Viktor Varkonyi, CEO of GRAPHISOFT, visited the Archicad 22-FIN release in October 2018, organized by M.A.D. Viktor spoke about the AEC industy and Archicad. I interviewed him and asked about some background, future and customer related questions, such as what is pushing him forward, how he became CEO of GRAPHISOFT, and what Archicad's future is?
Tell us about your background and how did you come to work at GRAPHISOFT?
"I graduated as an electrical engineer with special education on Computer Science. My diploma is a combination of both areas. I graduated in 1992, when I attended a job fair and found a really cool booth. You can guess which company’s booth it was - GRAPHISOFT’s. The booth had a handful of Macintosh computers and large posters of beautiful buildings. I was really impressed, and I thought GRAPHISOFT was a great company but I had nothing to do with architecture.
However, I got even more engaged with the selection process that we had to go through. There was a really deep interview and a challenging trial work, which convinced me that this company is really about quality, they want to have the best people and they really care. And I was really proud to get in as a software engineer."
How did your career from software developer to CEO progress?
"As a software developer in the 90's, I made some of my own innovations in Archicad. One of which is the interactive 3D window. In far too many meetings in GRAPHISOFT, I heard that the 3D window is a very important part of Archicad but it is a very challenging feature of the program to develop. I started developing a new 3D window for Archicad in my own free time and found a new innovative solution to its implementation. I continued to develop it in secret for a few more weeks and made prototype for decision-makers. They were really impressed with the new interactive editing capabilities in the perspective view, which is very relevant feature for architectural design. The company leadership immediately showed full green light to make this an official development project. Eventually the industry first interacitive 3D editing window for released in 1998, in Archicad 6.
Over the years, I got more and more important responsibilities and started to manage more and more employees as well. Probably the founder of GRAPHISOFT saw that I have potential. In 1997, my responsibility became the management of a development team and in 2002 I became responsible for the entire development department. From 2007 I became responsible for product strategy as well. In 2009 Nemetschek asked me to be the CEO of the company and I can honestly say that I enjoy the trust and the job genuinely."
What is pushing you ahead?
"I like a lot of events like this Archicad 22-FIN event, where I can talk and meet people and customers. Many of them are loyal Archicad users and they are just making me proud. But it is even more motivating to hear customers' criticism of how some feature of the program does not work as desired."
"I see in their eyes that they are so keen to tell you, because they just want to get Archicad better. They want to help us help. Customers have a passion for what they are doing and of course they want the best tool to help them realize their own visions. We share this passion and help by developing Archicad to fit the needs of our customers. We at GRAPHISOFT believe that simple is beautiful, not so that efficiency suffers from it but so that efficiency is growing due to it."
Why choose Archicad?
"Customers know it best, but I think that's something that can not be measured by the features of the program and not by comparing it with competitors. But it's about what our architects and designer customers appreciate. Archicad is closer to the designer in numerous ways. Archicad's Visual interface talks to the designer, whereas our competitors make them fill up tables and forms, which is emotionally not fitting with their kind. Archicad's logic, on the other hand, is closer to the designers' own world. This is probably due to GRAPHISOFT having placed architects in every department – I am sure you can sense this in the product too. Put it simple our Customers feel that this software is made for them.
In addition we are innovative and have a lot of great ideas, far more than what we can implement. We are trying to focus on our strengths and improve upon them, not try to copy what others are doing. When we started developing BIM Server in Archicad in 2009, people said that building a database for BIM is too complicated and multiprocessing is impossible to implement, but still we did it. And take BIMx, everybody is crazy about BIMx. When people get that in their hands, in one minute it’s complete love. Or maybe in one second. I think that is’s this emotional link that connects us to our customers."
Archicad's future outlook?
"AI or Artificial Intelligence is an important part of our strategy in the future and how we build AI into the software. Last year, we launched a stair tool with intelligent “solver” algorithm in it that ensures the designed stairs are safe and ergonomic. We patented this method as Predictive Design and the new curtain wall tool uses a similar method too.
We also spend a lot of time on algorithmic design and we are developing solutions to combine architects' creative process with the documentation process. Previously, there was a one-way only connection, but now with the new Archicad-Rhino-Grasshopper connection the information flow is by-directional.
Our BIM Server radically changed throughout the years. Now called BIMcloud it enables new types of ecosystems with closely aligned work paths between different programs of Nemetschek. Our next innovation is about how architects and engineers can work together.
This isa Disruptive Design Workflow to eliminate inefficiencies in the design process. With this for instance we can make sure the loadbearing structure of the building is designed completely in sync with the architectural design. Since we have BIMcloud, that is possible. In the future, we will make it open to to involve 3rd parties the same workflow."
What else do you want to say?
"In the Archicad 22-FIN release customers approached me, which was great. They are proud Archicad users and the close relationship they have with M.A.D. feels great. We want to be close to customers, even in person, because people's interaction is important in this era of technology. Also, when you really focus on quality and detail, you produce something that people love - and it matters."