Revit Users do a lot of funny (and sometimes quite terrible) things. BIM Managers have spent years trying to control the chaos, through training, documentation, standardisation, model auditing, Big Brother techniques, and a mixture of carrots and sticks. And that is why I really like the idea of Guardian.

Ultimately, people just can’t quite be trusted to comply with all the constraints you think are valuable. But if you have a ‘virtual firewall’ for Revit, it should take the human element out of the equation, right? The idea is that your Revit model is a secure and safe place – a lot of important work happens in there, so you don’t want it to get infected with junk. It is harder to remove the junk later, than it is to programmatically STOP the bad stuff from entering your model. Enter Guardian for Revit…

Have you ever wanted:

  1. To restrict users from exploding CAD, modeling in-place, etc.?
  2. To prevent users from creating duplicate properties?
  3. To automatically clean content that users bring into projects?
  4. A better ‘purge unused’ tool that cleans object styles, patterns, etc.?
  5. To translate content to meet different requirements / standards as it enters projects?
  6. To quickly align your library and details into complete conformity with your template?

I recently had the chance to interview Parley Burnett, the creator of Guardian. Parley has had a lot of experience with Revit and content management over the years, and he offers some great insight below as he describes the ‘journey to Guardian’.

  • LJ: What motivated you to create Guardian? ​PB:
    • Revit can be so fun to work with and… not so fun.  We understand the issues that cause inconsistencies in data and graphics and believe we should tackle them on a fundamental level before we can REALLY benefit from all that BIM can offer.  We need a ‘new class’ of cloud powered assistants in our BIM environments as the old approach of adding complication (most other add-ins) to solve complication isn’t working.  I have also tired of “standards” discussions never materializing and have come to believe that we can do this in smarter ways than maintaining spreadsheets and documents.
  • LJ: What key problem does Guardian currently solve? ​PB:
    • Cluttered properties in projects!!
    • Without Guardian, anybody can do anything at any time in any Revit project anytime and, as a result, administrators are forced to react rather than anticipate the resulting damage.  Without intense oversight, Revit projects can quickly become a quagmire of properties such as materials, patterns and parameters. This causes confusion and friction as projects progress and deliverables can be messy.
    • Revit offers little assistance as many of the property types cannot even be purged if they are unused.  Worse yet, administrators have no way of knowing WHERE these properties are used so and if they did, the cleanup would take far too much time.
    • Guardian allows complete transparency into incoming properties including whether they are used or not used.  It then allows properties to be mapped to existing properties or removed.  These decisions can be saved as rules and enforced silently across an entire firm.
  • LJ: What is coming up on the Guardian feature roadmap?PB:
    • We have hit several releases already since launching late last summer and are only picking up the pace even more!  We expect to add more ways that Guardian can be extended to existing projects and more flexibly across project teams and user roles.

 

Here are some new things in Guardian 1.4.0:

  • Ability to detect duplicate properties
  • New Suggestions Framework
  • User prompts when duplicates are made or modified

 

Below I have included some how-to guidance information in the following sections:

  • Installation
  • Configuration
  • Using Guardian

 

Installation:

In the download package, you will get an MSI and current Release Notes:

Just double-click the MSI to install.

You can install for Current User or All Users:

And choose from supported Revit version:

License activation is achieved by entering your Company ID during installation:

When launching Revit, you can press ‘Always Load’ at the normal security prompt:

Configuration:

To manage your Revit content standards in Guardian, you use the ‘Admin Login’. Following this, you will see more features in the menu:

In Projects, you can define mapping files for each project, and you can create Project Templates:

The Mappings dialog provides the real ‘nuts and bolts’ of Guardian, you can individually configure constraints around the following items:

  • Materials
  • Family Types
  • Shared Parameters
  • Fill Patterns
  • Line Patterns
  • Object Styles
  • View Templates

 

It basically works by taking some incoming data from whatever source, and mapping it to the ‘project template’ or standard Revit libraries that you have implemented in your firm.

There are some really interesting features in the ‘Company Settings’, and this is where it really starts to take control of the human element I mentioned earlier:

When do you want Guardian to take action?

In ‘User Behaviours’ you can actually stop or restrain certain commands from executing. Evidently, Guardian makes a distinction between ‘normal users’ and admin-level users:

Using Guardian:

It will appear in your Add-Ins ribbon like this:

 

This is what happens when you load a new family:

And this is what happens if you select “Let me choose which properties to keep”:

As you can see, you then have the opportunity to enter the Mappings dialog.

“Suggestions” will dig deeper into the content and let you know if certain things are similar or identical (very cool, it feels a bit like AI):

We have come a long way at Virtual Built Technology through building our VirtualBuiltApp federated project-wide data platform in recent years, and Guardian is an excellent accompaniment to it. As a company-level control mechanism, it aims to prevent the problems that can be detected later through our analytical methods.

If you are in a situation where you would like to really improve the overall quality and consistency of the Revit modelling in your firm, I recommend that you check out Guardian.

