Approach Disruptive Technologies with Caution

22 May, 2013 By: Robert Green

Upgrading an operating system or running software from the cloud won't automatically make for better designs — and it might cause trouble.

Software as a Service (SAAS)

For the past 15 years, I've been listening to software companies say all our software will be deployed via the Internet, with no more software on our computers, yet I've seen remarkably little movement in that direction. While some CAD tools could logically run in this manner (infrequently used rendering or analysis software, for example), all users I know want software to:

  • Run as fast as possible;
  • Have customizable desktops (menus, toolbars, etc.); and
  • Work even when the Internet is down.

All these desires are diametrically opposed to a centralized Internet-based tool that will always be subject to Internet speeds, is non-customizable, and will never, ever work when the Internet is down. Adding to all these issues is the fact that software you install on your own machines will continue to run for years, even if you cut off your software subscriptions or the software vendor goes out of business.

Advice: Think very, very carefully before moving toward a SAAS solution, and make sure you understand all the costs and risks of doing so. If you decide that you really need to share software, consider installing it on a shared machine inside your network firewall rather than the public-domain Internet.

What Does It All Mean?

Consider the following hypothetical nightmare scenario:

Starting tomorrow, you'll be expected to switch all users over to Windows 8; transition to an externally hosted, cloud-based version of your CAD software; and allow your workers to use cloud-based file storage in any way they see fit.

Now ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much Windows 8 training will I have to provide?
  • How will I configure all my customization to work with Internet-based CAD?
  • How will our Internet speed impact software performance?
  • With so many cloud directories in use, how will I ever know where the latest versions of my files are?

I bet you don't like the answers. But even more important are the following questions:

  • How does this technology help us design better buildings or products?
  • How does this technology help us standardize or improve our design processes?

My answer is: It may not — and it probably won't! Simply upgrading an operating system or running software from the cloud doesn't make our designs better, and the anarchy that cloud file storage brings can be counterproductive to our processes.

What to Do Now

The first duty of the CAD manager is to make sure work gets done, files are maintained and secured, and productivity is maximized. In a world of new operating systems, filing anarchy, and unmanaged Internet tools, the CAD manager must serve as a voice of caution that puts the brakes on any new technology that disrupts the workflow rather than enhancing it.

The savvy CAD manager will continue to explore new technologies — including the disruptive ones — but must make sound decisions that address the entire company's financial and workflow requirements.

Summing Up

I don't like being in the position of putting the brakes on new technology, but I believe it is critically important to know exactly how these technologies will impact the company before implementing them.

Do you agree? How are you dealing with these disruptive new technologies? Drop me an e-mail and let the discussion begin.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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