Change Happens

11 Nov, 2014 By: Robert Green

Change is inevitable, so how can you make it easier to manage?


Standardizing your software configurations and usage procedures is something that all CAD managers must do, but they occur in sporadic bursts of activity and are followed by periods of stability (thus the medium blue value on the chart). However, creating new standards typically requires reactions to process changes in the environment (thus the medium red value on the chart). The process of standardizing CAD is one that does require thought and work to get right.

The conclusions I've drawn regarding standardization include:

  • Standardization correlates well with training — if you don't teach users the standards, how will they ever use them effectively?
  • Standardization tends to follow software updates.
  • Standardization is often used to fix repetitive software and process errors.
  • If you want to fix things, keep them fixed, and run with optimal efficiency, then standardization is key.

Action Item: Build in the time you need when updating software or fixing errors to update your standards accordingly. Failure to do so will only lead to more errors and confusion in the future.

User Software and Hardware Support

User software support is always in demand yet doesn't really require process change unless there's a software update (thus the high blue and low red values on the chart). Providing great user support really comes down to the following:

  • Find the optimal way for users to contact you for support.
  • Figure out how to prioritize support requests (based on urgency).
  • Find the best way to reply to in-house and remote workers (in-person visit, remote login, etc.).

Action Item: You'll be in good shape for the long haul once you get your user support methodologies in place and become comfortable with them because the process doesn't really change much over time.

Project Management

Project management — like training — requires ongoing effort and so is needed more frequently (thus the high blue value on the chart). The good news is that it doesn't require as much process change because interacting with project management staff tends to stay the same (which explains the low red value on the chart). To the extent that I have to become involved with project management teams, the following issues tend to recur:

  • Solving technical issues that delay projects becomes paramount.
  • Dealing with new software features and the user comprehension of those features are crucial for proper project execution.
  • Getting tasks done in the least amount of time possible is always desired.

What jumps off the page when I read through these project management requirements is just how closely related they are to the CAD management tasks of training, standardizing, and support. In a very real sense, your ability to manage projects will be determined by how effective you are at optimizing the user experience in these three areas.

Action Item: Know your CAD tools, standardize them, train and support your users, and many project management issues will take care of themselves.

Back to Software Updates

Looking back at the radar chart shows that the software update is the task that has the highest degree of change of all tasks we CAD managers can ever undertake. But, as I've examined what makes a software update so daunting and why, I've come to realize that I can greatly mitigate the problems by doing the following:

  • Understand the software, so I can more effectively train users.
  • Standardize the software so it runs better and allows me to include standards within training.
  • Use support procedures I already have in place to make the transition support less painful for myself and users.
  • If I keep current project management metrics in place and working as I roll out the software update, project timelines stay on track and efficiency is maximized.

I've reached the following inescapable conclusions:

  • The better I perform the tasks that have lower degrees of change (training and support), the more smoothly I'll be able to manage tasks that have the highest degree of change (software updates and standardization) — because training and support are integral to making change stick.
  • The tasks I spend the most time on (training, support, and project management) actually have a fairly low degree of change, so I don't have to worry too much about them other than finding the time to do them.
  • Standardization helps me make software updates easy to train, support, and manage.

Action Item: Think about the tasks you perform and create your own radar or bar chart and make some firm decisions on which tasks to focus on for the easiest change management in your environment.

Summing Up

In conclusion, I'll sum it up in my own quote:

The more software changes, the more the things that don't change such as training, user support, and project management, will help you manage it all.

I hope this analysis of how to manage change in your CAD environment has made you think about how you prioritize your CAD management duties. I think you'll find that the more you think through the scenarios I've outlined, the more you'll prioritize your efforts in a way that helps you navigate change more effectively. And, please share with me how you prioritize your CAD management duties to meet the challenge of change at

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: Change Happens
by: Neil Norberg
November 12, 2014 - 6:21pm
Consider plugging in the issue of production workflows. New features often brings better ways to manage and produce CAD data. The new workflows need to be designed, tested, trained, documented as the new standard to add to project management.

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