Implementing new CAD software is often a process often fraught with stress and anxiety. Questions abound, such as, will there be a significant downtime as a result of training users? Will there be a disruption in current workflows? Will users be as productive on the new system as they were on the previous one? And, will the new software provide the ROI that was promised to management to justify its purchase?
All these questions and more pour through the heads of CAD managers during the implementation phase of new software. Managing the implementation and training of new software isn’t easy, but because CAD software is constantly evolving and improving, staying on top of what tools will improve your design process and, in turn, your bottom-line profits, is what separates good CAD managers from their less competent counterparts.
One avenue is to purchase training—either directly through the CAD vendor or through one of its value-added resellers (VARS). Typically classes are offered in a traditional classroom setting or online. Many VARS also offer customized training specific to individual and company needs as well as implementation support. The benefit of purchasing training is that users will get a full understanding of the software capabilities, which will aid in measuring ROI.
Regardless of the training method selected, there are some tactics to help ease the minds of CAD managers, reduce the anxiety of new users and cut down on the disruption to current workflows caused by new software deployments. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Assemble a team of “test pilots.” These are your users who are fearless when it comes to new technology; are unafraid of the likely crashes and mistakes common to new software deployments; possess strong communication skills so they can clearly articulate issues to others; and have the ability to remain calm under pressure. These might not be your traditional “power” CAD users, but they should be the ones who get the most stoked about new software. You know the type.
Letting these users put new software through its paces under controlled test conditions enables teams to fairly evaluate new CAD software, find problem areas, and resolve them before releasing the software to the general user population for training. It also controls the disruption causes when these inevitable “problems” rear their ugly heads since the software is not yet in full production mode.
Choose the test project carefully. Since you’re still wading into unknown waters, don’t test new software on important projects. Though you want to see how the software will perform in real-world situations, you also want to mitigate the risk by choosing projects that are not high priority.
Issues such as data corruption, version conflicts, and any number of other unforeseen problems should be expected so don’t stress these test pilots by picking high-priority projects. If you are trying out new software on such a project, be sure and have your test software configured in such a way that they can go back to using the old CAD tools, if necessary.
Rally the troops. Probably one of the more important things a CAD manager can do prior to rolling out new software—once they’ve sold management on the idea of buying it in the first place—is to get the users excited about the new software. After all, better functionality in their CAD tools should make their job easier.
By assembling a group of users to test drive new software, other engineers will naturally be curious about what type of new functionality this new software offers. Getting these other users thinking about new CAD tools puts CAD managers one step closer to getting users geared up for the required training that will get them up and running using the new tools faster.
Take note of lessons learned. What you discover during this test phase of new software implementation will be incredibly valuable as you roll out the new CAD tool into full production mode. Your team of test pilots will have learned valuable lessons and these will be very helpful when training the rest of your users.