Sponsored Content
MicroStation Switching Center

How Your Business Can Benefit from an AutoCAD-to-MicroStation Transition

10 Oct, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff

From more flexible licensing options to increased competitive advantage, the payoffs are many for a company considering this major software move.

In the “CAD Manager’s Guide to the AutoCAD–MicroStation Transition,” we discussed what’s involved in this major software move, the resources and support available to ease the process, and how MicroStation can actually make the CAD manager’s job easier in the long run. This installment takes a business-level perspective of a transition to MicroStation, discussing benefits such as flexible licensing options, dedicated support of a CAD software developer, reduced overhead costs and increased competitive advantage, and potentially greater ROI.



Business Benefit: Varied and Flexible Licensing Options

Recent licensing changes by Autodesk could very well be what has prompted you to consider a move away from AutoCAD. Losing the option to purchase perpetual software licenses — or otherwise feeling locked-in to licensing options that don’t make sense for your business — are sore spots for some companies and deal breakers for others.

Bentley recognizes and respects its customers’ software investments, and the company takes seriously its responsibility to support your business. Bentley offers a variety of licensing options so you can choose what works best for your company, whether that means perpetual licensing (with or without subscription) to support a consistent workload; term licensing for pay-as-you-go needs; or a unique combination of both.

Quarterly term licensing. Subscribe to your Bentley software for three months at a time to support unexpected workload changes or other spikes in software use, to help manage software expenses, or for any other reason that calls for flexibility. Bentley term licensing also means that customers never need to worry about procuring software licenses in advance to support a temporary uptick in use: Bentley removes such barriers by allowing users to access the software they need when they need it, regardless of existing licensing “limits,” then bills you later for just that quarter’s incremental license use, at a cost-effective, predefined quarterly term license price. 

Perpetual licensing. Bentley is committed to offering perpetual licensing. A company of any size can license any number of software seats in perpetuity.

Most perpetual license users opt for Bentley SELECT subscription, which adds software upgrades; network licensing (for all licenses at no additional cost so licenses can be shared among users working in the same country); training; technical support; access to Bentley Communities and a comprehensive library of learning resources; portfolio balancing (for swapping software titles when needs change over time); and software check-in and check-out (for when you need to be off-site for more than a month without an internet connection). An Enterprise License Subscription option adds operational and competitive benefits for very large organizations for a single annual fee. Term license users also get these same benefits for the term of their license.

Business Benefit: Reduced Costs and Increased Competitive Advantage

Compared with AutoCAD, MicroStation could help your company save money and increase business opportunities. An advanced parametric 3D modeling application, MicroStation provides a richer set of modeling capabilities than AutoCAD, to more easily and precisely model your designs, and this presents opportunities for you to expand  your 3D services and integrate even move more seamlessly into building information modeling (BIM) workflows — and that can help improve customer satisfaction and win more work. MicroStation has a much more robust bridge between 2D and 3D, enabling faster, less laborious, and more error-free documentation production. It supports more flexible workflows for a variety of disciplines and helps users move efficiently from concept to design, and its more diverse modeling and drafting tools give users a range of choices about how to build out a design concept.

MicroStation users can integrate and precisely model within the context of existing conditions,  by leveraging raster images, point clouds, reality meshes, GIS data, and more to create highly accurate, data-rich designs.

When businesses can produce better quality designs more efficiently, they save time and money.

What’s more, Bentley’s powerful software applications are built on a common, unified platform and using the same data format, which can save companies money up front and over time. For example, MicroStation alone has capabilities that would require a multitude of Autodesk tools to do the same work, so you get more bang for your initial software buck.

MicroStation Capabilities vs. Autodesk Software
To have the same capabilities as a MicroStation user with CONNECTservices,
an Autodesk user would need the following.


Autodesk Software Required

Computer-Aided Design

AutoCAD / AutoCAD LT

File Sharing

A360 Drive


3ds Max / Maya

Point Clouds / Reality Meshes

Recap 360

Tracking Project Progress

BIM 360 Glue

Component Management


Manage / Publish RFIs

BIM 360 Docs

View / Mark Up (Desktop and Mobile)

A360 Mobile (web and desktop apps), Design Review, DWG TrueView, Navisworks Freedom

As your business grows, Bentley’s common and comprehensive modeling environment means companies can more efficiently integrate, learn, and maintain new software tools over time. In particular, MicroStation positions users to easily move into BIM or other types of projects because they can do so without steep new learning curves or having to grapple with inconsistencies of file formats and user interfaces across products.

