Now that Autodesk has moved to a subscription business model, you can automatically get your shiny new version of AutoCAD on demand from the cloud. (No, not those clouds, THAT cloud–where have you been?). That then leaves you, as the CAD manager or administrator for a mature medium enterprise (MME) company, in a position where you have to decide whether the time and hassle it takes to upgrade to the newest version is worth the new feature set.
I know that when you’re CAD manager in a medium-sized, successful practice, you are exactly that, THE CAD manager, by way of title and job role. This gives you the scope to follow through with what needs to be done; both operationally and at a management level, unlike working for an SME where “manager” is just another duty to be added to your to-do list that week.
So, knowing all that, are you nervous about that AutoCAD upgrade?
As a CAD manager for an MME (which I’ve experienced–see my Autodesk article “A Day in the Life of a CAD Manager”), you can be a little less nervous about the AutoCAD upgrade path. You tend to have a job code to charge upgrades to, and you probably have the commitment of higher management towards upgrading software as well. Therefore, you have buy-in, but here’s the rub: you now must install maybe twenty AutoCAD upgrades instead of the two or three you’d need to install if you were working in an SME. What do you do? Here’s a simple idea that I often implemented with medium to large installs of AutoCAD.
Utilize the NETWORK licensing model (assuming that you’re using a client/server environment), and install the licenses on the server. This uses the Network License Manager (NLM) provided by Autodesk.
Build your network license image and install per workstation, pulling the license from the server for each install.
Providing that you have set everything up using the appropriate Autodesk NLM tools, this procedure is painless and quick, and allows you to get users up and running with efficiency and speed (thus reducing downtime), and allows users to get on to the new version of their software fast.
Also, don’t forget you have the tools Autodesk provides you with, too: the Download Manager and the Autodesk Desktop App will help tremendously when installing a reasonable amount of AutoCAD upgrades. All you have to do is log in to your Autodesk software management page at http://manage.autodesk.com and select the version you want to install. Then, using the Download Manager, the serial number, and product key provided, run the install. It runs in the background–no disks, no USB sticks–and once it’s done, it’s done. No mess, no fuss. You just need to ensure that no other versions of AutoCAD are running (and make sure that Microsoft Outlook isn’t running) and as we say in England, Bob’s your uncle (translation = it’s done!). You can even run more than one version of the software if you need to, and the Autodesk Desktop App provides simple and clear migration options from one version to a newer one.
What about training though?
Being an MME, there is usually a budget for training, and classroom training is often an option, or perhaps invite a trainer to come onsite. This means that you can consider sending key AutoCAD staff for training on the new features of the new version of the software, allowing you to be (at least a little) less nervous knowing your team will be able to use the new version. Again, though, cloud based/online training can also be considered for a busy CAD department.
Not only does Autodesk provide their own New Features material on the Autodesk website and in the product itself, but so do cloud-based training providers, such as Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning. Simply search on their site using keywords such as “AutoCAD” and “new features”. There are many other online training providers too, so find the best choice for you. Better yet, find out if they offer a Learning Management System (LMS) where you can monitor learning progress (for you and your colleagues) to ensure that the entire syllabus is covered in each cloud-based course. This is a great method of ensuring that all staff complete their training and are fully aware of the new features in AutoCAD, and have the knowledge and expertise to utilize those features.
Managing AutoCAD upgrades in an MME, whilst perhaps less stressful than in a smaller environment, brings with it its own set of stresses and strains. As the CAD manager, the buck stops with you and the upgrade responsibility is yours and yours alone. Be methodical, plan your upgrade. Set up the upgrade plan to take account of both existing and impending work. Sometimes there is a bit of downtime between larger projects as the necessary admin is done. Use that time to implement the AutoCAD upgrade, so that you’re ready to put that stick in the sand and start a new project using the new version of AutoCAD.
There is no defined upgrade method. No textbook option. Simply use what you have and what Autodesk provide and take your time. Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep an eye on the bigger picture. You are the CAD manager, after all!