Page T1.1 . 30 April 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Tools Department
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Upgrade or Switch?

by Arleen Boyd and Kristine Fallon, FAIA

When the top managers of architecture, engineering, and construction firms make decisions about computer technology initiatives, they have the potential to select affordable systems that will support business goals. But if they lack technical expertise, they need to engage in a creative discussion with their staff, staying focused on business requirements rather than implementation details. These are some of the issues to consider. Editor

When an AEC firm considers whether to switch to a different software product, the path of least resistance is usually to stick with the established software. Switching products requires buying new software licenses.

In addition, a product change requires a training effort and, if you want to bring existing documents forward, some data translation or manipulation. A drop in productivity should be expected while the staff climbs the learning curve of the new tool. Hopping from product to product makes it extremely difficult to achieve return on your software investment.

However, many vendor-driven upgrades impose similar burdens: the upgrade fee is high; the retraining effort is measured in days or weeks, not hours; and your information technology (IT) staff has to rewrite automated procedures and customizations.

The CAD for Principals study found that CAD upgrades cause many problems. Comments included, "I used to feel comfortable drawing on the computer but I don't anymore. The user interface is not intuitive and it is constantly changing." And: "We spend significant amounts of time learning and relearning, rather than doing."   >>>

This article is excerpted from Leading the Digital Practice: The A/E/C Firm Manager's Guide to Information Technology by Arleen Boyd and Kristine Fallon, FAIA, with permission of the publisher, PSMJ, Resources, Inc.

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Senior AEC firm leaders, even those without technical expertise, must often make complicated technology decisions.
Image: PSMJ

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Key questions to help distinguish software upgrades from new products.
Image: PSMJ


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