2006-02-28

CAFM Program Helped to Relocate Hurricane Evacuees

Wake County, NC Utilizes FM:Systems Software to Help Victims of Hurricane Katrina

click the above link to read the whole article, below is an excerpt:

"In September 2005, Wake County and the City of Raleigh were notified by Federal and State authorities to prepare an evacuation shelter within 24 hours. In partnership with other county agencies, the GSA was able to find and lease an 180,000 square foot building and bring on line critical life safety, mechanical, security and cafeteria systems – all within one day.
... ... ...
“Within 36 hours we had a framework for managing the evacuees and all the services they needed. This created a common language around the building that resulted in a very efficient and organized operation. Evacuees knew where they needed to go for services and support,” said David L. Goodwin, director of General Services Administration. “As the evacuees transitioned out of the temporary shelter and the evacuee population declined we used FM:Interact to consolidate the remaining evacuees. This reduced the square footage and support required to manage the population and eased the location and connection of evacuees to the service providers they needed.”

Added Goodwin, “we did not change one business process to do this, we just applied what we knew and ‘added a building’ in our existing FM:Systems solution.”"

2006-02-23

New Civil Blog and some Revit Blogs

http://beneaththelines.blogspot.com/

Jason Hickey, applications engineer with ALAcad, just started up a new blog for Civil tips/tricks, check it out.

Check out Beth's CAD blog for a list of great Revit Resources, including links to 6 revit blogs, two forums and 3 books.

IFMA roundtable on Off the Shelf CAFM by Robert Fahlin

previously published in the December 2004 Edition of the ICC Newletter, reprinted with permission of the author.


Off-The-Shelf Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) Solutions


In a round-table discussion focused on off-the-shelf CAFM solutions, a group of facilities managers and CAFM system experts gathered to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of currently available CAFM solutions. The group was nearly equally comprised of facility managers, facility management consultants and CAFM vendors, all blending to provide a well-rounded discussion of the issues. While topics ran the gambit of associated issues, the group began its exploration into the realm of CAFM technologies with a discussion of the basics.

What is CAFM?
In the course of our entire discussion no single question received more unique responses than the first; "What is CAFM?"
One of the participants began our discussion by describing how she was responsible for gathering and analyzing the costs associated with moves within her organization. Another participant was responsible for actually implementing moves and needed to manage and track the physical movement of people and their assets from one location to another. A third respondent raised the issue of space assignments on a departmental basis and the ability to manage "charge backs" to accurately report the fiscal obligations of each department within the organization. Additionally, the issues of maintenance management, asset tracking, and depreciation and accounting entered the discussion.

The discussion surrounding this question began to focus more on the functional requirements of CAFM, i.e., what were the major operational issues that a CAFM system could support. The ability to identify occupancies such as space assigned to departments and the location of individuals was one major issue. Taking this requirement one step further is the ability to distinguish between employees and vendors, providing a basis for recapturing precious space as an organization either grows or shrinks. For graphical based CAFM systems several participants expressed the need to visually map an organization’s IT and Utility infrastructure providing the foundation for responding to system failures or internal and external disasters.

The group concluded that the definition of CAFM varied wildly from one organization to another and that the scope of what CAFM entailed was solely dependent upon the specific needs of an organization.

Despite the varied needs of individual organizations the group agreed that, in short, CAFM is the automation of managing the People, Places and Things that together make up our facilities. Additionally, at the core, CAFM addresses the four major functions of today’s facilities: Space & Asset Management, Move & Project Management, Maintenance Management and Disaster Planning & Recovery.

Ideology vs. Reality
With the first major topic under our belt, the group pondered the differences between the "Perfect Solution" and reality. One member of our group began to discuss the different "Silos" of information contained within today’s typical organizations. "The IT department is increasing being asked to track assets and maintain an electronic inventory", he noted. "HR hoards our employee and occupant information", injected another participant.

As the discussion progressed, the group identified the typical sources of facility-related information and their gatekeepers:
Human Resources – Employee Information
Information Technology – Employee Locations and Asset Inventories
Accounting – Department Listings and Budget Information
Planning – Occupancy, Chargeback, Move and Project Management Information
Engineering – Utility Infrastructure & Maintenance Information

Several members of the group asked the same general question: "Isn’t there one solution that could manage all of this information?" The specific answers to this question varied but the general concept was the same. It seemed to be a resounding "Yes…and No". With unlimited funding and the patience of a Saint, there are several enterprise solutions that have the potential to manage all of this information across an organization.
The problems arise when trying to fund and maintain these systems on an ongoing basis.