This more powerful, more stable, more scalable approach can position your company for growth. In summary, MicroStation alone:

  • supports the use and production of a wide range of project deliverables and data formats;
  • is equipped to tackle increasingly larger projects (or business ambitions), both on its own and through integration with other Bentley software;
  • helps large teams easily and reliably share common files across multiple team members and disciplines;
  • allows you to work with just about anyone to deliver any project;
  • positions you to make better decisions throughout the project lifecycle;
  • enables you to create high-impact visuals for existing and potential project stakeholders;
  • makes it easier to transition to BIM in terms of training as well as implementation; and
  • gives companies the ability to diversify their business, take on different types of projects and clients without buying or learning additional software.

If your company faces significant bottlenecks when it comes to collaboration, Bentley’s approach to providing a connected data environment can help. It enables teams to work together inside or outside the firewall, integrate with enterprise functions such as ERP or maintenance management, prepare and transmit deliverables, share files, support mobile team members, and address organizational and other workflow challenges.

MicroStation CONNECT Edition is part of a new generation of cloud-connected products from Bentley that are integrated with a growing selection of cloud-based services that different users can tap to meet their needs on different projects. It aims to help customers reduce the cost and headache of keeping software current, exchanging project data, tracking project progress, facilitating RFIs, transmittals, leveraging computational power in the cloud, and much more, so you can spend less time facilitating collaboration while leveraging the cloud’s power and security and focus on delivering better projects.

Whether you’re a growing one-person surveying company or a large, multi-office enterprise with complex engineering and workflow challenges, MicroStation can deliver what your business demands.

Business Benefit: Better Overall ROI, Potentially

How does a business justify the investment, disruption, and other significant costs of a design software change? How do you determine if the payoffs justify the cost in time and money? When it comes to return on investment (ROI) for new software, you must flesh out exactly what’s involved in implementation and maintenance initially and over time — that is, what would the new investment entail (and cost) exactly? Then, how does that compare with doing nothing? Consider the following:

  • What are the up-front and on-going costs of everything you’ll need to support each option, including software implementation, licensing, and maintenance costs; hardware; training; etc.?
  • What does the future entail (and cost) for each option in terms of moving to BIM, for example, or other realities that you’d face down the road?
  • What’s not included with your software license — that is, which needed tools and services cost extra, in terms of technical support, training, and so forth?
  • Do new software updates deliver continuously improved user productivity?  Or is your team’s productivity pretty much flat?
  • How much time does your design software cost you because of its inherent limitations?  What is the cost of lost time due to software crashes, slow performance, data translation, inefficient collaboration workflows, and so forth? Try this simple calculation:

[Average minutes lost weekly]

× [number of weeks worked per year]

× [user’s hourly pay]

= Estimated annual cost of user downtime

A user who loses 15 minutes/day to software-related delays (and makes $50/hour working 50 weeks/year) incurs a $3,125 annual loss in productivity!

No CAD solution is right for all companies, and there’s no quick-and-simple way to determine if the benefits of a new application will justify the drawbacks. But if you’re honest and thorough about how you assess the ROI of a change, you should be able to get a pretty clear indication of whether you’re on the right track. 

One last word of advice: When it comes to considering whether a software change is right for your business, don’t focus solely on financial criteria. Consider also your organization’s appetite for major change, especially one that involves technology, and its attitude toward investing in staff:

  • Is your company an innovator, or risk/change averse?
  • Does the company culture generally relish the prospect of new software (and business) frontiers — or loathe it?
  • Will the company devote adequate time for training, establish a realistic time table toward proficiency, and continually invest in users, or is it more likely to place unrealistic expectations on the CAD team as it strives to learn new software?

If your company leans toward the conservative end of the change spectrum, a major software move might not be right for you.

Business Benefit: Software Diversity

Keep in mind that adopting new design software need not require giving up your current solution right away — or ever. There’s a business case to be made for diversifying risk by operating more than your current single CAD solution. Diversifying means your company could be better prepared to take on a wider variety of projects across a larger prospective customer base. It also means that you have options — even a way out, if needed — should the relationship falter with any given software provider or should the economy or market change dramatically in the future.

Business Benefit: Dedication From Your CAD Software Developer

When considering a new CAD solution, it’s natural to view it strictly as a software decision. But shouldn’t you also be shopping for a new software developer? When you work with the right software company, you’ll be building a mutually beneficial relationship — a partnership of sorts. That’s how it is for Bentley customers. Building strong, on-going relationships with customers is a Bentley priority, and it holds the company accountable to continually deliver value for the customer.

