The Dirty Little Secret - What Are We Doing?

Tags template, Style, CAD Standards, LDT, implementation, training, customization

This last week before the 4th of July weekend, I had a discussion about Civil 3D template building and a large mid-sized civil engineer with some folks doing work for the company. I honestly hope this short and painfully true story isn't about you. But it might be. The secret at its center is More common than you know.

The dirty little secret also gives AutoCAD Civil 3D a bad rap. I don't like that much. What do you think? I'd really like to hear...

The Solution is The Problem

The organization is a good-sized, well-established, regional firm with multiple offices spread out all over the country. Technically, they have AutoCAD Civil 3D in place and installed in every office. They were/are more than competent at employing Land Desktop and AutoCAD. They "sort of" use Civil 3D, but "to date" almost all projects end up back in AutoCAD/LDT when push comes to shove. Naked Civil 3D - Ouch.

Most staff are learning AutoCAD Civil 3D 2010-2011 the hard way by trial and error after a short three-day training course delivered some time before they personally had the software to use. At this point, all staff are still using the default Civil 3D "example" templates on projects. Naked Civil 3D - Ouch. 

That Isn't the Worst of It

"Everyone" told them they HAVE to have "their own template" to "really" use Civil 3D. Three skilled people spent a YEAR (that I know of) building the company's official template. No one with an active project doing work in Civil 3D has seen a version of the "template" yet. There was a potential 2010 template, but then 2011 came along and got installed. People have been told the 2011 one will be out REAL SOON NOW. However, they may decide to roll out Civil 3D 2012 first. Then the template might "take a little while longer". More Naked Civil 3D - Ouch.

Some Jump In

One of their CAD managers in a "remote" office bumped into the Jump on the web well over a year ago now. He had good reason to go looking.  They were one of the offices that got new 64-bit hardware with Windows 7 that year. They were to be a "pilot" Civil 3D rollout location for the company. Good news and bad news.
Corporate InfoSys had a real problem getting their old LDTs to work on the "new stuff" at first so they only got Civil 3D 2010 when their workstations were upgraded. Basically, the staff in the office had to sink or swim in Civil 3D 2010 without much notice. Again More Naked Civil 3D - Ouch.

The Civil 3D experts back at corporate said, "Sorry. Unfortunately our 2010 template is not quite done yet." Ouch.

The CAD Manager downloads the Free Jump takes a peek and calls me and asks if InstantOn Basic will solve their problem.

"We just need something to use for a little while."

I explained it will be a bit of pain to restyle the project drawings when the corporate template is ready, but the IOB templates will make Civil 3D work. If you have to make a few changes these are easy to track. Just follow the published Simple Style Rules on the cheat sheet and you should be More than OK. The office happily buys IOB, installs it, and Gets to Work.

What a Success Story! Right?

Not. The three experts at corporate hear about this emergency deal about a month later. One of them also downloads the Free Jump to make sure everything will be OK from their end.

As far as I know none of them actually do a complete install or read the documentation at all. I even pinged them, but they never called or emailed back.

They do discover that the IOB templates are STB (named plotstyle) templates when they open one of the example Jump templates from the unzipped download. As best a anyone can tell, this may be all they ever did.

Find a Problem Create a Problem

"Stop. You have to uninstall that stuff. The company templates are CTB based. You can't use STB. You cannot use those templates."

Since I'd already had the STB to CTB conversion conversation with the office CAD Manager he was ready for that,
"We can convert the drawings to CTB anytime if we have to."

"Nope. That's a waste of time and company man-hours. Don't use the stuff anymore. Our template will be ready in a month."

That dialog occurred a Year Ago last December. The office continued to use the RAW unmodified IOB templates. They were mostly pretty happy they had them even though staff thought there was a lot of stuff in them they didn't need. They even got a project out and plotted with them. Surprise! Most staff even liked the "STB thing" after all.

Word Gets Around

Then staff from another office heard about the finished project and asked the question staff to staff,
"Where did you get those templates?"
Then staff at that other office asked corporate if they could use "those templates that work" too.

OMG

The Managing Principal of the office (who'd approved the continued use) and the CAD Manager (who didn't uninstall the Jump) both were asked to leave in part for "not complying with company standards". I was told the Jump probably wasn't the only reason for the parting of ways, but Ouch.

Let's Count the Cost

The company template creation process has taken at least 2 years and now will cross three full releases of AutoCAD Civil 3D. This is the real world.

My best guess is this company has conservatively spent upwards of $100K on potential template development. 

As yet the company experts still have yet to roll out anything to all the offices for even for testing - never mind actual production use. They were apparently becoming experts along the way. That's somewhat understandable but maybe pretty silly financially.  
It sort of befuddles me about the testing since field testing and evaluation is where it's really at. If THEY can't use it, it needs fixing. If staff don't need it, remove it. Better yet don't built it at all. I hope I'm just a bit misinformed, but I got that information from the staff on the street. Ouch.

This best guess number is staggering. They are now so deep into the boondoggle they HAVE to succeed or more heads will roll.

Like I said in my AUGI World Civil 3D Implementation article, it is way too easy to get trapped thinking Civil 3D implementation is an EVENT. 
Implementation must be a structured process. We simply cannot control all the many factors that affect us. For example: Autodesk might not release an Update or a Hot Fix we need for months.

I personally hope this organization's Civil 3D "company template" rolls out as the best ever in the world. I'd like to see it. I probably never will. Someone would be afraid I'd "steal it".  Given the investment put in, it probably has to be protected with patents, copywrites, or something. 

"What do you mean we can't really protect any Styles in Civil 3D?"

Excuse me if I also remind us all that software customization expenses are an accounting illusion - they create precieved value not actual value unless they are AT work in production.

Real project work is what design engineering organizations get paid for. 

Meanwhile, staff in multiple offices don't think much of raw Civil 3D and find it hard to use. This gives Civil 3D a bad rap. It is such a waste of human energy and creativity. As they say it's all because,
"We have to make everything from scratch in the templates we have to use. By the way, do you have a metric template or maybe one for our state DOT? That would really help on my current project."

"You're using the Jump templates?"

"Errr...not exactly. Not officially anyway."

I just have to point out that if these three smart guys had just rolled out the Jump and started tweaking it by now they would be mostly be reaping praise not listening to complaints.
They did NOT have to reinvent the wheel. They chose to.
Maybe even some of their fellow workers could have made their lives and work much easier too.

Ah, but then it wouldn't have been THEIR templates which is a significant part of what's apparently going on.

If that's your dirty little secret too, it's ok. I get it. It's easy to attach personal value to things especially the work were do. We all do it. I do it too. I fight this same thing every day. But we cannot let our weaker human nature condemn us and others to this sort of selfish and short-sighted madness.

If you've digging away in a customization ditch, we can help. 
The Jump can take yours and quickly make it More.  

1 Can Be Less than 0
or
1+ 1 Can be More than 2 

You can save a bundle and a whole bunch of headache and expense by employing The Jump Platform.

We don't call it "A Higher Standard to Build On" without reason.

InstantOn Basic is Ready to Run and The Jump Kit offers More personalization capability than you will probably ever use. The 2011 versions even run in 2012.
Naw. It isn't exactly all yours, but we won't tell anyone either. The Jump even sucks up your partial customization work ByDesign. That's a fact because that Makes More Sense.

That's amazing and maybe even a bit unbelievable until you decide to Jump.

Personalize Don't Customize...
Get the Jump and Get to Work