Independent reports: When it all goes wrong, it goes wrong big time.

Published 09 August 2010

Posted by Al Dean

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My old mucker and scourge of the blogging world, Deelip Menezes, (he’s not really a scourge, I think he’d just get a kick out of that moniker) posted a link to one of the most ridiculous peices of analysis I’ve ever seen a few moments ago and its got my blood boiling somewhat. The link in question lead to a “Whitepaper” by the Technicom Group. It’s rather grandeous title was:

Comparing the Capabilities of Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2010 Using TechniCom’s Delphi Expert Technique

Of course, for anyone with a passing interest in the world of design technologies, this is going to be of interest. The blurb on the CADPortal web-site (technicom’s own portal) read as follows:

TechniCom compared 15 functional areas of Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 versus SolidWorks Premium 2010 using a technique called Delphi Expert Analysis. We compared 15 major functional areas using a questionnaire with 161 functional questions. Both products were rated on each question by a team of four experts for each software product who rated how well each product performed for that functional question. TechniCom’s analysts independently selected the questions. In my estimation, the functional questions do not favor any specific vendor or product. Quite frankly, I was astounded by the results. Inventor rated higher than SolidWorks in every one of the fifteen categories. This was completely unexpected! Read the paper for more details.

Of course, written in first person, the quote is directly attributable to the report’s author, Ray Kuurland, a well known “independent analyst” and the chap that heads up Technicom.

Digging into the PDF its quite shocking to find that an attempt has been made to conduct a comparison of SolidWorks against Inventor - specifically, using Inventor Professional 2011 and SolidWorks Premium 2010 - no add-ons, no third parties, just straight vanilla software. In more specifics, “The Autodesk software considered includes: Inventor 2011 Professional Suite with Inventor Fusion, Autodesk Vault for Workgroups, AutoCAD Electrical, Inventor Publisher, and Showcase.” while “The SolidWorks Software considered includes: SolidWorks 2010 Premium, SolidWorks Workgroup PDM, SolidWorks PhotoView 360, and 3DVIA.

All the way through the report, the point that the results weren’t skewed in favour of Autodesk. Facts are that Autodesk sponsored the report so it was always going to go one way. Would Autodesk sponsor a report of this nature, involving “experts” in each system and a decent amount of funding, have come out with any other conclusion? no. Of course it wouldn’t.

The questions involved and the areas they target are clearly leading to the require conclusion. The giveaway is the inclusion of BIM interoperability. SolidWorks doesn’t have a formalised offering in the BIM space) while Autodesk is perhaps the dominant player with AutoCAD and Revit. But elsewhere, there are other dodgy questions. Inventor Fusion is included, but this isn’t a shipping product. There’s also some inaccuracies from what I can see. The report also looks into Design Automation, stating that “Autodesk’s use of iLogic allows a leading position over SolidWorks in this functional area. One SolidWorks expert noted, “SolidWorks requires Excel and/or the use of a hard-to-use design table.” Inventor has a much better, built-in solution for rules based modelling.” Frankly, the “expert” in question needs to look into the DriveWorksXpress add-in that’s now a standard part of core SolidWorks and has been for two or three years and it’s a much better competitor to iLogic - it may not have fully met the criteria, but it should have been part of the investigation.

At the end of the white paper, there’s the inevitable cop out:

Given the complexity of the analysis and its broad scope, what can a reader conclude? Importantly, readers need to understand that this report provides a glimpse of certain expert opinions. While this was a small group considering that both products have hundreds of thousands of installations, we believe that the results are valid in assessing overall capabilities. Given that the results are valid, we conclude that Inventor Professional has reached and exceeded SolidWorks Premium functionality in most of the areas we studied. We believe that this is the case both because Inventor has neatly consolidated many of its acquired technologies into the Inventor product line and that Autodesk continues to aggressively pursue and incorporate new technologies. Yet, neither product is perfect; there are opportunities for both products to improve in many areas.

So with that in mind, what’s the point of conducting this type of “independent evaluation”? Is it to show that Inventor is exceeding SolidWorks in 15 areas? is it to show that people evaluating 3D CAD should consider, as the report suggests, both systems? Anyone going through that process will do due dilligence as well as adding in Ease of Use and Cost, both of which have purposefully been left out of the process - which in itself is completely baffling.

Both systems excel at what they do. Each has faults and each has advantages. How granular should you make these things? Inventor sucks at creating extruded to offset surface geometry. Does it lose points for that? SolidWorks does it more efficiently and more effectively. SolidWorks on the other hand, has a slightly more confusing user interface unless you’re experienced with it. Does it in turn loose points for that? No.

All in all, this type of report is funded to stir things up, but those that are intelligent will read the “report” and dismiss it for what its worth. Which is, I’ll be frank, very little indeed.

Update: Ray Kuurland posted a blog entry talking about the background to the project on his blog at - and I think Ray’s made a good few points and some of the background is interesting particularly, for me at least, those categories that weren’t included in the survey and comparison work.

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