In my 25+ years of attending engineering software user conferences, there is one consistent theme whenever users gather: how to gain “buy-in” from colleagues or employees for a major software upgrade or new product. Over time I have observed how the ability to embrace change varies with the nature of the new endeavor.
It seems to be easier to get users to embrace specific, individual productivity features than to get a group of users to adopt new workflow methods that affect the team. I credit this to instant gratification. If you now use five clicks and two key-ins to modify an existing door (or weldment or whatever), and I can show you how to do it in two clicks and one key-in, you can immediately put that to work. It is a small bit of learning with a quick reward.
Compare learning one new CAD command to learning how to use a new engineering document management system like Synergis Adept. It doesn’t matter whether you are upgrading from a vaulting system or from using shared hard drives, there is a considerable amount of workgroup change taking place. There is less opportunity for instant gratification. The benefits of using the new EDMS are more about workflow and department processes, and less about clever little techniques.
CAD managers are usually the ones called upon to introduce new workflow solutions like Adept. After years of teaching people tips and tricks, the challenge of teaching a team how to use EDMS may seem daunting. That’s why there is nothing like getting some expert advice.
At the 2016 Adept Experience conference in October, one such expert shared his insights. Robert Green has provided CAD management consulting, training, and related services since 1991. He is perhaps best known for his long series of articles in Cadalyst Magazine, The CAD Manager’s Newsletter. He is also the author of “Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide.”
Green often writes and talks about the keys for effective team leadership among CAD users. The ultimate goal is, as always, to give senior management what it wants. Green says you please senior management when you provide three essential resources:
- Support, so current projects are completed on time and with high quality;
- Leadership, to help users grow in productivity and efficiency over time;
- Guidance, as the company adopts new software, hardware, and work method.
In his Adept user conference presentation, Green began by proclaiming, “Document management and workflow automation problems are psychological not technological!” He went on to describe how engineering teams can be guided systematically into greater levels of team productivity, using a pyramid analogy. The base is Security and Search, the two easiest things about Adept to appreciate and understand. (To which I would add, Search has the ability to provide the instant gratification moment for positive reinforcement.) One level up from the base of the pyramid is Workflow. “Stress that consistency makes work easier,” said Green, noting the need to deal head-on with the “extreme power of human laziness.” When Workflow is establish, the next level up on the pyramid is CAD and Editing. Learning to use EDMS and CAD as an integrated system will help each user understand the ultimate goal — the capstone of the pyramid — Collaboration and Integration.
Understanding how to guide team productivity using the pyramid analogy was just one of the many insights from Robert Green’s presentation. It was a highlight of the recent Adept user conference. If you missed it, you can still listen; the presentation (now available in two parts) is on our website.
Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985.