Need a book? Engineering books recommendations...

Return to index: [Subject] [Thread] [Date] [Author]

RE: How are Subscription Costs for Engineering Software and CAD affecting your bottom line?

[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
Chris, 
It does address the issue from your perspective. I am seeing a general
slow-down for most small offices in California in all professions. I spoke
to an Architect in Ventura County this morning and she has been forced to
give up her HMO because the cost are growing and she does not have the work
to make the premiums.

My view is not simply on the engineering software industry, but rather on a
time that some companies are increasing the costs of subscriptions and
giving us "token" software updates that do not necessarily justify the
upgrade. To add to this, there seems to be a general formula to reinstate
your software based on the number of years between upgrades times the
upgrade cost for each version you passed over whether you use it or not. On
the extreme side - companies such as Autodesk will not only charge you for
the years you did not pay for Maintenance and upgrades that you did not use,
but will also orphan previous version after approximately four years and
require users to purchase new stations if they wish to reinstate the most
recent version of the software.

I have to say that company's such as Enercalc have not released a major
update in quite a few years. Because of this, it would seem that the cost
(and I don't know what this is) to update a major rewrite between 30% and
50% of the retail is not unreasonable. In this example and a few other
companies like Cascade software who makes StruCalc, I can only assume that
without the subscription to keep cash flow going, they are reinvesting some
of their profit or a large percentage of their profit back into software
development rather than passing it along to the user.

When I said that I was looking at the larger picture, I am reminded of the
new code compliance issues in California to learn to design from the 97 UBC
to the 2007 California Building Code based on the 2006 IBC and ASCE  7-05.
ABS Consulting Group, in a seminar they held in Los Angeles last year
estimated that the cost in references necessary to use the 2007 California
Building code would cost the average user of $750.00 or more.

When hit with higher operating costs and lower prospects for work (including
growing competition), this is not the time to start raising subscription
costs. Not only must our bottom line hope to feed and clothe our families
(and keep a roof over our heads without leaking), but rising basic
amenities' such as health care, fuel (car and heating) as well as the cost
of almost every necessity a family needs due to the use of fossil fuel in
packaging, shipping and heating.

One developer of engineering software did admit being out of touch with the
hardships of the small business owner which I find refreshing. Everyone
needs to make a living and most families ( the majority of families) are
working two jobs but if they are lucky to be working for larger companies
who are employing, they are finding their hours being cut and benefits
negotiated for lower services at greater cost to the employee. I found this
out after my wife, who was named Nurse of the month, was called off the job
more than 50% of the time in the last six months and another friend who is
an American Airlines pilot whose wife has cancer has had his flight schedule
cut and union shops are finding that they are hitting a brick wall in
maintaining at least a portion of the quality of the benefits we had in the
past.

I don't believe that any company who wants to rely on the loyalty of a
customer should be charging for the period of time between upgrades that a
user is not using support or receiving updates and have them penalized by
paying for the unused years. There is enough competition out there who wants
your business.

CSC Softek produces a good software, but really nothing more than I couldn't
do in MathCAD. While it is written by Engineers, the stock templates are not
that useful to me when compared to an affordable software like StruCalc(tm)
(Cascade Software) or by those loyal to Enercalc. I'm purposely leaving more
elaborate software such as finite element programs out because I don't have
enough experience in them to accurately report what they do or don't do to
maintain users. In 2006 CSC charged $150.00 for their M&U program. In 2007
it rose to $260.00 and in 2008 starting this August for me it rises to
$350.00. Comparatively, if you used any version of MathCad since 2000
(including release 10 and 11 while owned by MathSoft, you can upgrade to
Release 14 for about $250.00 or $295.00. My point is that you can skip over
three to six releases and still get an upgrade price less than TEDDS is
charging.

I am not trying to make this into a personal attack against CSC TEDDS and
hope you will understand. I just feel that they are out of touch with the
profession and the general economy as are so many others who want to keep
their businesses going on the backs of the end-user. I think it is wrong and
one of the reasons why when my own software is ready to market it will be at
a low price (under $250.00 or $200.00 with no annual subscription or penalty
if the user wants to skip an upgrade). The reason is simple, having
experience running an engineering business as well as developing software I
understand the hardship that many of us face and wish to provide a product
that the end user who is a professional peer will be able to afford, use
often and appreciate in the future whether the economy improves or worsens.
I think this is good business where you want to have a loyal following.

I can still use the versions of the TEDDS 11 or Autocad Architecture 2008
that I have and receive an unlocking code if I change computers or have a
problem. CSC and Autodesk are not locking their current versions or
preventing us from using what we already have. Please don't misunderstand
this because many engineers will maintain their software and operating
systems until either the hardware becomes incompatible with other software
or a code change requires an upgrade of engineering software. Still, I am
looking for replacements and will, most likely, upgrade my MathCad to 14
which is compatible with Vista as release 11 was not. It is a question of
obtaining support and maintenance fees. CSC TEDDS was the competitive choice
a few years ago when I changed over from MathCad to TEDDS - now it is
surpassed the cost of MathCAD and my choice of tools will change as well.

