Tech Manager—Remodeling Your Tech Environment

My wife and I recently remodeled our kitchen. The old appliances were showing considerable wear, the countertops were outdated, and the cabinets were scratched and worn. We thought about it forever before pulling the trigger on the construction. We pondered features, appliances, floor plan changes, and so much more. Then we finally jumped when our oven broke. It had broken before and we said, “Next time we remodel.” So we called a few contractors to get proposals. We reviewed their offerings and even visited some homes they had remodeled, then made a selection and moved forward.

The demolition and rebuild took nine weeks. We set up a temporary kitchen in a bedroom, complete with microwave, toaster oven and a dormitory-size refrigerator. Along the way we made some changes in our plans—additions and modifications.  Our chosen contractor was very agreeable and had the time to extend the build out. Cabinets were designed, fabricated, and put in place. Appliances were chosen, delivered, and installed. Final touch-up painting was completed and we moved back in.

Why am I telling you this? Because you may need to do some remodeling of your CAD/BIM/Tech environment. It could have grown tattered, worn, and outdated. It may be missing features that would come with an update. It might be in need of some shiny new software versions or updated policies. Here are a few ideas.

Research First

What needs to change? Ask around. It is not just what you think that matters. It is not just what you heard about or tried. Get input from experts and others. Local user groups, tech communities, and, of course, AUGI. When researching our kitchen, we looked online at the many websites that offer photos of remodels. We also asked friends and consulted with appliance stores. 

When remodeling your technology, don’t limit your input. Make a list of the items that others have suggested and review what management might be complaining about. Are there items that have been on the wish list for some time? It may be time to move these to the top of the list. Get as much as you can.

Plan Your Work

Just like planning for a home remodel, you must plan your work remodel. If multiple efforts are needed, map out which to do first, second, third, and so on. Plan out the timeline and get it on paper. Enlist others to review your plans now.

We spent time mentioning to our friends and family about our remodel. We pointed out features that we considered changing, appliance choices, and more. Some just wanted us to stop talking and get started. Others shared ideas about what they had done or seen others do. We added so many small touches from the ideas of others. So, float your completed ideas and plans with as many as will listen.

Plan Your Budget

It may not be money that is needed to get your BIM processes enhanced. It may not be cash for CAD. It might be time, manpower, or just a break between projects to allow for some rethinking of efforts. Whatever it is, pause and think of what you will need to complete the transition 100 percent.  Don’t get caught short.

Our remodel budget went beyond what we had planned (don’t they all?). We added items and found other things that needed to be done that we did not price in (like a stove hood and fan, which is not cheap). If money is tight, then work on the critical items first and add more as others see progress and are willing to allow an expansion to the expenditures.

Buy the Best You Can Afford and Mix It Up

When it comes to appliances, we stepped up a notch. We could not afford the very high-end manufacturers (you can go broke really fast), but we still wanted a little higher grade than we had. We looked at features, functions, flaws, and reviews. We started by thinking we wanted to unify everything by going with one manufacturer, but ended up buying each appliance from a different manufacturer.

When defining your CAD environment, you can mix and match. Buy from one reseller, but hire another for training. Get a freelance consultant to manage your first project in the new tools. Don’t scrimp on training—it is so easy to pass over and you pay for it in the long run.

Hire Contractors if Needed

I am not that handy. I can fix some things and build some things, but I hire out big projects that I want to get right and last a long time. A kitchen is a big project. I obviously was not going to do that by myself.

Don’t be afraid to consider bringing in a hired gun for big rollouts of new software. A consultant or reseller can move you miles ahead when the software is new and you are just getting up to speed. You are hiring the knowledge and they will pass it on to you when they do the work. When BIM was new and we were rolling out Autodesk® Revit®, my firm approved the hiring of a consultant to assist with setup, configuration, training, and more.

Make Changes Along the Way

As you get into your tech remodel, don’t hesitate to add or remove items from your list. As we watched our kitchen unfold, new ideas came to mind. We added a beam and posts to help set off the kitchen from the rest of the house. Open floor plans can be too open at times.

When you get into the thick of your tech remodel, you may find the early assumptions are not panning out. So make a change. You may find that new ideas and opportunities present themselves. Grab them, change direction, and run. You may find that the new focus is easier to achieve than the old one. Or it may bring greater productivity. Explore options even after the building has begun.

Stop Making Changes

At some point, we had to stop making changes and let the construction get done. We forced ourselves to stop thinking of clever drawer inserts, easy cabinet enhancements, and ways to get the most storage out of our space. We had to let the project get done.

When you see the progress you are making in your tech environment, keep checking the pulse of the people involved. There is such a thing as “change fatigue.” When people start questioning the value of the change, or are reluctant to share ideas or offer to help, be mindful. When management starts pulling back on investing more time or money, be wary. When people stop attending status meetings or responding to emails, take notice. This could mean that people are tired and need to stop changing so much.

Settle in with New Habits

Make sure that the old habits of your workers are gone and new habits take their place. Do not use the new software like the old software. BIM is not CAD. 3D is not 2D. Making new habits is not easy.  During our kitchen remodel, we relocated our refrigerator and our sink. I still find myself turning to old location of the fridge to get iced tea or moving toward the old sink location to drain the spaghetti.

Your users might turn back to the old habits also. Be on the lookout for hints that they are using what is new in the same way they used the old.

Enjoy the New Environment

When you are done, or reach a milestone, celebrate. Take some time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Our kitchen is now done and we have entertained friends and family many times. We have enjoyed just making dinner together (we are empty nesters).

Keep talking up the advantages of your remodeled tech environment. Keep selling management on the production values either achieved or coming (it takes time to get proficient in new tools). Make sure clients know that the new tools are enhancing their project delivery.

Remodel Rewards

When all is planned, said, and done, your new environment will bring enhancements to productivity and worker confidence. They will move your firm toward better delivery methods and expanded market penetration as it opens new opportunities to sell services and deliver superior projects.

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