CAD Management: Engaging in a CAD/BIM Technology Review

December 6th, 2012

Looking behind you is standard procedure when backing out of a parking spot.  You glance over your shoulder to make sure that there is nothing in the way.  You check your rear view mirror and side mirrors.  If you have a newer car, you may even glance at the backup camera so you don’t miss any angle.   Only after you have reviewed all of these perspectives are you confident to pull out and then move forward. 

In the world of CAD, reviewing where your firm is on the technology curve will bring valuable information to you as you consider what, when, where, why and how you are going to advance the level of Design Tools within your firm.
 
What will the review help define?  Your review will assist in defining the items that need a refresh beyond the reactions that might come from people’s complaints, grumbling and other input.  You need to listen to complaints and the grumblers need to be addressed, but they need to be blended with the overall perspective and not given too much weight.  Your unbiased review will help with that.
 
When will the review need to be done?  How about now?  Moving into a New Year takes some preparation.  Starting in December with a review of what you have may jump start the New Year.  Doing it prior to year-end might be the best time.  If you office slows down in December, take the time to review and recommend.  If you get really busy as the year comes to a close, then move this effort into January.
 
Where do you make advancements?  Can you do it with hardware or software?  Maybe procedures need to be updated or documented.  By reviewing your current situation, you will be able to answer these and many more questions. 
 
Why do you want to upgrade this and not that?  A full review will allow you to provide the background needed to respond to these and other questions.  You need to know why one thing is more important to another.  Without a defined review, you may become subject to others weighing in at inopportune times to try and get their issues moved to the front of the line.
 
Finally – How do you want to move forward?  Does it take spending money?  Does it just need some realignment of tools you already have?  Getting the overall picture will assist you with the ‘how’ of moving forward.
 

Not a Strategic Plan...  but a step toward it.
 
While this is not a strategic planning effort, it certainly leads into one.  A Technology Review is one of the first steps toward getting your plans in focus. 
 
All firms that use technology as an aid to productivity and a differentiator to set them apart from other firms must plan carefully and purposefully to maintain the advantage that has already been achieved and continues to stay ahead.

A Tech Review should happen at least once a year and should provide the following:

1. An In-Depth Assessment of Current Technology.  This is an evaluation of the technology currently in use in order toprovide status and action plans.  You look at each area and provide a concise statement related to its functionality and value.
What is included? 
 
What do you have now?  A quantitative list of hardware or software.  How many?  Who has them?

  • List of processes and procedures
  • Statement on each of these that defines:
  • Effectiveness - how well is it working?
  • Expansiveness – who is using it?  Who is not using it?
  • Maintenance costs – in man-hours and money
  • Why is it valuable (or not)
  • What would it take to make it better?
  • What would it take to replace it?
  • What would happen if this area is not addressed?

 
Group the topics together, but do not prioritize them yet.  Like I mentioned, this is not a strategic plan.  This is an assessment of what might happen.  We shall see who might agree or disagree and that will help with the planning for future actions.
 
2. A General Review and Assessment of Current Technology.  When you have this first step done, you can then focus on developing an executive summary.  This may actually happen at the end of your review process when you have all of the areas assessed.  By providing an executive summary, you get to the point quickly.  Executives have little time to spend on in-depth assessments unless it is part of their direct area of oversight.
 
Who might help you get a well rounded perspective? 
A number of sources can be used to gather information, opinions and status checks for this review.  They include:

  • Project Managers
  • CAD Personnel
  • IT Personnel
  • Discipline Managers
  • Interested Individuals
  • Focus Groups
  • Division Managers
  • Office Managers

All of the above will provide insight and significant contributions to the review.  Ask those individuals that actually use the tools and hardware, as well as those that manage the overall process.  
 
Obviously, a review and report does not provide all answers to all questions related to technology and the IT process.  This approach, though, will assist in framing the next set of questions that should feed into your planning cycle.  Don’t stop here.  Get the review completed and down on paper, then start strategic planning for progress.

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About the Authors

Mark Kiker

Mark Kiker has more than 25 years of hands-on experience with technology. He is fully versed in every area of management from deployment planning, installation, and configuration to training and strategic planning.  As an internationally known speaker and writer, he is a returning speaker at Autodesk University since 1996.Mark is currently serving as Director of IT for SIATech, a non-profit public charter high school focused on dropout recovery. He maintains two blog sites, www.caddmanager.com and www.bimmanager.com.