For full disclosure, let me be clear that I do not harbor anything but good
wishes for CSC. Last year I was a year behind in my M&U agreement because of
the coming hard times. They came to my rescue and offered me a two year lock
in the price at $150.00 if I paid for the 2006-2007 period I did not upgrade
and for the present (at the time) 2007-2008 year. They did not have to
accommodate me, but while they helped me I wrote them suggesting that these
increases are going to be difficult for small office users as I firmly
believed we were entering a serious recession that would be more severe than
the 1974 recession. I suggested that they review this strategy and they must
have decided that the larger offices who have the earnings and are capable
of spending more for their tools is more important to their marketing plan.
They are not attacking small offices and trying to drive us out of business
so please do not misunderstand me. As the one developer who admitted not
having the experiences of running a small engineering firm honestly told me,
I think that possibly CSC is not considering how severely we are looking at
our bottom line. It is affecting everything we do - including whether or not
we can carry employees or insurances (which I have never been able to do for
fear of having to lay off someone I might hire and the fact that I work out
of the home for 22-years). 

Lately, there are a couple of software packages that are being offered for a
reasonable price and that may be strong competition for what we tend to use
on a regular basis. These include the following;

RetainPro - which is reasonably priced to start and has only charged for
major releases which does not occur annually;
Enercalc - Released Version 6.0 recently and has not had a major upgrade for
nearly six to eight years that I can recall (5.6 to 5.8 was the first since
a small mainainence release prior to this that was offered without charge.

MathCad - under new ownership and is offering an upgrade from MathSoft
versions nearly 8-years old for approximately $295.00 including a free
add-on module for Civil engineering as was the case in prior MathSoft
versions.

GraphiCalc 2009 - a new graphical analysis software that is not specific to
structural engineering, but can be used with a CAD software and most DDE
compatible Spreadsheet software's to let the user create a geometric shape
and analyze it as an structural member (including finding the center of
mass, moment of inertia or deflection where the user can program in the
design formula and use it to simplify some things including rigid diaphragm
analysis.. This is offered by InventBetter.Com for the engineers using the
student upgrade cost for the full business package which retails at $299.00
and is on special for a short time for $95.00. The special from which I
bought the software is to expire tomorrow 6/18, but I would think that if
you contact the company at the website I gave you, and review the video's as
to the ability of the software to help you, they may extend special pricing
to introduce the product to the engineering community. 

Some of these suggestions such as GraphiCalc 2009 I would see has having
potential for offices that write their own spreadsheets and CAD and are able
to use a graphical interface to link the Office packages and your CAD
software to create better tools at a reasonable price (even at $299.00). The
company is California Based and has been in business since 1995 with an
impressive list of users noted on their rather plain website.

Those who are willing, may consider downgrading from AutoCad Architecture
2008 to AutoCad LT if they are not as creative with it. From what I have
heard from others programs like DataCad are following in the shoes of
Autodesk on upgrade costs.

The bottom line is that for many of us, business is not nearly as good as it
was a few years ago. The loss of our upgrades is a necessity to maintain a
bottom line for our own family well being. It is not a question of whether
the price to upgrade is 'well worth the cost' considering how often it is
used or needed, but whether or not the business climate will let you choose
between family benefits, rising fuel and food costs, clothing and the other
necessities to give up some of what you bring home in lieu of upgrading a
software that provides a few additional productive features. Penalizing the
users for skipped upgrades is, in my opinion, an insult during tough times
when most families are close to losing everything in the event of a
catastrophic illness.

Dennis


-----Original Message-----
From: chris.slater(--nospam--at)gmail.com [mailto:chris.slater(--nospam--at)gmail.com] On Behalf Of
Chris Slater
Sent: Friday, June 13, 2008 1:45 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: Re: How are Subscription Costs for Engineering Software and CAD
affecting your bottom line?

OK Dennis, I'll take this one on.  I'm fairly passionate about
software and your message has been rattling around in my head since I
read it yesterday.

While those prices don't sound horrible to me, I can certainly see
where slow times like these put pressure on to reduce costs wherever
possible.  We don't use TEDDS, but it seems to me like $150 software
could pay for itself fairly quickly, assuming you have enough work to
keep you busy.  Your time is worth a lot.   At $350, it has a lot more
work to do to be worth it's price tag.

Of course, if the work isn't coming in, then you can "afford" to spend
more time, and less money to get each job done.

