intent of Evergreen IT.  Evergreen IT is founded on the principles of automating software processes in such a manner that the software is always up to date.  This allows organizations to avoid getting into the trap of highly customized legacy systems that require costly upgrades that take years to plan and implement.  This is more prevalent in cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, but the principles can certainly apply to software products like AUD.  We have seen over the years that our utility clients often get stuck into very expensive upgrades for their GIS, CAD and related systems.  Here is what we have been doing to change this longstanding burden that utilities have had to bear.

  • Compatibility – it is a design goal of SBS to be completely compatible with prior AUD versions. We realize this may not be 100% possible due to impacts from related products but so far we have had a great track record with our upgrade experiences.  Our clients that utilize Utility DataHub™ for their integration can also be assured that their integration updates will be seamless.
  • Deployability – With our first release of AUD, we completely decoupled the product from the underlying AutoCAD Map3D product. This allows our clients to deploy new versions of AUD without having to upgrade the underlying Map3D platform.  SBS has a goal to support at least 3 versions of Map3D, which includes the current Map3D release as well as two previous versions.  We have met this goal to date.  Continued improvement to our virtualization support has also been a key part of our deployability strategy.
  • Upgradability – the decoupling from Map3D has reduced the time to install a new upgrade by a factor of 10 or more, but more importantly, the installation can be automated for deployment. SBS is releasing new, minor releases on nearly a monthly basis.  This allows our clients to keep their systems current without additional upgrade impact or risk from the introduction of significant new features. Upgrade releases resolve targeted issues that some AUD customers may experience do to regional requirements or standards.  These releases provide small enhancements needed for success of projects, but with a very low potential for disruption to the broader AUD customer base.
  • Configurability – critical to supporting the Evergreen approach is the ability to make the installation configurable. User organizations will find that practically all new functionality is provided, by default, as optional to minimize impact on their end users.  Older interface code is provided to maintain existing workflows.  New functions can be implemented when the user community is ready for the changes.

While it is important to reduce overall cost of ownership, the other fundamental advantage to this architecture is the ability to take advantage of the new software capabilities.  We have cumulatively added over 200 improvements to AUD since acquiring the technology from Autodesk.  Organizations that are able to take advantage of the productivity improvements, advanced configuration capabilities and key security updates are able to realize the value of an AUD subscription in a productive and forward-looking manner.

We look forward to helping our clients transform their business to new levels of customer service while reducing the burdens of legacy software systems.  As always, we look forward to your comments and feedback.  Hopefully we will get to see you at our Peer Utility Group, which is being held at Louisville Gas & Electric this week.