Software Implementation and Training Tips

13 Mar, 2007 By: Robert Green

Preparation prior to a software upgrade ensures a successful installation.

I had intended to go over some of the new AutoCAD 2008-based product features in this edition to time it with the software's impending release. However, as I looked through my email I noticed that a lot of the questions I'm getting aren't so much about a specific software package as they are about how to go about training for new software releases in general.

Therefore, I'm putting the AutoCAD 2008 product discussion on hold for an issue to present some tips I think are valuable for all CAD managers implementing new software no matter what the software title is. Here goes.

Identify, Demonstrate and Document

These steps must be taken before you install new software so you have a clear idea of what features you want to take advantage of (that's the identify part). Then you can show the features to the key players you'll need support from (that's the demo part), and finally, you can document the interest of the key parties to build support for adopting new software features (that's the document part).

CAD managers usually do a good job on the identifying part of the process and a decent job at demonstrating, while often ignoring the documentation part entirely. Yet each phase of the process is crucial because it identifies which new features are important while it builds political support among the upper management team, which you'll need anyway before you can proceed. If you undertake this step correctly, you're much more likely to have management's support during implementation and to get funding approval for training.

Teach the Right Stuff

Once you've received approval to upgrade your software, you need to develop a list of training objectives and prioritize them. So how do you know what topics to train users on, and how do you prioritize those topics?

The first place to look is at the list of prioritized features you compiled during the identify, demo and document phases. You know what features will be stressed the most in the new release, and you should focus your training efforts on those features.

The second place to look for training topics is in your email inbox. Search through your emails and identify what sorts of questions you've been asked in the past and make sure to add those topics to training for upgrades as well. For example: If the number-one user question you receive is how to use your company's xref standards, then a tutorial on the proper use of xrefs should be included in your upgrade training, even if that particular function hasn't changed in the new release.

Delivering training based on what people need to know and what they're having trouble with targets your training to achieve maximum results. And believe me when I say that's what your senior management wants to see from new software!

Include Standards When You Train

Whenever you perform any sort of training, you can best emphasize concepts by relating examples in your training program to their use in your actual operating environment. One powerful way to do this is to demonstrate your use of standards in all training exercises. Here are a few examples you can use:

  • If you're showing users how to properly attach, scale and xclip an external reference in AutoCAD, make note of your company standards and use an actual xref that users would see in their daily routine.
  • If you have custom programs in your CAD environment that your staff can use to set up standards, demonstrate those frequently in training exercises.
  • If you invoke standards via start-up files or automated configurations, point them out at the beginning of your training exercises.
  • In all cases take a few minutes to explain why standards are important, and solicit user questions about standards.

The end result should be that users know the right way to do things (via standards), why it is important to do things the right way and how you're helping them. Admittedly, including standards processes in your training increases the amount of time you need to spend preparing, but it will be well worth it when you achieve spectacular results.

Fix Processes or Standards When Required

If your list of training topics or classroom experience indicates that the number-one cause of confusion in your company is the inability to comprehend standards, it may be time to examine your standards. Simply put, if it is hard for you to train people on how to use a feature, imagine how hard it will be for users to learn it.

You may find that embarking on a training program will provide you with a great opportunity to update and tweak company standards and procedures. Your training program is supposed to raise user productivity and cause minimal intrusion on work schedules; therefore, everyone involved should support your desire to simplify work processes via training.

Preparation is Rewarded

I've long believed that the preparation I do prior to a software upgrade (or for any new software installation) and the training I deliver are at least as important as the work I do during the installation. By being well prepared and training users in the right areas, you should find that the actual implementation goes more smoothly, management is happier and users achieve full productivity faster. So if you're anticipating an upgrade in the next few months, why not take time to make a checklist, map out the process using some of the tips I've outlined and prepare for the event.

In the next edition of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll discuss the AutoCAD 2008 products and outline some of the unique capabilities and management issues I think CAD managers should be aware of. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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