Other than CAD and Enercalc, all of the software we use is custom
scripts that I've written to automate our calculations.  Those use
Excel (which is a one time purchase and fairly necessary, though
OpenOffice would work as well) and Perl, which is free.  The nice
thing is that if we want to add an additional calc, or change the way
we do things, all I have to do is change my script.

I've looked into competitors to AutoCAD and while there's a few out
there, it seems like they all have a long way to go.  Some run on
Linux, and after just spending two days de-virusing a couple of our
workstations, it's tempting to make the switch, but the lack of
AutoCAD pretty well shuts that door.

Not sure if I've answered any of your questions, or just rambled.  My
$0.02 at any rate.

Chris

Chris Slater, PE
JDWylie Engineering, Inc
(209) 577-2339
Home Office:  (530) 268-1440
Cell Phone:  (916) 303-0889

On Thu, Jun 12, 2008 at 11:44 AM, Dennis Wish <dennis.wish(--nospam--at)verizon.net>
wrote:
> I recently decided I had to end my subscription to TEDDS Maintenance &
> Update (MU) agreement. It appears that they raised the price from the last
> two years for their MU from $150.00 per year for TEDDS during the 2006
year
> to approximately $250.00 per year for Release 10 & 11 and now $350.00 per
> year for the M&U on the current Release version that was recently sent out
-
> TEDDS v. 11. As with AutoCad and other software developers, they will
> reinstate your MU if you renew with the next three years based on the fee
> times the number of years expired. So in three years, you can reinstate to
> the most current version of TEDDS for 3x$350.00 (if the annual fee does
not
> change in that time) or $1,050.00. This is currently approximately the
cost
> of a new seat.
>
>
>
> As a small business owner I have had to make a decision. Business is down,
> the bottom line is down and the Codification of the 2006 IBC and ASCE 7-05
> this year has he hard. It is not an issue of competition since the
majority
> of us in my area are hurting for new work of any substance. I have decided
> to let AutoCad go for this year, but will probably try to reinstate the
year
> since the cost before Autodesk orphans the software is similar to TEDDS -
in
> my case for AutoCad Architecture 2008; $595.00 + tax times the number of
> years delinquent. There is no comparison, I could live without TEDDS and
may
> go back to a prior version of MathCADT which would be more competitive and
> do the work that TEDDS does without the library that I have mixed feelings
> over. AutoCad is more important in the operation of my business than TEDDS
> but with these companies needs to keep cash flow moving through the
company
> for development they will charge increasing annual M&U fees that are
> cumulative is simply, in my opinion, a bad marketing decision for small
> office engineers.
>
>
>
> Does this strike you as a potential problem for small offices who are
harder
> hit on their bottom line with the increased cost of tools and references?
> Would you believe that if small offices are driven out of business that
the
> large firms in the US will be competitive with base offices in the US who
> outsource their design and analysis work to China and  India or other
> countries that have a much lower labor rate?
>
>
>
> I'm interested in whether or not many of you are starting to see a hit
from
> the current economic situation that is causing you to tighten your belts
and
> give up tools that you once felt were your competitive edge. In fact, is
> this idea of software becoming the reviving "Competitive edge" a resurging
> prospect?
>
>
>
> Dennis S. Wish, PE
>
>
>
> Dennis S. Wish, PE
>
> California Professional Engineer
>
> Structural Engineering Consultant
>
> La Quinta, CA 92253
>
> 760.564.0884 (Phone, Fax and Answering Machine)
>
> dennis.wish(--nospam--at)verizon.net
>
> http://structuralist.wordpress.com
>
> http://www.structuralist.net
>
>

******* ****** ******* ******** ******* ******* ******* ***
*   Read list FAQ at: http://www.seaint.org/list_FAQ.asp
* 
*   This email was sent to you via Structural Engineers 
*   Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) server. To 
*   subscribe (no fee) or UnSubscribe, please go to:
*
*   http://www.seaint.org/sealist1.asp
*
*   Questions to seaint-ad(--nospam--at)seaint.org. Remember, any email you 
*   send to the list is public domain and may be re-posted 
*   without your permission. Make sure you visit our web 
*   site at: http://www.seaint.org 
******* ****** ****** ****** ******* ****** ****** ******** 



******* ****** ******* ******** ******* ******* ******* ***
*   Read list FAQ at: http://www.seaint.org/list_FAQ.asp
* 
*   This email was sent to you via Structural Engineers 
*   Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) server. To 
*   subscribe (no fee) or UnSubscribe, please go to:
*
*   http://www.seaint.org/sealist1.asp
*
*   Questions to seaint-ad(--nospam--at)seaint.org. Remember, any email you 
*   send to the list is public domain and may be re-posted 
*   without your permission. Make sure you visit our web 
*   site at: http://www.seaint.org 
******* ****** ****** ****** ******* ****** ****** ********