Historically, Autodesk releases a new version of AutoCAD each year and an update in between. Depending on your firm’s size, its number of offices, and other firm-specific factors, you’ll likely choose to plan your next upgrade around one of these events.
Of course, in many ways, the decision to upgrade is the easy part. The more difficult question is how to successfully upgrade your firm to a new AutoCAD version as a CAD manager?
In my experience as The CAD Geek and CAD manager at Timmons Group, software upgrades are most often unsuccessful for one of two reasons. Either the upgrade was completed without a plan, or the project plan did not recognize what makes your firm unique.
Identifying what makes your firm unique is an underlying objective to performing an AutoCAD process assessment of your firm. If you’d like to learn more about conducting an AutoCAD process assessment at your firm, check out my four-part series on the topic here on the AutoCAD blog.
You’ll undoubtedly identify what makes your firm unique (plus lots more) through that assessment process, but how do we translate that to planning a successful upgrade?
We ask questions. Lots of questions.
Among those questions, the ten I most commonly start with are as follows:
Question 1: Why are you upgrading?
This may seem like a question so simple it’s not worth your time. Although it may seem that way, it’s almost certain someone will ask it during your upgrade project.
In my experience, a firm’s management/leadership most often asks this question. While you probably know the technical reasons your upgrading without thinking about it, what are the business reasons for upgrading?
Have that answer ready for when you’re talking with management/leadership about your AutoCAD upgrade.
Question 2: What stakeholders are necessary for the upgrade to be successful?
Corporate software upgrades shouldn’t happen in a vacuum. To be successful, you’ll need to rely upon others along the way. Who are they? From IT staff helping with back-office tasks to advisors from project teams, identify your tribe as early as possible.
Question 3: How did your last upgrade go? What could be improved?
Before beginning your next AutoCAD upgrade, understand both the good and bad from your last upgrade. These lessons are invaluable for informing so many of the decisions you’ll make during this upgrade project.
Question 4: What’s inside your current AutoCAD deployment? Is it documented?
From decade-old LISPs that are now a command to plot style tables and linetypes for clients you haven’t worked with in years, there is a good chance your current AutoCAD deployment has some degree of technical debt. Now is the time to get rid of that debt. Document what you have today, and spend the time identifying what you truly need after upgrading.
Question 5: When do you want your staff up and running on the new version of the software?
Do you plan to upgrade as soon as Autodesk releases the next version of AutoCAD or sometime later? Identify the upgrade date that works best for your firm and work back from there when building your project timeline.
Question 6: What risks stand in the way of achieving your targeted upgrade date?
Chances are more is happening in your firm than an AutoCAD upgrade. What are those things? Take your time to know what major project deadlines/submittals or significant IT projects like implementing/upgrading an ERP system might be on the horizon.
Question 7: What resources are needed to complete the upgrade?
Additionally, it’s not uncommon for upgrades to require better hardware or IT infrastructure than you have today. What gaps exist between what you need and what you have? If half of your production machines are below the minimum system requirements of the new version, you’ll likely want to delay your upgrade until you can refresh those machines.
Question 8: How will you train/upskill your team to best leverage the new release?
Every version of AutoCAD brings with it new features and enhancements. How will you inform and train your team on these new features? Your choices here are virtually endless. From YouTube videos to instructor-led training and even online training providers like LinkedIn Learning, CADLearning, Global eTraining (among others), choose the method that best aligns with your team.
Question 9: What is your upgrade communication strategy?
Let’s be honest. Upgrades can take some time and effort—and not everyone may be as excited as you are about it. But you can absolutely get ahead of upgrade objections with a solid communication plan. How will you inform leadership & management of the upgrade? How will that communication strategy vary from how you inform your production teams of the upgrade?
Question 10: How will you install, deploy, and configure the software?
For installations larger than a couple of machines, deployments offer many benefits to CAD managers. Much of this benefit relates to ensuring all AutoCAD installations in your firm not only match but are also configured the same.
In this way, do you need to install multiple Autodesk products for your team? If so, you’ll likely want to use the Autodesk Account site to create a custom multi-product deployment. Additionally, an AutoCAD profile will allow you to ensure everyone’s support paths match across the firm. Finally, depending on the size of your firm, SCCM could be critical for you.
Whatever combination you determine for your firm, establish it early, so you have time to test before deploying to your entire firm at once.