In my email inbox one theme tends to repeat itself — the frustration of how hard it is to really change anything in your CAD environment. I’ve always observed that the real pace of technology change is much slower than CAD companies and their PR firms would have you believe. In fact, a lot of the stuff I get from these sources seems to bear no resemblance to the client offices I work in.
So, the question then becomes, if the whiz-bang new technology isn’t making its way into our offices quickly, how can best we refocus to make the technology we already have work better? In this edition of The CAD Manager’s Newsletter, we’ll explore some practical answers to that question that CAD managers can use. Here goes.
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If we won’t implement futuristic new technology in our office soon, then why is it so hard to improve what we already have? In my experience, the “let’s make things work better around here” logic tends to get derailed by one of the following objections:
- Senior management feels that technology which has already been implemented should be running optimally. If our company purchased Revit 12 years ago, we shouldn’t need to tweak it further, right? (Never mind the fact that the company’s accounting system has been under constant revision for the last 10 years!)
- Users often express no desire to do anything different or better. I’m sure you’ve heard users say things like, “I have already learned how to use the software, so why should I change anything now?” (I call this mental inertia and it is hard to overcome.)
- Project managers offer little help. Project managers will often make statements like, “We’ve just got this running and now you want to mess with it again?” (Clearly expressing pessimism in the CAD manager’s ability to make things better.)
All these factors combine to make optimizing existing software harder than you might think. This is why so many CAD managers get stuck supporting the same problems day after day, never seeming to make any progress.
One strategy for implementing newer/better procedures on existing software platforms I’ve found useful is focusing on error reduction. I mean, preventing errors saves money and senior management loves to save money, right? Therefore, it stands to reason that by lowering our error rate with existing software technology, we can generate savings without implementing new, big-ticket systems. This coping strategy is the only way I know of to deal with Objection #1 above.
Continuing along the error reduction track, it is surprising but many users have no idea how much time they waste using software incorrectly or not optimally. I often find that asking users what problems they have makes them realize that they’re working too hard. When this realization dawns on users, the CAD manager has an opportunity to change how users interact with their software. This strategy allows you to deal with Objection #2 above. And, incidentally, when users tell their project managers about new and better ways to use software, you will have found a way to deal with Objection #3.
If you use both coping strategies above, you should arrive at an interesting place — the confluence of management support and user willingness to change. Just remember that the moment you see the willingness for change, you must act immediately.
The Little Things Pay Big Dividends
I’m always amazed at how at how much optimizing small tasks in existing software environments can pay off. For example, there is nothing high-tech about generating PDF documentation, yet it still causes a tremendous amount of confusion. It seems that anything I can do to speed a low technology task like this pays big dividends.
Likewise, procedures such as filing, how to create construction document sets, using document control procedures within the environment, and the like are low tech but high-yield performance boosters. None of these tasks are complex, yet they affect the overall system performance and project execution of your company. Ignore these factors and you will experience problems that have to be fixed. (Incidentally, ask your project managers about how to tighten these types of procedures and you’ll become their hero!)
Why Are We Still Low-Tech?
As I put more thought into the low-tech procedures I must optimize to make CAD staffers productive, I realize why so many new technologies are not implemented yet. It is simply because we haven't even properly implemented the old technology yet!
When I first became a CAD manager my boss once told me, “You CAD guys always want expensive new toys.” At the time his lack of foresight upset me, but I’ve come to understand that he wanted me to fully utilize what we’d already purchased before asking for anything new. I think this is applicable now as much as it was then.
So, perhaps the best way we can talk our management teams and companies into implementing new technology might be to show them that we’ve optimized what they've already purchased. What’s your take on this? Email me and let me know. Until next time.
Robert Green performs CAD programming, standardization, and consulting services globally. He is the author of Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide. Reach him via his website (greenconsulting.com/).View All Articles