Well, after a year and a half of trying to decide what software we should be using, we’ve finally made a decision. We’ve decided to stay with Civil 3D.
These turned out to be the key factors in our decision:
1) Autodesk has been tackling the stability problems that made early versions of Civil 3D such a chore to use. There are still lots of problems, but the problem count is going down every year, and we know how to deal with the existing problems. Also, with the 2009 and 2010 editions, Autodesk has managed to put out versions that didn’t introduce too many new problems. Net result is that the software is significantly easier to use now than it was a couple of years ago, when we really started doubting the wisdom of our move to Civil 3D.
2) Autodesk has started working with Bentley. We do a lot of work with people who use Microstation, and compatibility between products is a big deal for us, as we are too small a shop to have both Autodesk and Bentley products. We hope this is just the start of a future where it is not so difficult to work with others.
3) Now that there aren’t so many huge gaping problems in Civil 3D, Autodesk has actually been able to work on adding significant functionality. The first three years we had our subscription, we felt we were getting nothing but a yearly release that broke almost as many things as it fixed. Now we still have the yearly upgrade roller coaster, which we don’t like, but there aren’t as many problems in the software we get, and we are also getting some useful subscription bonus pack releases.
4) We’ve reached the point where we are just flat-out so productive with Civil 3D 2009, that it just doesn’t make sense for us to switch to something else. It took some additional software – we can’t do what we do with plain C3D as it comes out-of-the-box – but we are now at the point where we can really do elaborate things, very quickly. We’ve had clients tell us that they ask other Surveyors “Can you produce something like this thing we got from Edward-James Surveying?”, and they are met by blank stares. We can also respond very quickly to change requests, no matter how elaborate, which is another thing our clients have noticed. We had one ask us, “How come your guys always come out here and get right to work, whereas when we hire other Surveyors, they come out here and spend half the morning sitting in their trucks?” Of course, part of this is the caliber of our staff. But part of it is also the software we use in the office.
There’s still a long way to go with Civil 3D. There are lots of problems, and we regularly have our fits and tribulations. (The yearly incompatible releases are a real killer.) But all things considered, we could not find any other software that could allow us to continue working at this level. Even Carlson could not match. While Carlson does have some nice features that we don’t yet have, and it has a lower cost of implementation and easier learning curve, we would also be giving up a lot of stuff, especially with our add-on software that lets us do so many Surveying tasks with one click. It simply didn’t make sense. Staying with Civil 3D just seemed to be the best choice for us, even as a Survey-only firm.