CAD Management: Reading the Signals

November 28th, 2010

So many times I have debated and struggled with the timing of an upgrade. Finding the time to move people forward is a chore. Getting everyone on board takes effort. There is so much to consider - things like installations, training, migration of custom tools, and more. It is not an easy task.

Some folks just push it off and avoid it altogether. Some jump too soon. What are the signals that hint at the right time to jump? How should the planets be aligned so you can have success? Here are a few things to look for that might set your thinking on the right timeline.

Financial

If your firm does not have the funds to pay for an upgrade, don't even start thinking about it. Financial impacts of an upgrade may take this topic right off the table. No matter what problems may exist in the current product, no matter what enhancements may come from a migration, it is not going to happen if the firm does not have the funds.

Look for signals that funding is available in the spending the company is doing elsewhere. Are departments buying new hardware? Are they staffing up? Has the company just won a large project? Time to start thinking about a migration.

Product readiness

Is the product ready for prime time? Is this a mature release? Are you jumping from older releases to the latest one?

Moving ahead means that you have to justify the effectiveness of the tool. Stay in touch with the product releases as they roll out by taking advantage of the trial periods. Download the trial versions and throw your toughest problems at them. Try out the newest features. If it looks like there is value in a migration, then now may be the time to start planning for one.

Users ready

Listen for signals that the staff is ready for the newest release. Those who embrace the new will start chatting about it sooner. Listen to them, but also listen to the ones who are slow to adopt new things. Grumbling naysayers will not gather support. They may actually work against you. The majority of users need to be able to understand the good that will come out of an upgrade.

Management ready

Managers may be even more important in a migration than the staff members who will be using the tools. Managers have deadlines and workflows that cannot be impacted. They need to know that the new tools will perform out of the gate. Listen for clues to their readiness. If a large project deadline is looming, there will be resistance to change. If they are chasing a new project that requires advanced technology, they may even encourage the upgrade. Make sure you know what is happening in production and marketing.

Training

Productivity loss from learning curves cannot be regained unless the new tool performs better. Training the users in the newest features may take time. Your staff may not have the time to get trained. They may not have the desire to learn the new stuff. They will be inclined to use the new tools in the exact same way that they use the old tools, which undercuts the productivity gains. Watch for signs of unrest about having to learn new things. This can silently derail an upgrade.

What are others doing?

There may be pressure to maintain releases between you and other firms. Partnering firms, contractors, consultants, and even owners may be sending signals that you are behind the curve. They may be pressing for you to step up and move forward. Stay in tune with those who are using your files and interacting with your teams. Know when they are moving.

The industry as a whole may be resisting or embracing the next release. Search the discussion groups, forums, Facebook pages, and more for signs of malcontents. Are they praising the new tools? Post a few questions yourself in the AUGI Forums. See what people are saying. Look for an indication that most are happy with the new features and productivity. Then start moving in that direction.

Keeping in touch with the conversation and listening for clues that will help you have success is one of the best ways to avoid stepping into trouble.

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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.

 

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