Additionally, as one participant put it "Being pigeonholed to a single solution that manages a little bit of everything often seems to mean that such a solution manages nothing well." The group agreed that the needs of one department, and more importantly the requirements placed upon one department, are often very different for another. An accounting solution alone will never be an effective chargeback and space planning tool, while the reverse is also true; a space planning tool will never fully meet the needs of an accountant.

To summarize this topic, the group agreed that there is no "One Size Fits All" solution for most organizations. Each silo of information needs to be managed separately in order to meet a specific department’s needs using the tools and methods that are either chosen or mandated within their respective spheres of responsibility.

The group concluded that a CAFM solution must:
meet the specific needs of those it serves and
must be capable of "consuming" and "delivering" data to and from the different silos of information contained within an organization

Complexity and Scalability
The third topic that arose among the group, hot on the heels of the "Enterprise Solution" discussion was that of complexity and scalability. There was a lot of talk among our group concerning the complexity of many of the solutions on the market today. Several participants noted that they were either currently using, or recently had been using, one of the "Big Three" CAFM solutions (as one of our participant phrased it).

One woman explained: "Our system is capable of doing all the work we want it to do, but so few of us are capable of working with the system." She continued to elaborate; "There are just too many hoops to jump through, too many buttons to push. We spent so much money to install this system, but with nobody able to use it, the system is virtually worthless".

There were one or two members of the group that noted they had successfully implemented some of these systems, but admitted there was a lot of customization involved and a lot of retraining. Most of the group agreed that with the advancements in technology today there was no reason for CAFM systems to be so difficult to use. One participant remarked: "If I can buy a town on E-bay with two clicks of a mouse, why does it take an act of Congress to get a simple occupancy plan from my CAFM system?" At least two members of the group explained that they had recently discarded their heavy "Old School" CAFM systems and opted for a low cost modern alternative. "We know the new system won’t do everything the old system did, but what it does, it does very well and everyone in the organization can use this one."

With all the talk focused on "Enterprise Solutions" I noticed a few folks squirming around in their seats and becoming disinterested in the conversation. Pointing to one of the more disinterested parties, "what is your take on all this?" I asked.
"Me?" he said. "I’m not even in the same league with these folks." Pointing to one of our more vocal participants; "This gentleman is talking about properties in five countries." Adjusting his aim, "and this woman wants to push out her CAFM information to a hundred twenty-five thousand employees. In my company, there is me and one other guy managing our space. We have three hundred employees and about 150,000 square feet of office and conference space to manage. All I need to do is assign employees to offices and report on which departments own which spaces. I can’t come up with the money for one of these enterprise systems you’re all talking about."

His comments sparked a debate on the cost of CAFM systems and their ability to scale down to a small operation. The woman that began our entire discussion chimed in noting that she could see the need within her organization for a full blown CAFM system, but for now she just wanted to start with managing moves.

"You can’t buy just one piece." she noted. "Even if you can, the cost seems excessive." Our group theorized that if a low cost, feature specific solution could scale up to the enterprise level it would be the best of both worlds. The grouped bantered around this topic for a while longer before moving on.

Delivering CAFM Tools & Data
Our final topic of discussion was brief but fruitful. Our group began to segregate the types of users involved in the facility management process and discuss the tools that might be important to each.
I briefly framed the topic and tossed it out to the group for discussion.
"So would we agree that generally speaking, there are three groups of people involved in the facility management process?
The first group is what we might call the Data Creators. These are the folks that create our facility drawings and link them to the data.
The second group is our Facility managers. These are the folks responsible for maintaining our facility information. They may or may not be CAD savvy but certainly need the ability manage occupancies and moves and report this information.
The last group is "Everybody Else." From the maintenance workers to the CEO these are the folks that need access to the information we manage but are barred from making any changes on their own."

With the topic posed, I began the discussion. "So what types of CAD systems are you folks using?"
Virtually everybody responded with AutoCAD. Two members of the group explained that while they were using AutoCAD drawings for their facilities, the CAFM systems they used required that the drawings be converted to another file format.

One participant stated "We can import the CAD drawings into our CAFM system, and even make changes to them. The problem is now I need to know two CAD systems. This is a pain." Several in the group explained that they use tools added to AutoCAD to manage their drawings eliminating the need for two drawing environments.

