MCAD Tech News (#304)13 Apr, 2011 By: Cadalyst Staff
When It's Time to Upgrade MCAD Software and Hardware, Get IT on Board
Present your CAD department's needs in terms of their business benefits to improve the chances that they will gain acceptance.
Editor's note: Through a sponsorship by Dell and Intel, Cadalyst editors bring you this feature, part of a special series of articles designed to educate CAD users and managers about the benefits and realities of professional workstations. Find even more information at the new CADspeed blog.
By Mark Shaw and James Ecklund
Spring has sprung, and with it comes the buzz that surrounds all the announcements of new CAD software, workstations, and other hardware that burst onto the scene this time of year. As a CAD user or manager, you might be eyeing these new products and considering the benefits of upgrading. However, as is often the case, your IT department has different ideas about how your computer system should work. Here are some tips from the perspective of a systems integrator about how to speak the language of the IT professional and improve your chances of getting the hardware and software updates you need.
As a CAD user or CAD manager, you want your CAD system to work efficiently and help you get your job done on time and on budget. Your IT support staff members want that too, but they also have to weigh in on how the CAD system integrates with all the other computer software and hardware in the company.
What all parties have at heart are your company's business goals. To instill a spirit of cooperation during system upgrades, we at Stored Technology use the Information Technology Lifecycle to help define how computer software and hardware can support your business goals. Use this five-step process to develop a strategy to talk about CAD upgrades with internal departments, from your IT personnel to your company's management team.
Define your company's needs to understand how it uses technology. The truth is that if you are a CAD user, technology is highly relevant to your job function. In fact, we'd go so far as to say the two elements are inseparable. Summarize your company's need as succinctly as possible. My company develops and manufactures widgets that are designed with ABC CAD software and produced via XYZ CAM software using DEFG equipment.
Measure your technology pain points and their impact on the organization's productivity. Here's where users get to really show how an upgrade can make their life easier. Are systems timing out? Crashing frequently? Are you missing deadlines because of system inefficiencies? Do you need better collaboration tools? List the problems and how they make your job harder, because these things are making your IT department's job harder too.
Analyze what works and what needs to be improved. Chances are not everything is problematic, so figure out what works well, too. By identifying what is working right, you can better define the areas that need to be improved.
Recommend solutions that fit your business. If you are going to the company's decision makers with a problem, it's best to have the solution. Take the initiative to find out the benefits of the upgrades you want, and then include those as part of the solution. Also, be aware of any software system requirements. Your new CAD software might require Windows 7, but will your other, older applications work on that operating system? Do your own research now to prevent unpleasant surprises after your company invests in new computer systems.
Think outside the box. Many design professionals and their IT personnel understand that software upgrades, particularly upgrading from 2D to 3D CAD or taking on demanding design analysis or visualization applications, means you also need to increase computing power. What many don't realize, however, is that simply increasing the memory or processing power of a standard desktop PC isn't necessarily enough. Be sure to work with IT to fully consider the value of upgrading to a professional workstation. Many workstations are certified for specific CAD applications. They can improve throughput as well as decrease down time to such a degree that they often pay for themselves within months of integration -- and many of the latest models start at prices that are comparable to those of standard PCs. Work with your IT contacts to be sure you consider all hardware options, not just the familiar. You'll be more productive and your IT department will spend less time addressing system crashes.
Consider managed services. Here's the gist: Your IT personnel have a lot of things to deal with on a daily basis. Many companies are using managed services to control the workload. Managed services are externally provided operations and management capabilities delivered over a networked infrastructure, using a monthly subscription model or recurring charge. Managed services can be provided for networks, security, databases, servers, storage, and applications. Think of managed services as making your IT personnel's job a little easier, instead of harder. Find out how managed services might fit in with your company's upgrade plans. Automated Windows system updates, CAD licensing services and security patches are good examples of managed services that will keep you focusing on your CAD designs instead of calling your IT personnel about computer problems.
Explaining how technology integrates with your company's business goals will make it easier for your management team to understand your suggestions for upgrade. Once all parties are on the same page, you'll have a much stronger position for advocating for the hardware and software upgrades that can help you do your job better.
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Mark Shaw and James Ecklund are co-owners of Stored Technology Solutions, an IT company that provides and supports hardware and software solutions designed specifically for business. They regularly contribute to Cadalyst's CADspeed blog about hardware for CAD/engineering applications.
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