Whenever you are looking to implement a new technology in your firm, you typically go through a few steps:

  1. Figure out what is out there in the marketplace – What products are available?
  2. Collect data about all of the technologies that may suit your use case
  3. Rigorously compare and analyse all the data
  4. Make a decision and go for it

There are some excellent content management tools out there for Revit now, so how can you choose? I went through a very comprehensive research analysis of a number of Revit CMS platforms, and I posted about the process here.

Then I caught up with Steve Germano over at Unifi to talk about the results. You can view (or just listen) to it here:

Feel free to comment here with your thoughts and we can keep the conversation going!

Slightly over 6 months ago, I was approached by one of my associates over at Unifi with an idea. They wanted to engage in a detailed competitive research project focused on content management systems for Revit. I was pleased that they approached me, because I obviously love Revit and I also love helping people to improve the whole ecosystem of software tools that surround Revit and BIM. In fact, I often provide too many suggestions to software companies I think 🙂

In this case, I was particularly interested in the topic as well. Having used Revit now for around 10 years, I had started to observe a trend in how Revit gets implemented into firms. Typically, they:

  1. Buy some Revit licenses
  2. Teach their people to use Revit
  3. Look at ways to standardize their use of Revit, perhaps through standards and template files
  4. Try to maximize the impact and benefit of BIM through some vertical products, such as Enscape
  5. Start thinking about how to deal with the many gigabytes of ‘content’ they have now gathered and that is sitting on the file server in their office…

Having seen this over and over again, I knew that evaluating, choosing, and setting up a Revit content management system is no easy task, yet it is a hugely important one. It is something that often gets neglected for too long, and results in many wasted hours as people go blindly looking for ‘that family’. As you know, I willingly share time-saving knowledge, tips and workflows here and via Twitter, so this competitive research project really ticked a lot of boxes for me. I would be able to:

  • do a deep analysis of content management products for Revit
  • observe the strengths and weaknesses of each
  • be better informed and able to assist people who often ask me about Revit content management
  • provide some feedback to Unifi about how their product and offering could perhaps be improved (and as I said above, this is something I often do for free)

In this particular case, I knew that there would be a lot of time involved. I was going to have to obtain, install, test, benchmark, and document a whole lot of information about various Revit content management systems. As a father of three, a technology blogger, and someone who works almost daily for different companies delivering various projects, time is extremely hard to come by. So I felt it was quite appropriate in this instance to be commissioned by Unifi to perform this research task. I had never been part of a commissioned, competitive research project before, so I knew there may be some challenges. However, given the amount of time that would be involved, I would only be able to do a proper and thorough job if I was reimbursed for the time I would need to dedicate to it.

You might say that being commissioned for the task introduced some bias, but I’ll tell you why that cannot be true. Unifi wanted to know how to improve their product, they basically wanted to know what could be improved so that they could remain competitive with their competitors. For me to somehow do a biased job would have been way off-base. I needed to be honest, and brutally so. I had to show the Unifi people if and how their competitors were stronger than they were. I admire the fact that Unifi undertook this whole project. Evidently, they wanted to make sure their product was the best it could be. Personally, I would have an avid listener, someone who would be happy to hear all of those software ideas that I come up with!

So I accepted this project as a commissioned, competitive research task. I would record my results and provide a number of comprehensive deliverables back to Unifi. How would I go about this job? There were a few logical steps:

  • establish the list of products that would be researched
  • obtain the products
  • install them onto a test workstation
  • evaluate the features available in the product and fill out a detailed comparison matrix
  • perform benchmarks to establish speed, performance, and capability of each product
  • use some large sample content datasets to really put the products through an intensive test to check for problems that may occur with huge content libraries

Looking at the above steps, you can see how much time would be involved. But I also thought it would be a good idea to involve the developers of the competing products in the research. I thought that if I could be better informed about the other products, my research output would be more complete and accurate. And I still think that this was the right approach. I spoke to some of the competing companies and described the fact that that I was doing a detailed research project and would like to discuss their product with them. Most of them knew me as a blogger and technology professional, and so they were pleased to meet and discuss their content management product.

And then I made a mistake.

I should have started those meetings by saying that I had been commissioned by Unifi to do the research project. But I did not mention that fact. We had informative meetings each time, that helped me to get a better understanding of each product. But I can see now that I should have simply told them how the research project came about. I actually don’t think it would really have influenced the discussion a whole lot, because I still think it was in their interest to assist me in understanding their product. However, I do feel like I should have been transparent at the time. I would like to publicly apologize to those competing companies for not initially disclosing that I was commissioned to do the research.

This was a lesson learned for me, and one I won’t make again if I undertake a similar research project in the future.

