It’s hard to not notice how business practices are evolving. Technology is better, processes are more efficient, and people are able to do a lot more in a lot less time. Working at Autodesk, I am always interested in getting our customers’ perspectives on how they work, what’s important to them, and what makes them successful.
Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Calvin Domenico III, president of DGF Technologies,a Massachusetts based consulting company who provides engineering services in a diverse range of specialties, to talk about his perspective on the evolution of collaboration, and the opportunities and impact of working together in the modern age. Following is an excerpt of our conversation:
Heather Eichman: The past 10 years we’ve seen a lot of change in how companies operate and how teams work together. What big changes have you seen in your own experience?
Calvin: There have been 2 major changes that have affected the way I work and the way I run teams.
First, the development of adaptive planning methodologies have replaced older concepts like waterfall development where you need to decide everything up front and write a complete spec before you start building anything.
The second is the collaboration tools have gotten much better, which means can be in different places at different times and project can still move forward with everyone one the same page. This has a had a huge effect on how I run teams because I am now able to let my best people work when they are going to be the most productive but they can also still look in on other peoples work and comment and help the junior staff.
Heather: Two great examples of how things have improved – it can’t all be sunshine and roses though. New processes come with new challenges. What are the biggest challenges you encounter in regard to collaborating with your teams and your clients?
Calvin: Human latency is the single largest problem. When people need to take added steps to make sure everyone is looking at the same set of files, you are always going to be missing data.
Heather: We hear that problem from customers a lot – they are all in the business of creating something – machines, roads, buildings, products… They organize around their projects. The complexities around everything that is involved in taking a project from concept to reality are nearly impossible to manage. So, it’s pretty common to see that communication is largely informal and disconnected. All those conversations, activities, and decisions that happen, which, if they are captured at all, create even more stuff to keep track of.
Calvin: With A360 that issue is resolved and it makes a large difference. It used to be a rule that when you needed someone to update their work, it was always when they were on vacation or offline for the night.
Heather: Murphy’s Law – it gets us all. I think everyone can say they’ve felt that pain at some point.
Obviously I’m happy to hear that A360 helps you out with that. Thanks! What are some other technologies or processes that have made a difference in the way your teams work? What can’t you live without?
Calvin: Calipers and a 3D printer have made a huge difference in how we work with our clients – Just letting someone hold a part before you spend the money for injection molds pays for itself very quickly. I am betting that if you ask me the same question in a year I will tell you a 3D scanner as well.
Heather: Great point. It seems like 3D printing technology is even more accessible now as well. I think I’ve even seen some TV commercials for them lately. I also like the point about added confidence from your clients – it’s great to be able to remove some of the guesswork.
But even with some of these great new technologies and opportunities, what kinds of mistakes do you see people – on your teams or even you, yourself – make that could be avoided?
- Communication – Getting everyone on the same page is always the hardest part.
- Documentation – Capturing comments in meetings and minor change requests is something that requires continuous attention.
- Forgetting that we are almost never our customer’s target market.
Heather: I deal with those issues myself on a regular basis as well. Makes me think that while businesses are all very different, some of the fundamental *stuff* people need to deal with is pretty universal.
What advice or tips can you share for people who are working with project teams and clients?
- Show anything you can visually, everyone’s imagination works differently and people rarely get the same thing from an auditory description.
- If you think you understand a problem, verify it by putting it in your own terms and asking for confirmation. Words have meanings, but not everyone uses them correctly or the same way.
- Every project has goals, but it is important to make sure people actually know what they are and in what order of importance. Goals like this should only be in single sentences, and if you can’t reduce them to this level, you have more planning to do before you start working.
Heather: Thanks Calvin, that’s great advice. And thanks for spending a little time talking with me. I appreciate the perspective and I’m sure others will find it useful as well.
To learn more about DGF Technologies, visit their company website at www.dgftech.com.
To learn more about A360 (currently available in Tech Preview), visit www.autodesk360.com.