Autodesk recently released its 2023 State of Design & Make report. It made for some incredible reading, and that, combined with the data in the report, describes exactly where we are at with Design & Make in the world right now.
One of my fellow Autodesk Community Voices authors, Shelby L. Smith, wrote a blog post about the report (find the blog post here), which prompted me to write a take on some of the findings in the report as well. (Shelby – apologies for plagiarizing your blog title!).
A little bit of housekeeping first, though. I have taken some of the graphics out of the report as images to illustrate my points. All images and information used are copyrighted to Autodesk, and full credit goes to them as the owners of those images and information.
As most of you already know, I’m a consultant. I consult through my company, CADFMconsultants, primarily around the learning and teaching of Autodesk software. As an Autodesk Certified Instructor (ACI), I have taught people to use Autodesk software all over the world, both face-to-face and virtually (especially during the pandemic). I am also an Autodesk Expert Elite Member (EE), and as an EE, I impart my experience and knowledge to Autodesk users, especially at events such as Autodesk University (AU), where I have been teaching AU classes since 2006.
The 2023 Design & Make Report, for me, is an incredible document, and it highlights exactly how forward-thinking a company Autodesk is. They are a world leader in exactly what the report talks about, designing and making. This blog is my slant on what I can take from the report and utilize in my day-to-day, but also what I can learn from the report to take forward in my longer-term planning. I hope that my observations will assist others in using the report in the same way.
COVID-19 was an unexpected disruptor all over the planet. It affected all walks of life and affected me both personally and professionally.
I was hit with COVID in the first wave, pre-vaccine. It led to numerous health issues, including a large blood clot in my right calf. During the treatment for this, an observant nurse spotted my breathing difficulties, and after various scans, they found over thirty blood clots in my lungs. Any of these could have been fatal. I am pleased to say that I am now back to a clean bill of health. However, it was a wake-up call and made me realize that things can change in a heartbeat. And that’s where my personal experience with COVID leads to. That one word, CHANGE.
On a professional level, my day-to-day was standing in a classroom, teaching either AutoCAD or Revit. Overnight, that business model disappeared. I had to CHANGE. I had to ADAPT. I am a one-man business and I had to look for new ways to ensure that my clients could still learn and become empowered to use the likes of AutoCAD and Revit. Tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams became my classroom. The companies selling these tools also changed and adapted, making their offerings easier to use for remote learning. Autodesk, too, made sure that their users had bandwidth and access to many of their cloud-based offerings, making sure that their businesses could continue to work during a time of massive paradigm change, where we ALL had to change and adapt.
Over half (52%) of the respondents in the report stated how they changed their day-to-day workflows to offset the impact of COVID-19. That’s a lot of people who had to adapt and learn new methodologies, on top of trying to maintain their regular daily workflows, combined with the stress of not knowing how COVID-19 might affect their immediate future. It wasn’t a choice. It was ADAPT or go under. That’s where I was. I was one of those 52%. Companies had to train their staff to use new methods of communication. Data had to be stored differently, using the cloud, and companies that had not taken that leap to become more digitally mature struggled with the paradigm shift.
When I set up CADFMconsultants in 2001, I became a remote worker. I trained in classrooms on client sites, often at Autodesk Authorized Training Centers (ATCs), but also in client offices, building sites, and even in cold Portacabins. That was the operational side of the business, but all other aspects of the business were from my remote office at home. The pandemic changed that. My classroom is now globally accessible and is (normally) facilitated by either Zoom, Teams or other remote communication platforms. I am now fully remote, and this includes the recording of my AutoCAD courses on LinkedIn Learning.
The report states that a significant area of increased investment in the last three years has been in remote working. This leads to a higher degree of flexibility for workers, with the ability to schedule important tasks around a work/life balance. I work from the UK, but many of my contacts are in the USA and India. Time zones become non-existent, combined with sensible timings of calls, meetings, and training, making for a much more fluid working environment. The regular 9-5 is now 24/7 but with appropriate boundaries applied. I have invested a lot of time into making my classes easily accessible to my delegates, via the likes of Zoom and Teams, and made sure that all training materials were easy to find in the cloud, for easy downloading. That was how I became one of those 52%, and I am very pleased to say that making that change has revolutionized how I work now.
According to the report, 79% future growth depends on digital tools. This is a statistic that reflects EXACTLY where we need to be going on a global platform. The pandemic taught us that we need to be connected globally using digital methods. That way, we can adapt to unexpected changes and make sure that we can continue using our business mechanisms.