I do not apologize for taking on the research project, because it was simply the best way that a task like this could be handled, and I do believe I was the right guy for the job. I understand that it is quite common for companies to engage 3rd party professionals to perform market research, but for me it was my first time. As stated above, my thought process was basically that:

  • I would receive some reimbursement for my research time, that
  • I knew the research output had to be complete and accurate and honest, and that
  • It would be beneficial to speak to the individual developers about their product.

Following the consultation phase and data gathering phase of the project, I had quite a substantial amount of data to work with! How would I filter through all of this and truly make it comparative?

To begin with I put a lot of information and notes into a detailed OneNote notebook. I then started an Excel document where I would store most of the comparative results. I had a few key worksheets where most of the raw data was stored:

The Matrix worksheet contained a whole lot of data, over 150 rows and 15 columns. I broke the testing and comparison up into some major categories:

Note: the UX2 value above refers to things like bugs or user interface problems, and in that case a higher score would be worse (more bugs).

For feature comparison, I used a weighting value and a formula. Here is a sample of some of those weighting values:

So, in the case above, I viewed Parameter Searching as more important (5) than Uniformat Filtering (2). These weighting values are based on my experience and my association with other BIM professionals.

From this point, I reviewed the capability of each product and used a Yes / No value to determine if a given product would ‘score’ for that feature:

If a product achieved a Yes value here, it would also obtain the Score for that Feature.

I used a set of PivotTables and Charts to break down and review that feature data.

I also performed some performance and speed benchmarks, and stored these in another worksheet:

Ultimately, this data was all collected and provided in combined form along with some Powerpoint slides. The slides cover topics like:

  • What is BIM Content?
  • What is Revit Content?
  • Why Content Management?
  • How is Content Managed?
  • How do I choose?

Along the way, we had to do a few interesting things. We were finding that the Australia internet speed was not really a good place to start with cloud benchmarking. So we obtained a cloud based virtual workstation that more closely reflected the type of internet speed you would experience in the USA, and I then had two sets of ‘cloud speed’ benchmark data, the Australian and the US versions.

An example of how some of my research was used may be seen in the recent new offering by Unifi. The research identified some differences in the pricing models of the various products, and this information assisted Unifi in the creation of an additional pricing model.

Where can you learn more about this research? A couple of weeks back I mentioned that the details and results of the competitive research project will be shared in a global webinar.

You can register to attend the webinar here.

In summary, I really enjoyed doing this research project and I think the results will be useful to Revit users and BIM Managers who are trying to evaluate different content management tools. It is true that they each do have certain strengths, so which will you choose?

 

 

PS. It is interesting to look back, to where almost a year ago I asked you all:

Update:

Link to webinar here

Good Revit Content management does not come immediately or without forethought. Unifi are giving you another chance to review some best-practice content management principles at an upcoming webinar. It should be very interesting to hear about some of the productivity and functionality improvements that are becoming available to allow you to manage your BIM content more effectively.


Update:


Register at this link

Here are some of the things that will be discussed:

  • Hidden power of saved searches
  • Batch tag editing
  • Batch Inserting
  • Schedule / Details / System families support
  • “Clone” wars – Cloning or copying content from 3rd parties
  • Multi-format support sneak peek!
  • Customize your UNIFI experience
  • Stump the pros – trying to do something unique with UNIFI? ask away and they will answer your questions live…

You can send in a suggestion at support@unifilabs.com

More about Unifi at this link

We all know Revit is the best, right?

But … there are a handful of people using other platforms 🙂 And I guess even the most dedicated Revit user has to use other content creation tools from time to time. That is why UNIFI has decided to develop and release multiformat support, initially for these platforms:

Also, UNIFI are offering a free copy of their “How To Create and Maintain BIM Standards” guide to everyone who registers for their upcoming webinar. Here are the details:

  • full title is:  “Accelerating ROI from Your Firm’s BIM Investment By Leveraging Analytics To Effectively Implement and Maintain Your BIM Standards
  • date and time:  May 3rd at 11amPT

Find out more and register here

I’m wondering if 2017 will be the year that BIM content management stopped being hard 🙂 Maybe that’s going a bit far, but the fact is that there are some great content management tools out in the market now. In fact, I have spent the last few months doing some detailed analysis and comparison of these.  But more on that later…

In the meantime, how do you go about integrating Manufacturer content into your Company BIM / Revit library? Its an interesting question because usually your company content may be high quality, audited, approved, and regularly updated. But the manufacturer content can sometimes leave a lot to be desired. With those thoughts in mind, the upcoming webinar about UNIFI Connect could prove to be quite helpful. Unifi are looking at ways to share manufacturer content through their already awesome platform.

You can register for the UNIFI Connect webinar here.

unifi-content.png

This all plays into a larger conversation about BPM. Think about the recent merge of the Autodesk Seek content over to BIMobject. It is one thing to collect a lot of manufacturer content, but quite another to ensure its quality and applicability to a given user. How are you going about solving this problem? Do you use BPM at all, or do you use generic in-house content?

Feel free to reply in the comments.

Read more:
Connect Hosting – UNIFI