"What about your facility managers, are they using CAD to manage the information?" A few in the group noted that their managers were using CAD to manage their facility information. Most, however, indicated that CAD itself was too complicated and costly for their managers to use. Many were using, or interested in using, simple drawing display and markup tools that allowed their manager to focus on their real tasks of managing the facilities and maintaining the data. "There is no reason for our manager to know AutoCAD." remarked one of group. "They are simply
moving people from one place to another and changing cost center assignments." "We shouldn’t need to use CAD for that." The group agreed.

As our session drew to a close, we quickly addressed that last remaining group of folks in the CAFM food chain. "What about the ‘Everyone Else’ group?" I asked. "What is the best method of bringing them into the fold?"
Most in the group agreed that periodic reporting and access to documents was sufficient for many of the CEOs.
Some noted that the "bean counters" would want more frequent access to reports and most likely would want some data delivered in a spreadsheet format.
A lot of discussion swirled around the question of how to deliver information to the IT and Engineering departments. "These guys need more than simple reports." Someone remarked. "Our Engineering guys want access to infrastructure mapping and documents related to shutdowns."

The group concluded that making reports and drawings available on the web would likely be the best delivery method for getting information to these folks.

Summary
I truly hated to see our discussion come to an end. I’m not sure if it was that fact that it would be another full year before I would have the privilege of sitting with such a diverse group of facility manager and talking shop at IFMA; or, if it was the fact that, as moderator of our group, Peter Kimmel would be hounding me day and night until I delivered these notes. In any event it seemed our time passed too quickly. While our group didn’t find the magic bullet that would cure all the ills that plague the world of CAFM today, we were able to frame a pretty good requirement for a CAFM solution to address the real-world issues facing today’s facility managers.

Here is the thumbnail version of our findings:
While the acronym CAFM is easy to define (Computer Aided Facilities Management), the concept of what this encompasses is as diverse as each unique corporate culture. Regardless of how far the concept of CAFM may reach within a given organization the core functions common to most facilities include; Space & Asset Management, Move & Project Management, Maintenance Management and Disaster Planning & Recovery.

Even as other file formats may find their way into the main stream, as of today, the vast majority of facility drawings remain in dwg format. Any CAFM solution designed to meet the needs of today’s facility managers must be able to consume and manipulate a dwg drawing file. Working in the native AutoCAD drawing environment is preferred, but solutions that are substantially similar in functionality and lower in cost than AutoCAD would be acceptable.

No More "Bloatware"!!! Organizations are finding it increasingly more difficult to fund and maintain CAFM systems that are designed for the privileged few. As the facility management culture expands to include more and more the people in the process, easy access to facility information and easy-to-use tools for managing that information are no longer a luxury. The facility managers in our group were adamant that an effective solution should provide an affordable entry point and seamless scalability as their needs grow.

Given that easy data integration is a very desirable feature, as we found in our discussions, there is no single solution that meets the needs of every organization. A CAFM system that is capable of integration with existing data sources using industry standard database formats should be the norm, not the acceptation. Open source data formats provide organizations more opportunity to utilize their existing data and in-house talent.

Our group concluded that the most efficient method of delivering CAFM data, reports and drawings is through a web browser. While in most organizations only a few people are responsible for the day-to-day management of their facility data and drawings, there is a whole slew of folks that can benefit from easy access to this information.
Are you listening, CAFM vendors?

Presented By
Robert Fahlin, Applied Spatial Technologies, Londonderry, New Hampshire

(applied spatial has since been acquired by autodesk, and Robert is currently employed with them)

2006-02-22

The Future from an FM Perspective

I was just looking up an old article from my LUG archives, and came across a Special Edition with speculations on the future (originally published to the Gateway AUG in September of 2004) and saw this article that I'd written about what I'd like to see happen in my field in the future.


The Future from an FM Perspective - by Melanie Stone

The future can sometimes be a scary contemplation for a person working in a field whose every upgrade brings new headaches and a steep learning curve.
Others prefer to romanticize the future, optimistic that at some point, not so long from now, all bugs shall be removed from all systems and programs, and everything shall work as we would like it to.

I must confess that I tend to ascribe to the latter school of thought in this matter. I can’t help being a technological optimist. My lifetime has seen the rapid advancement in every aspect of computing technology; I’ve come to expect it to continue at the same speedy pace.
Just ten short years ago, I started drafting in high school using a T-square and board, then a drafting machine (which was NOT made for the lefty, by the way), then, finally, CAD.

