Named user pricing: a step backwards for BIM software users?

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Named user or ‘one user, one seat’ pricing models for software could stifle the collaboration that BIM needs to thrive, according to Rahul Kejriwal.

BIM solutions are touted for their ability to strengthen communication and collaboration for partners working on a shared design. Yet AEC firms risk having to sacrifice this easy collaboration across disciplines in favour of saving on increased implementation costs due to the emergence of named user software pricing models.

Certainly, BIM subscriptions can carry a heavy price tag, with some individual software subscriptions costing as much as £4,000 per year. However, saving costs when software access switches to a sole user model may prove more costly to AEC firms in the long run.

BIM users risk stifling collaboration and limiting scalability when attempting to rein in costs caused by using plans that limit concurrent-user collaboration.

Evolving pricing options 

Subscription-based pricing for BIM software access has long been the norm, but the way these subscriptions operate is changing. To date, many subscription-based solutions have been available with multi-user access, which allows several individuals within a company network to share access to these product licenses. The software can be downloaded on a potentially unlimited number of devices, but if, for example, ten licenses were purchased, only ten users can log in simultaneously. Ultimately, however, it wouldn’t matter who those users were, allowing occasional ones to delve into the system and offer their design input as needed without paying for a separate individual login.

More recently, however, some BIM software providers have begun offering a named user or ‘one user, one seat’ pricing model. This approach delivers personalised insight to specific users. And, compared to the high cost of an enterprise subscription that allows limitless collaboration across an organisation, this per-user pricing can seem particularly attractive for smaller organisations. However, these new models carry their own share of potential challenges with them.

‘This individual access can also significantly challenge the ease with which firms scale up and down as design needs or staffing fluctuates’

Rahul Kejriwal
New limits to knowledge-sharing

The key difference between multi-user network licenses and named user subscription offerings is that the latter model assigns each user of a BIM product a unique individual login. As a result, multiple concurrent logins will be blocked, preventing this login sharing that is in this instance equivalent to software piracy. Because each user is assigned a unique license, this named user access makes the easy real-time collaboration that BIM is meant to promote more difficult and costly.

This is challenging within a multi-site firm or organisations that have shifted to remote work, where sharing a workstation isn’t feasible, which means that outside consultants or downstream partners who have not fully invested in BIM may be required to purchase their own seats to work within shared models.

This individual access can also significantly challenge the ease with which firms scale up and down as design needs or staffing fluctuates. Under previous multi-user network subscriptions, firms may have had the option to treat their subscription more like an asset than an operational cost, selling excess licenses as they scaled down. Under these named user models, adding new staff members will require firms to buy additional licenses. Unfortunately, this lack of flexibility may convince some firms to invest in fewer seats than they might truly need, reducing the firm’s ability to get work done. 

‘Organisations that use network licensing today typically serve three or more occasional users with each network license. A named user approach will eliminate that flexibility’

Rahul Kejriwal

There’s the potential for tremendous added cost underlying this switch. Organisations that use network licensing today typically serve three or more occasional users with each network license. A named user approach will eliminate that flexibility. It has been estimated that the additional cost of the extra seats they would need for casual users could drive subscription costs up by as much as 600%. 

Demand collaboration flexibility 

Network licenses allow an AEC firm to pool its licenses for more dynamic allocation. While the initial upfront cost may seem somewhat higher compared to a single-user subscription, the truth is that this floating license approach provides organisations with critical levels of flexibility. A network license enables company-wide access to BIM files on-demand for what becomes a far more reasonable cost over time. 

This flexible access is a key reason Bricsys links BricsCAD licenses to the company that owns them rather than an individual user. BricsCAD provides a customer-centric subscription model for its competitively priced 2D and 3D collaborative design solution. It provides options that meet a range of company needs, including permanent purchase via perpetual licensing or a network license, with options available for networked and standalone computers. Network licenses are used across a corporation, ensuring collaboration from dedicated and casual CAD users, providing organisations with the flexible access they need regardless of where their users might be.

Given that project-wide data sharing and collaboration is at the core of the promise of BIM, why would one want to limit access to the software that is required to achieve this promise? The cost and inflexibility of named user licensing makes this approach a giant step backward for many BIM users.

Rahul Kejriwal is CEO of Bricsys.

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