Event Report: COFES 2006

3 May, 2006 By: Jeffrey Rowe

Congress On the Future of Engineering Software is a CAD conference like no other

I just returned from Scottsdale, Arizona, and the unique event COFES 2006 (Congress On the Future of Engineering Software). This invitation-only think-tank event, now in its seventh year, brings together engineering software industry executives from design, engineering, architectural, development and technology companies, as well as users, to better understand the role that digital engineering technologies will play in the future survival and success of their respective businesses. The event provides many opportunities for in-depth and open discussions among participants without the distractions that you typically encounter at trade shows.

I was happy to attend such an interesting event and to see so many familiar faces, as well as make new contacts and connections in the software vendor and user communities.

The Key to COFES

The keynote speaker for COFES 2006 was software visionary Alan Cooper -- someone I’ve admired for quite a long time. Renowned as a leading authority on customer experience and interaction design, the father of Visual Basic and inventor of personas as a design tool, he is the author of the best-selling books About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design and The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. (Each COFES attendee received a copy of the latter.)

Alan Cooper's consulting firm, Cooper, helps companies streamline development and build customer loyalty through design. The firm provides user research, product definition and product design services to a variety of clients. Cooper helps many of its clients build their own design capabilities through process and organizational consulting as well as training in its unique methods.

In his keynote, Cooper echoed many of the ideas he has promoted over the years as a pioneer of innovation that has influenced a generation of designers of software, products and business processes. His main points include:

  • To be managed properly, software must have an appropriate blueprint for development.
  • Software development can’t be measured using the same metrics used for manufacturing or other businesses processes.
  • Open-source software is very interesting because it involves programmers doing what they really want to do beyond their day jobs.
  • All too often software companies dictate a ship date before they know which software they’re going to build.
  • Bad software out the door on time is usually more important than good software out the door late.
  • Ideally, software development should involve a triad of folks: an interaction designer (who designs for people and is responsible for customer satisfaction), a design engineer (who designs for the CPU with technical competency) and a programmer (who produces the code and is responsible for software behavior). All have different but distinct roles, skills and goals.
  • The classic ROI (return on investment) formula does not apply to software development, where the attitude is usually “reduce our investment.”
  • If more time were devoted to true design practices and less time in construction during the software development process, the likely outcome would a more desirable product.

All in all, Cooper offered some thought-provoking ideas in his matter-of-fact keynote presentation.

CAD Society Update

One of the CAD Society's biggest goals for the past year will soon be fulfilled. I am pleased to announce that a scholarship in memory of Joe Greco is now fully funded. Joe -- a popular author and reviewer in the MCAD community, the previous CAD Society president and author of this newsletter, and a good friend to many -- passed away unexpectedly in late 2004. I will present a check to Joe’s alma mater, the New York Institute of Technology, totaling more than $25,000. This money will perpetually fund an annual scholarship to be granted on need and merit. I am very proud of this accomplishment and thank all who contributed.

As the current president of the CAD Society, I was extremely busy the last night of COFES 2006, making announcements and presenting the annual CAD Society Awards -- one of the best parts of my job. The CAD Society honored three people for their contributions to the CAD industry and its community.

Leadership Award. The CAD Society Award for Leadership is awarded to an individual in the CAD industry whose outstanding technical and/or business leadership and has significantly contributed to the benefit of the CAD community. The recipient of this year's award is Dana K. “Deke” Smith.

An architect by education, training and temperament, Deke has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the spatial information and CAD industry from the very beginning of his career and is receiving the award for his exemplary leadership in the effort to develop a national BIM (building information modeling) standard.

In addition, Smith has been named one of the Federal 100 by Federal Computer Week, an award that recognizes the 100 leaders who made a difference in federal information technology. “Deke is a man of uncompromising vision and a remarkable consensus builder,” noted Michael Tardif, former director of the American Institute of Architects’ Center for Technology and Practice Management. The CAD Society is pleased to honor Deke for his past and current leadership efforts.

Joe Greco Community Award. Next joining me on the stage were last year’s Joe Greco Community award recipient, Lynn Allen, worldwide Autodesk technical evangelist and Cadalyst columnist, and Heather Kadar, Joe Greco’s widow. The CAD Society's Joe Greco Community Award (previously The CAD Society Award for Community) is awarded each year to one individual who has distinguished him- or herself by improving communication and developing community within the CAD industry.

The recipient of this year's award is Chris Yessios, president and CEO of auto-des-sys. Unfortunately, Yessios couldn’t join us at COFES this year.

Yessios holds a PhD in CAD from Carnegie-Mellon University, as well as a bachelor of architecture and a diploma in law. He taught and researched at Ohio State University. In 1990, with David Kropp, one of his former students, Yessios founded 3D modeling software developer auto-des-sys.

Yessios is the quintessential recipient of the 2006 Joe Greco Community Award based on his philosophy about and commitment to the educational community. His many years of dedication to education have inspired countless students to aspire to goals much loftier than they would have without his support. I think Joe Greco would be very pleased with the selection of Yessios as the recipient of this year’s Community Award.

Lifetime Achievement Award. The CAD Society Lifetime Achievement Award is presented for a lifetime of outstanding technical and business contributions to the CAD industry. This year's winner is Russell F. Henke. He was selected to receive this year's award based on his lifelong dedication to the CAD industry as a top-level engineer, educator, corporate executive, consultant and respected industry analyst.

I’ve known Henke for a few years and have come to realize and appreciate the breadth and depth of his knowledge in both the mechanical CAD and EDA (electronic design automation) arenas. He has accomplished a great deal on many levels and in many capacities during his distinguished career and is a very worthy recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. The CAD Society applauds Henke and his accomplishments.

COFES will return to Scottsdale on April 12-15, 2007. Set aside that weekend now.

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