I first picked up my mouse with release 10. I thought it was the coolest thing. No more eraser clumps streaking my working space, no one would have to know how many mistakes I’d made during the course of my design, and I didn’t have to redraw the same thing multiple times, I could just copy it and modify as-needed! Wow! I didn’t think it could get any better!

As we saw in the Release History Overview (GAUG Newsletter Volume 1, Number 2 – April 2004), many things have changed over the years; such as when dimensioning was offered as an add-on to version 1.2, and paperspace was developed for release 14, and all of the things in between.

What will change next, the software we work with? The input devices we use? I have envisioned the day when I will draft using a VR headset and gloves, perusing a virtual lumber store (say good-bye to non-standard material and sizes!) and lifting up virtual ceiling tiles to measure airflow in a virtual duct. Maybe it will happen, maybe not, but I prefer to think that it will.

I see technology, of course, as to how it relates to my field, Facilities Management, and I might have different applications for certain technologies than other fields.
Take 3D measuring, for example. Mark Roberts wants to measure a machined part to exacting standards (see CMM article on pages 7-9), whereas; I might just want to know the approximate square footage of a given area. I recently attended a demonstration for a 3D-laser scanner, which measures countless points, and records them for input into a CAD program. As this technology (mainly the interface between the measuring device and the CAD program) matures, I foresee countless applications in EVERY field.
The hospital campus that I work on has buildings dating back to 1912. So, in order to provide useful information for the maintenance staff and our contractors, I have to sort through 75,000 blueprints and over 60,000 CAD files, and determine which is most applicable for each project. While a detailed database containing hyperlinks to associated key plans has made these tasks much easier, no one wants to compile information from dozens of blueprints and a handful of CAD files.
BUT! If I had a 3d laser measuring device, I could scan information, put it into a 3d model of the building and accurately determine current conditions. By measuring the objects, and comparing to project documents, I could insert specific information into a program like Building Systems, which would automatically calculate load, etc. Then, my contractors could take my files, and be able to easily determine which projects will require an additional electrical panel or air handling unit, drastically reducing change orders and budget overruns.

While I know that a comprehensive working system for this process doesn’t fully exist yet, I have hope. Ten years ago, I might not have believed you if you’d told me that today I would be doing field verification with a measuring device which can automatically insert measured entities into a drawing on a PDA, but, I here I am. Sure, it is still a little bit of a pain, dangling a cable from the Disto to the PDA (Lieca does now have a wireless version available), hauling it around, converting the drawing to PocketCAD format, then back to DWG again, but... it sure beats the way I used to do it: With a measuring tape, a piece of paper, and a lot of eyeballing.

We are bringing you this special issue of our newsletter, so that you can learn about some of our members’ views on how their field has changed recently, and directions that they think future technology will take us. Also, scattered throughout this edition, there will be links to sites where you can read more about emerging techonolgies. I’m sure we will be revisiting some or all of these topics again soon, so feel free to contact me with any ideas or opinions that you have on the way that you think things will evolve.

2006-02-21

Gateway AUG CAD Meeting Tonight

The Gateway AUG is meeting tonight... it starts at 6, but, usually we mingle first to allow everyone some travel time.

we'll have pizza and snacks, some giveaways, maybe even some software. ;)

I believe the two presenters tonight will focus on Civil 3d and Autocad, but, will also take questions on any other software.

Meeting Begins at 6:00 - Food and Drink Provided!
You don't need to be a member, everyone is welcome!
The meeting is free!

Vatterott College at Sunset Hills
12970 Maurer Industrial Drive
St. Louis, MO 63127

Directions:
Take Interstate 270 to Gravois Road - US 30 Exit, travel Southwest on US 30, 1 mile to the bottom of the hill, turn right onto Mauer Industrial Drive, make first left into parking lot and follow around to main entrance of that building.

2006-02-17

New Autodesk Blog, SnagIt 8, Celtic Knots

Saw this link on Shaan Hurley's Blog
new autodesk blog - Beyond The Paper

Saw a post by an autodesk forum user Rick M, that SnagIt 8 has been released.

Also, thanks to a link from my fiance', I stumbled across this tutorial on how to draw Celtic knots.

2006-02-15

Autodesk Educational and Not For Resale software

I’ve seen many posts on discussion forums where users ask about a ‘virus’ making a plotstamp saying that it was produced by autodesk educational software, and wondering where it came from, and how it got there.

The answer to that is that this works exactly as it is supposed to. If someone uses a student software package to draw with, then opens that file in a full version, or copies/pastes blocks or other entities into another file, that plotstamp will come with it. This is to prevent the commerical usage of software that someone hasn’t paid full price for.