The report also states that digitally mature companies are more prepared to handle change, unlike less digitally mature companies. As a consultant, I have lost count of the number of times I have been told, “Oh, we have always done it this way.” As human beings, we are always resistant to change. We get into a groove, a habit, or a rut that becomes embedded in such a way that it forms a day-to-day process. This process, over time, becomes inefficient, especially when digital tools can take that process, and make it much more productive. I have found that companies that are not digitally mature, who then become digitally mature after suitable consulting practices often find that their productivity goes through the roof, allowing them to take on more work, and become financially viable again. Autodesk is a company that offers many of these digital tools, many of which can automate old-fashioned workflows, making an organization much more agile and able to adapt to those unexpected changes.
Looking at the statistics from the report (above), China takes the lead in digital maturity, and regionally, the Asia-Pacific region (APAC) is best positioned to handle global change. That said though, China is also facing new challenges in hiring new staff, with an aging workforce. This reflects not only their cultural values but also how various factors can affect how companies adapt to change.
72% of respondents in the report said that the workforce has evolved more in the past three years than it had in the previous 25 years. From a training and learning perspective, I can vouch for that. I have seen many companies make massive changes in their workflows. My personal reasoning for this must be the pandemic. It was the catalyst for a global paradigm shift, forcing companies to make necessary changes to survive the economic fluidity caused by COVID-19. These changes have now become normal working processes, and as companies have seen the benefits of these changes, they now realize that they need a more informed, agile, learned workforce, who can take on the new digital tools needed.
More than half of companies are hiring staff that LACK skills with the intention of training them. This NEVER used to be the case, especially in the UK. I will quote something I always say when I get C-Level management asking this question: –
“What happens if we spend all this money training them, and they leave?”
My response: –
“What happens if we DON’T train them, and they STAY?”
A trained workforce is, often, a happy workforce. If the workers are empowered to become more knowledgeable to adapt to new workflows and adapt to unexpected change, they will feel more assured that their employers are looking after them and will feel valued. A valued worker will not want to leave and will stay. Investing in your workforce can only be beneficial, and it is obvious from the report that this is the way companies are going. Employing staff that LACK the essential skills is a great way to train them, both on the job and in new skills that will elevate them within the company, ensuring that staff retention rates remain high. The report clearly states that more digitally mature companies are implementing talent-related solutions, investing in technology, hiring from a broader geographical area (remote working/hybrid working), and implementing new training programs.
On a side note, the Media & Entertainment (M&E) industry faces fewer challenges adapting to the needs and desires of the younger generation. This is not surprising, considering that this generation has been brought up in the digital age; gaming, tablets, phones etc.
Sustainability & Change
80% of the report’s respondents say that improving sustainability practices is a good long-term decision, with US-based companies more than twice as likely to report that they are not engaged in sustainable practices. In the next three years, Design & Manufacturing (D&M) companies intend to increase their efforts to design products whilst considering environmental impacts.
Sustainability is now essential. Especially when it comes to the environment and in relation to climate. Managing waste and managing energy practices are now paramount. We have all seen the ways in which we have affected our planet. Making the necessary remedial changes will not only help the planet but also make our lives on the planet better lives, with more emphasis on looking after where we live on Planet Earth.
One of the quotes in the report really made this ethos stand out to me: –
“The thing that keeps me up at night is the idea of not changing. We have stressed the model to its maximum point. We are going to break the model, and someone is going to disrupt the construction industry.”
Frédéric Gal, Head of Business Modernization Project, Bouygues Construction
Whilst this was a quote from the AECO industry, it should apply to ALL industries. The model is at maximum stress, and disruption is what is needed. That disruption instigates CHANGE, where we then ADAPT to improve, as I mentioned earlier.
Looking at areas of investment in the report (see graphic below), you can see that the investment in technology is right up there. The highest investment in technology is in the M&E industry at 79%. This goes back to being more digitally mature. The more digitally mature an organization you are, the more likely you are to be able to adapt and change.
Investing in technology and becoming more digitally mature informs investment, thus closing the circle. Look at the graph from the report below. The more digitally mature you are, the higher the investment rate in the areas listed. Suffice it to say, should you invest more, to become more digitally mature, the more aware you become of WHAT to invest in to remain digitally aware.
As the quote below the graph clearly states around digitization. Upper-level executives need to know what is realistic, and what is required, such as digital twins, and digital transformation. These processes MUST become standard business terminology within a digitally mature organization.
Across industries, business growth was the key business driver. Growth is great but cannot be achieved without a highly skilled workforce.
Training and learning are fundamental to retaining and accelerating the skills of the workforce, and finding the workers with those skills is now becoming harder. Many companies are employing workers who LACK the necessary skills and are training them.
