Implementation: Change Is Coming

I recently contacted internal offices across the country to get copies of AutoCAD® Civil 3D® templates. Most offices had no templates or standards, some offices adopted client standards as their own, and a few didn’t know what I was talking about. Have you ever had to generate a C3D template from scratch and implement on an office or regional level?  How did users react?  Did you have management buy in?  These are just a few of the many hurdles a CAD manager will face when implementing new standards. No one likes change. Evaluating current CAD conditions up front, creating meaningful paths forward, and winning over the new team are crucial components for success.

  • Management support
    • Explain CAD importance to management
  • Access current conditions
    • Template
    • User skill level
  • Gain user trust
    • Ask users for recommendations
    • Keep users informed
  • Implement change
    • Apply revised/new template
    • Train users on new procedures and template

Management Buy-In

Buy-in from management is the most important component when working to implement any type of change in an organization, whether it is CAD, safety, office, or any other procedures.  If you do not have the support of upper management, your implementation and template creation will fall short.

Create a comprehensive presentation for management followed by a Q&A session. Ninety-five percent of office managers do not understand the capabilities of C3D and how effective it can be if leveraged properly, so educate them. Stay out of the weeds a bit, but do cover styles, importance, dynamic capabilities that prevent re-work, and most of all, the cost savings when used correctly.

Once management understands the potential savings, they will be onboard and half the battle is won. 


Being new to an organization can sometimes be challenging.  You have ideas and methods you are comfortable with that will save time and money, but how do you convey them to a large audience?  Most firms that use C3D have some type of template in place even if it is the “out of the box” Autodesk template.  To keep the peace and get user buy-in, it is best to evaluate what the office or region is currently using. How do the styles look?  Is the template CTB or STB based? Are there prompts when creating civil objects?  The questions continue to pour out.

Start with the best project the firm has.  Go through it piece by piece and examine the template.  What stands out?  Take note of the style names, how the styles plot, and if there are styles for each object.  This will also be a good time to see how the users treat C3D objects.  More important than the actual inner workings of the template are the user skill levels.  Do they understand the way C3D works?  By taking the extra time upfront on setup, they will save mountains of time if or when the design changes.  The design always changes.

Are data shortcuts used? Are the pipes in the drawing actual networks or polylines with global widths?  Are the objects on profile views dynamic or hand drawn? These are critical elements to know before implementing change. I have found that the less users know about the software, the easier it is to get buy-in when new processes are introduced. 

Understanding user methodology upfront will help determine the path forward, and the findings will reiterate the cost savings for management.

Solidify Team Relationship

Starting at a new firm as a CAD Manager or supervisor of any kind can be challenging—new personalities, opinions, and resistance to change. It is very important to gain user trust, and new implementation should be welcomed.

To gain trust and build relationships, ask users questions: What are their opinions on current processes?  What could be improved upon?  What, if anything, is missing?  Typically, there is one power user in the office who dictates CAD procedures—a self- appointed CAD manager, if you will. Acceptance from this person is of the utmost importance.

Users that would not normally offer up opinions will now do so with a new CAD manager.  Start with the current office template, asking the team: How it can improve?  How can we improve the process?  What pitfalls are faced on projects?  Understanding the current conditions will fortify future change.

There is no “I” in “TEAM.” It is important to keep users engaged in the process and aware of your suggestions.  Yes, at some point users’ opinions will need to take the back seat, but it is vital to keep all stakeholders abreast of the process upfront.


Let me reiterate: no one likes change! If you have success with all the previous steps, the actual changes may go just a little smoother.  Timesaving solutions and common sense practices will still invite resistance from users.

To minimize the damage, try and supplement the new ways with the existing material such as a few styles, some custom lisp routines, layer names, or anything that will make the current team feel as if their product was of use.  Let’s face it, no one wants to spend months working on a template, standards, and procedures only for someone new to tell them it’s all a waste.

Once the new template and procedures are in place, the entire team should be trained on the new template.  Nothing is more frustrating than someone creating new styles when the style already exists.  In an office that doesn’t have strong users, more time will be spent trying to figure out how to make the style they need.

Create a test project with C3D components and send it out to all the users. Give them a week or two to play around with the styles and the new look.  Create documentation, briefly touching on all styles: surface, profile, profile view, alignments, labels, etc. Once the team is comfortable with the new template, design change should be faster and more profit will be generated.


The standards are in place and the profit is rising, so what next?  2018 comes around and it is time to upgrade.  We all know this will be a challenge due to new drawing formats and other factors.  Users will need to be educated.  You already have management buy-in, so start with getting all the users onboard and make the transition happen!

Throughout his 12 year career, Phillip Lynch has played an instrumental part in a variety of Civil Engineering and Survey design projects with his primary focus being Civil 3D management and surveying.  He has successfully created and implemented C3D templates and CAD standards for 28 internal offices for use on a $90 million program.  In addition, Phillip has trained multiple offices in C3D and established a solid workflow for each.  Using the latest GPS technology, he has surveyed multiple stream restoration projects, miles of underground utilities, hundreds of stormwater structures and bridges.  Phillip can be reached for questions or comments at

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