Those who read the last LiDAR News enewsletter might recall my article, Stepping Outside the Bubble to Promote LiDAR. In that article I called on my fellow LiDAR evangelists to take a step outside the LiDAR community bubble and see things from your prospective customers point of view. Today Im going to take that same approach and discuss how you might work with a prospective customer to develop a LiDAR adoption strategy that meets the requirements of his unique business model. Once again this calls for leaving the bubble and standing next to your prospective customer to develop the appropriate strategy.
As I am out on the road giving presentations at various conferences, I am consistently repeating the message that every survey/mapping or AEC company now needs a LiDAR strategy. LiDAR has now reached the point where it will be ubiquitous in practically every aspect of design, engineering and construction operations. I sense a general consensus of agreement among the survey/mapping and AEC communities. Yet many are wary and rightfully so. Given the cost of equipment, the disruptive effects on established workflows and the need for training, a false step into LiDAR technology can have severe negative consequences. Understanding LiDAR performance specifications, the field-to-finish workflows and how they should be integrated within current operations can be a daunting challenge. So once again, our approach at Certainty 3D has been to step outside the bubble and divide up this integration of technology into bite-sized pieces for our customers.
Understand the Business Model
Typically we begin by understanding our prospective customers business to the best of our ability. Prospective customers often summarize their business pretty well. However there have been cases where asking, How do you make money now? cuts through to the most important part of your clients business. Then the objective is to understand how LiDAR technology will positively contribute to your customers current business and operational model.
Standing next to the prospective customer, we have to realize he typically has long term relationships, marketing focus, technical expertise, a customer base in his current markets. If you are a vendor, you shouldnt offer LiDAR technology as the key to new markets and customers. It can happen, but it should not be the reason to buy. If you are a customer and a vendor makes such promisesrun away! The purchase and integration of new technology combined with the cost of developing new markets typically exceeds the resources of many companies.
LiDAR in Bite-Sized Pieces
Starting at the End
Once the companys business model and market focus is understood, identifying the first digestible chunk of LiDAR technology becomes the next task. I recommend starting from the end by defining the deliverable product to be extracted from the LiDAR data for which the customer will either be paid and/or will effectively feed downstream design and engineering processes. While this may sound self-serving coming from Certainty 3D, the first technology integration step is to identify the software required to extract a product meeting downstream process requirements. Establishing this workflow and capability is not only the best starting point for the integration of LiDAR technology, it is also the least expensive posing a minimum of risk.
Find the Right First Project
In Certainty 3Ds case, having established TopoDOT as an effective software solution, we begin the integration process by defining that first task to be accomplished using LiDAR. We prefer a funded task because money focuses everyones attention. But the task should be non-critical and relatively low risk with an accommodating schedule.
Process First, then Hardware
Having the software workflow in place allows the prospective customer to compartmentalize production of the LiDAR data itself. Once the prospect has integrated the extraction capability into his workflow, the next focus can be on producing or acquiring LiDAR data of acceptable quality. The prospect will then understand how to place requirements on the LiDAR data. Consequently such requirements combined with the assessment of the hardware productivity, performance and price (recommended order of priority) will lead the customer to the correct LiDAR hardware or vendor solution essentially successfully completing at least the initial technology adoption process.
Obvious you say? I can personally attest to meeting many companies who started with the hardwareeven a few $1 million+ mobile systemswithout ever understanding how they were going to extract the deliverables necessary to meet downstream processes. That is a high risk and an expensive approach that is not uncommon. In contrast, I can point to many companies with whom Certainty 3D worked with over the past couple of years that took a much more conservative approach. They started with sub-contracting small jobs to observe the process. They purchased TopoDOT to establish processing capability and rented hardware for a few projects. After the rentals justified a purchase they moved ahead and are now very successful in their LiDAR operations.
Now there are some companies with the resources to do the right research, hire the right team and buy the hardware and software all at once. Dont get me wrong, Im a big fan!! But these customers tend to be the exceptions. At Certainty 3D we have found that our success depends on our customers success. So we suggest stepping outside the LiDAR bubble, standing next to your prospective customer and dividing up the adoption of LiDAR technology into bite-sized, low-risk pieces.