I’m glad to see CSI's acquisition of BSD. Having been a part of the Strategic Planning Task Team last year, I'm personally gratified to see CSI putting the plan into action in such a concrete way, by becoming more involved in the tools our industry uses to organize information.
I do think it remains to be seen, though, how the marketing of building products will change as a result of CSI's move.
I think that BSD's programs themselves will remain unchanged in the near term, but that CSI’s ownership and participation will strengthen the products’ position in the marketplace over time. AIA’s ownership and participation in MasterSpec is key to its acceptance as an “industry standard” among architecture firms. CSI has the opportunity to develop similar acceptance for BSD if it, too, can create the impression (and the reality) that the content of the subscription is developed and maintained in a consensus-based process by a group of experienced specifiers. A conversation I had with Walt Marlowe suggests that CSI’s participation will start small, but will move in the direction I’m hoping for here.
If CSI strengthens BSD's position, BSD will be a formidable competitor with MasterSpec and its tools. MasterSpec, unlike BSD, offers more traditional word-processing tools as well as database tools, so manufacturers can easily interact with MasterSpec through word-processing documents. BSD's rise may increase the need for manufacturers and marketing consultants to “speak BSD”, that is, interact with databases, in order to get building products modeled, specified, and estimated through BSD tools.
How will the acquisition affect building product manufacturers and their marketing efforts? Before choosing a course of action, I think questions like these need to be considered:
- Does the format of a manufacturer's guide specs need to change in order to be more easily imported into BSD SpecLink-E by design professionals who use it?
- What does it cost to add a proprietary guide spec to BSD's SpecLink database?
- Can specifiers learn to create the logical checklist links for SpecLink-E in guide specs, and is it worth learning to do it in-house? Can a manufacturer's specifying consultant be cost-competitive with BSD's own writing service?
- What data should manufacturers offer for BIM interoperability with LinkMan-E?
- What data should manufacturers offer for spec and BIM interoperability with CostLink/AE?
- How will CSI’s participation change BSD’s pricing structure for CSI members?
- Will CSI include discounted BSD products and services in its corporate partnership program?
In the short term, nothing changes except CSI’s endorsement of the existing products; so manufacturers have a little time to figure out what to do if BSD’s influence grows as a result. We'll be keeping our ear to the ground, and as answers begin to appear we'll come back to talk about what we've learned.