The graphic (below) from page 28 in the report is a BIG stand-out for me, and my line of work. We are now seeing companies crying out for skilled workers and not finding them, and they are having to adapt their staffing processes in this new digital age.
Competition is heating up when it comes to employing and retaining staff. The more digitally mature companies are now investing in all the points mentioned. The pandemic has also made us more discerning in what we want from a role too. Remote working is a key factor, as is sustainability.
On the training side, the adoption of digital tools is now a standard requirement within many organizations, especially in the move towards becoming more digitally mature. Jobs are now evolving quickly, and in the last three years, this has seen massive acceleration. This, in turn, requires effective, structured training relating much more to roles within an organization, rather than just the base-level training in a particular software application (say AutoCAD or Revit). Yes, the base-level training is a must, but moving forward there is a requirement for training in everything else in that ecosystem. A typical example might be with Revit, where other applications and tools are needed to work in conjunction with Revit, for the resolution of a specific project. This might involve not just Autodesk-related applications and tools, but tools from other software vendors as well.
The above graphic from the report explains in more detail how companies are struggling to find appropriately skilled staff. Look at the percentage of companies in the AECO industry that are struggling to find people with the right skills. It is up at 70%. This is the industry I work in, and I can safely say that the AECO industry is crying out for skilled staff now, especially when it comes to using digital tools. It is not just skill sets that are an issue though. The quote in the graphic (from JJ Johnson at Viewrail) clearly states that working conditions are also something that is very important when candidates are looking at working for a company or organization. This is where companies and organizations need to look holistically at how they recruit and train their workers.
Company management issues are also affecting business growth. The graphic below shows how things are affecting small, medium, and large businesses. There is the juxtaposition where smaller businesses had to let more people go due to them lacking the necessary skills whereas larger businesses didn’t. This indicates that the smaller businesses are not investing in training and larger businesses are. If the smaller businesses invested in training, they would become more digitally mature, and more adaptable to change, and then would be able to take on more work, thus building resilience. I can see WHY this happens, but can also see that it should NOT be happening.
Top of the list is retaining highly skilled staff. This affects ALL businesses, from small to large. In my years in the industry, this has always been an issue. What can be done to change it? Well, it’s highly subjective. There is the obvious. Pay them more, and they might stay, right? However, what I see from the report is that it’s not all about the paycheck nowadays. It’s also about working conditions, sustainability, and (perhaps) empowering those highly skilled workers to become better at what they do. There is no one-stop-shop solution here. What I can say though is that after over twenty years of teaching, instructing, and consulting, making sure your staff can PERFORM in their role with the SKILLS needed are up at the top of the list.
Training and Technology
Every time I post about training or learning on social media, I use the #alwaysbelearning hashtag. I simply cannot stress this enough. We are taught to learn from before when we can walk. Maintaining that learning momentum is essential. Not just professionally either. Learning to do new things, and developing new skills is incredibly good for your mental health and well-being too. If you follow @notjustcad on Instagram (my professional Instagram account), you will see I learnt how to put in a double-glazed window for the first time, as I build a new office studio at home. Not only was I proud of myself (mental health), but I had also learnt a new skill which could be used later.
Training and technology go together to fill talent gaps within organizations. The report states that 56% of the respondents have hired employees who DO NOT have the skills needed for the job and intend to train them with on-the-job training. Also, using the remote/hybrid working model, they are looking for staff outside of their local area to fill talent gaps. The graphic below shows this and also highlights how companies are now developing their in-house training to maintain standards and retain highly skilled staff.
97% of the respondents in China stated that training was important. The lowest statistic here was Japan, where 79% of respondents said that training was important. Therefore, statistically, well over three-quarters of respondents thought that training WAS important.
For me, that is the most important statistic in the report. Training is SO important in building not only a highly skilled workforce but also an agile workforce, with built-in business resilience. This will then allow any organization to retain their talented employees, who will then feel empowered with their knowledge to adapt to the sustainability needs of the world in general.
To finish off here, I would like to add that this is MY personal take on the 2023 Design & Make report from Autodesk. All opinions and views are my own and do not reflect any business directions Autodesk may take, now or in the future.
I hope you enjoy reading the report and my opinions, and if you haven’t read the report yet, take a few moments to read it through. It’s an invaluable resource for some great statistics you may need soon.
Should you wish to chat about my opinions and comments here, you can connect with me over on LinkedIn here. I am more than happy to connect with you!
(You can download the 2023 State of Design & Make report from Autodesk here).