Planning for an implementation review

Once the implementation appears to have matured (some 12 to 18 months after the system was installed), it is time to look back at the original goals and requirements of CAD/CAM/CAE and assess how the current CAD/CAM/CAE implementation measures up against them. It is now time to review the CAD/CAM/CAE system, its performance within the engineering department, and its integration with other systems and departments. The CAD/CAM/CAE learning curve has been climbed, and the experience gained must be used to ensure that future work is run on the best possible lines. Objectives must be reset, effort redirected, and new projects allowed for.

An implementation review is a significant task in itself. A large number of people will have to be involved, and the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager will have a great deal of collating, writing, and project planning to do. It follows that the task should be properly planned, with a sufficient amount of time allocated to it, and should be carried out with the full involvement of those involved.

The framework of the review should be carefully considered and documented and the entire exercise should be recorded, in the knowledge that it will be repeated in a year and once a year every year thereafter. The CAD/CAM/CAE implementation will evolve over many years, so it is logical to review and audit the implementation regularly in order to be sure that progress and direction are optimized.

Even without any growth in the power and scope of the CAD/CAM/CAE system, the review is still necessary to react to the effects of time. The system may be static, but its users, managers, and interfaces with the company are dynamic, and the company itself is in a changing environment.

There are three basic principles to be followed in an implementation review: look wide, look up, and be honest. The basic choice of reviewer is between the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager and an external CAD/CAM/CAE specialist. Some CAD/CAM/CAE Managers can successfully carry out such a review, others cannot. If the review is to be successful, the person responsible for carrying it out must take an independent viewpoint and ensure that this independence is maintained throughout the whole exercise. The reviewer must be able to see the system as if for the first time, and be able to find out by questioning others how the system behaves, is used, should be used, and could be used. This may be difficult for the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager.

It is important that the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager feels able to apply this impartiality before going ahead with the task of leading the review. The person responsible for carrying out the review must not be afraid of making severe judgments about the history of the system. The CAD/CAM/CAE Manager's own work may need to be questioned, and the conclusion may be that it could be significantly improved in the future.

The CAD/CAM/CAE Manager's immediate superior may be able to assist with the maintenance of impartiality by monitoring the review, but if it is felt that the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager cannot be sufficiently impartial, consideration should be given to bringing in outside assistance in order that the review actually produce the worthwhile and necessary results that are required.

Another factor that may influence the choice of reviewer is the profile of the CAD/CAM/CAE implementation within the company. Providing that the implementation has been successful, and has been seen as such within the company, then a review led by the CAD/CAM/CAE Manager may be sufficient to reaffirm and redirect project control. If, however, it is felt that more could have been achieved with the system, or even that it has turned out to hold back rather than encourage progress within the company, the review should become a full audit and would be better carried out with the aid of an independent expert or consultant.

Finally, it should be remembered that one of the fundamental reasons for carrying out a review of the implementation is to reassert business control. Top managers will have lost interest in the implementation after trying to give guidance and finding the problems beyond their understanding. The CAD/CAM/CAE Manager will thus have been managing the implementation alone and will have been able to apply little strategic or business-wide direction to CAD/CAM/CAE. A consultant-led review is beneficial if the strategic issues surrounding the system are of major importance, since it is much more likely to take a wide-ranging and balanced approach to the task.

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Page last modified on February 11, 2000
Copyright 1999, 2000 by John Stark