Bentley also is doggedly concerned about customers’ investments in their own data. The company is dedicated to interoperability so users can access design data in perpetuity. MicroStation even includes Autodesk’s own RealDWG libraries, so users can easily create and share DWGs without time-consuming and risky conversions — and be confident that the.DWG files created in MicroStation are indistinguishable from those created in AutoCAD (even supporting all the way back to R12 up through 2018). Most Bentley software is built on a common platform, and its DGN file format has only ever changed once in its 30-year history, so you can say goodbye to data-related workarounds and bottlenecks.  Bentley CTO Keith Bentley says, “We pay the interoperability tax so our customers don’t have to.”

  • As you evaluate developers along with their software, consider the following:
  • First and foremost, is the software provider invested in its relationship with your company?
  • How does it measure up in terms of its effort to ensure you maintain value from your investment? Does it look out for your financial best interests?
  • Is it directly accessible and responsive to user requests?
  • Does it proactively work to address major problems, such as those related to data sharing and translation, so you don’t have to worry about them?

Bentley customers get all this and more — for example, the latest version of MicroStation includes a User Feedback Service so you can submit specific requests directly to Bentley from within the application and ensure the visibility and prioritization of your requests.

When you adopt MicroStation, you also adopt Bentley Systems, a software provider dedicated as much to improving your design workflows and your business as it is to improving the technology that drives them. Which kind of software developer do you need to support your business goals and priorities?


Top 10 Indications You Should Be Using MicroStation

By Bentley Systems 

1. You are creating 3D models for a growing percentage of your projects.

2. You work on complex and large-scale projects.

3. You work on more than one project at a time with different clients and standards.

4. You design, build or operate engineering-intensive assets.

5. You are coordinating projects that involve many different design disciplines.

6. You work closely on project teams that span many different offices and organization.

7. You work on projects where different participants are using both CAD and BIM software.

8. You prefer specifically-tailored solutions that meet your unique workflows.

9. You work with many consultants, contractors or clients, each with unique preferred data formats and deliverable requirements.

10. Your projects are demanding, complex, and often (if not always) unique.

For more insight, take the Bentley Systems survey, “Are You Ready for a CAD Software Change?



Q&A with MicroStation Maxine

Here, Bentley’s MicroStation Maxine responds to reader questions. Have a question of your own? MicroStation Maxine is standing by to help! Click here to submit. And visit the Switching Center on to access a growing collection of information and advice for AutoCAD users considering a move to MicroStation.

Q: What’s required to migrate to MicroStation? What is the cost to the company?

A: A variety of available resources, including a step-by-step approach to ensuring a smooth AutoCAD-to-MicroStation migration, are presented in the “CAD Manager’s Guide to the AutoCAD–MicroStation Transition.” Bentley consultants, after learning more about your unique use of AutoCAD, can provide insights and recommendations about making the change. In advance of purchasing the software, you can watch some of the MicroStation videos to become familiar with the software. And once you’ve decided to make the move, online learning materials as well as live virtual classes are available to help users get up to speed quickly.

Pricing various by country, but is similar to the former perpetual license prices for AutoCAD.  Several cost-effective subscription licensing and pricing options are available, depending on your needs.  You can contact a Bentley expert to help you sort through and choose the best option.

Q: Our workflows depend on numerous custom AutoLISP programs that automate our work, and we routinely access both new and old CAD files (back to AutoCAD R12). Although we are licensed through AutoCAD 2016, we have not needed to save files newer than the AutoCAD 2004 format. Recent AutoCAD releases have complicated matters greatly and are interfering with productivity. Can MicroStation help?

A: While MicroStation does not support the use of AutoLISP programs, it has plenty of flexibility for building your own custom macros or even creating full-fledged applications using VBA, .NET, C++, or C#. And depending on what your AutoLISP programs do, MicroStation may offer out-of-the-box tools that offer similar functionality, limiting your need to maintain your own customizations.

DWG compatibility is something Bentley has worked hard at for a long time, and MicroStation has native support for current versions of RealDWG using Autodesk’s own libraries — and it even provides support for files as far back as AutoCAD R14 DWG format. And MicroStation’s own DGN file format has only changed once in its 30-year history, and Bentley has no plans to change it again, so you won’t have to worry about disruptive file format changes once you make the switch.

We’d be happy to give you a tour if you’d like to learn more about what making the switch to MicroStation can offer.

And Some Advice from Maxine ...

Are you looking to explore CAD software licensing options? Watch this short video to see why Bentley's licensing options are so unique.

Wondering where to begin learning more about MicroStation? You can dive into the basics and even download a MicroStation 14-day trial at


Add comment

Contact MicroStation Maxine!

Connect to the Bentley quiz

Follow MicroStation on Facebook