Convincing Management to Upgrade

Brian Benton of CAD-a-Blog recently commented on my last post Engineered Efficiency offers Unlimited Live Training, telling a story I hear all too often. Let me summarize; in short his firm upgraded to Civil 3D 2007 a couple years ago, but aren’t using Civil 3D – instead they’re running “Civil 3D as AutoCAD”. Doing that is like buying a BlackBerry, and ignoring the all powerful e-mail abilities of the device. Consequently the kneejerk reaction is nothing less than – what are you thinking?

There’s no two ways to say this, other than the economy is nowhere near what it was just a year ago. Companies are looking for ways to save money and streamline workflows. As CAD Managers we look at inefficiencies in workflows and solve them with technology. CEO’s and COO’s will oftentimes look at the same inefficiencies and solve them with staffing/manpower. But why this separation?

The Players

Let’s start by taking a look at your typical CAD Manager. Not only do they feel comfortable with technology – they embrace it. Their comfort zone quite simply rests in technology, and this is where they have built the foundation of their career.

Now let’s shift your attention to what makes a great CEO/COO. The most valuable skill such individuals possess is their unparalleled interpersonal skills. They are able to network and create a strong rapport with key business contacts, which then affords the firm golden opportunities to land that next big project. More importantly managers are very analytical and want (need) to quantify things.

For a business manager – risk is ok so long as it’s a calculated risk. Given the current economic forecast, managers are especially sensitive to things like % utilization (billable). Consequently progressive thinking has been replaced with a safer and more conservative rationale. For a manager whose strongest skill are people, what’s safer – people or technology?

Dealing With Failure

What do you do with an employee with repeatedly fails to meet the expectations of their job? It’s an unfortunate side of doing business, but at some point you let them go.

Now consider a piece of software which has cost your company thousands to purchase and hundreds if not thousands more to train a workforce to use. What do you do if like that underachieving employee, that piece of software underachieves? Unlike an underachieving employee, it’s much harder to let a piece of software go and shift an entire workforce to yet another piece of software.

This is a fact business managers know all too well. They’d rather use what works today rather than take the risk on something that might work tomorrow. For that reason, your job as a CAD Manager has to shift away from a dog & pony show focused on new features, and onto quantitative figures which will prove a calculated fact like Civil 3D will save your firm money. Building such a calculated portfolio of reasons to upgrade is the very reason why implementation formalities are actually implementation necessities.

Making a Bulletproof Pitch

If I had to identify the single most important piece to a successful Civil 3D implementation it would be a properly executed pilot project. A successful pilot project will achieve more than the breath of this post.  However, as a CAD Manager that pilot project will allow you to open meaningful dialog with your users about topics such as styles. More important to this discussion is the message you will be able to deliver to management. Will you deliver a speculative numbers to management or numbers from the here and now of your firm?

Speculative numbers are what the early adopters of Civil 3D banked on, and in my own opinion have won on. Firms looking to migrate to a product such as Civil 3D today need not deliver speculative numbers to management, but rather hard numbers from the here and now of your firm. Such numbers are going to help prove to management that a Civil 3D migration can be seen as a calculated risk, and subsequently one your firm is willing to stomach.

Donnie Gladfelter
Donnie Gladfelter

Donnie is author of the book and Autodesk Official Press, AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required, a columnist for AUGIWorld Magazine, Autodesk University speaker, and former member of the AUGI Board of Directors.


  1. @ Michael – I’ll be honest parts of me embraces the yearly release cycle, other parts of me wishes they would go back to the old way. Being a long-time AutoCAD user you can certainly appreciate the number of variables that can contribute to a crash. That said, I always start by first making sure my machine is up to the minimum specs (preferably beyond the min specs), I have the latest service pack, and also that my DWG’s are error free.

    Autodesk did recently update the way the crash reports are handled. be sure to enter your e-mail address, and Autodesk will e-mail you when a solution comes available. Also don’t be afraid to take advantage of the support that comes with subscription.

    In my experience the .NET migration has been a blessing not a curse. I use Civil 3D, and I know the stuff scripted in non .NET code is cludgy at best. Finally I’m not sure what operating system you are using, but when it comes to .NET code, I find it runs faster on Vista than it does XP.

  2. I just saw your blog while looking up ‘CAD Standards’ for re-working our firm’s basic set.

    We just ‘upgraded’ to Architecture 2009 and it’s a complete piece of junk. It’s unstable (crashed on me six times within the first two weeks of use) and they have gone the route of Microsoft in general in adding half-baked features instead of focusing on trimming the already bloated 2gig program and speeding up it’s processes.

    In general I think their use of .NET has hurt them greatly. Most of the larger programs I’ve used that use this framework have been at best slow, but most have been unstable and buggy.

    After being a loyal Autodesk user for the past 15 years, I have heavily begun to think about switching, or in the least ‘downgrading’ my home products. Each successive product I’ve had has seemed to get worse and worse since about 2002.

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