You can’t fix this yourself, you need to contact your local reseller who will be able to help you ‘clean’ the ‘infected’ files… and obviously, you’ll want to try to determine how those got into your company’s files to begin with so it doesn’t happen again. (newer versions of autocad will have a warning dialog pop up opon open to let you know that it was created with an educational version)

From the Autodesk website:
http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/index?siteID=123112&id=3268995
The Autodesk Student Version software is available to degree-seeking student, faculty, and staff members of qualified institutions. A degree-seeking student is defined as a registered student who is currently enrolled at a secondary institution or can prove current enrollment of three credit hours in a degree-granting educational program or a nine-month certificate-granting educational program.
You can purchase Autodesk Student Version software at your local campus bookstore or an Autodesk education reseller. Find an Autodesk education reseller using our
locator page.
The Autodesk Student Version is an educational version of the software. It incorporates all the functionality of our professional licenses and includes education-specific features, such as a print banner— making the software inappropriate for professional, commercial, or for-profit purposes. Autodesk Student Version software may not be used in the classroom or lab for instructional purposes.
Annual licenses of Autodesk student software are not eligible for product upgrade or transfer to a commercial license. Please contact your Autodesk education reseller to verify eligibility for product upgrades and education to commercial transfers.


And for some reason, during a lot of edu version conversations, someone will bring up NFR (Not For Resale) software, so I’ll go ahead and talk about those too.
These packages are typically given away by Autodesk; like door prizes at AU, or via AUGI and your Local Users Group. While the Autodesk website doesn’t have much to say on them (as far as I’ve been able to find), I do know that NFR packages are fully functioning versions of the software, they don’t have any sort of plotstamp, and they can be used for as long as the EULA for that release allows, but, they cannot be sold, upgraded or put on subscription (in other words, don't buy one off eBay).

A couple of links about NFR’s:
http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/index?siteID=123112&id=612745
Note: Not all Autodesk software products are available on subscription. Technical support is not available for Autodesk® 3ds Max® software, Education customers, or NFR (not for resale) products.

http://siggraphnews.digitalmedianet.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=11167
Autodesk User Group International and NFR Software By Elise Moss

2006-02-13

it's Valentine's Day!

Well, it’s Valentine’s day… aka, Hallmark’s hypnotic recipe for market stimulation.
But… I will happily take this day to talk about love, so, if you have a weak stomach, feel free to
follow this link to tech news and skip the hoohah coming up… ;-)

I’ll assume that anyone reading this blog knows that I am engaged to the most wonderful man.
I ‘met’ Mike Perry shortly after joining AUGI (I signed up at AU 2001 and subscribed to the guilds for a while, and probably didn’t post very much until they switched to the forum system). He was always helping people, was always considerate to everyone I saw him deal with. Most people probably see his business side, references, tech support and rule reminders… but, many of you might have also seen his humorous side… funny little remarks as clever and witty as they are hilarious.


This time last year I was single and depressed, and relying on friends, close and casual, to get me through and remind me what a truly spectacular person that I am. Valentine’s day is always depressing for someone in that position. But, somehow, I’ve made it through with my sanity pretty much intact.

Over the past four years, I’ve made some really close and really amazing friends through AUGI (and some other similar newsgroups), but, I’d always sort of noticed Mike above the rest. And once I became a moderator myself on AUGI, I saw how everyone would ask for Mike’s opinion. I went to Mike many times for professional advice, and also for friendly conversation. He was so sweet, and kind and knew just how to make me laugh.

We met for the first time in person at AU2004. He was so quiet and cute… not to mention the amazingly adorable accent, and in the spring of last year, we realized that we might like to be more than just friends and we haven’t looked back since.
We can laugh and cry and work and play and plan and be impulsive together.
Even the difficult tasks we’ve faced have gone like clockwork when we’ve worked together.


Being the typically emotionally reticent type, I do feel a little cheesy/treacly saying all of this, but, I just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t take an opportunity tell the world how happy and in love I am with Mike, and how I thank God every day that we were brought together… and boy I’m glad I didn’t become an Accountant or an English teacher.

This is our first Valentine’s day as a couple, but, from the first, our relationship has felt like slipping into an old favorite pair of jeans fresh out of the dryer, just as comfortable as if it’d always been there.

Everyone has traits that they seek out in a mate, but, I do know that I’ve found in Mike so many things that I admire and respect and just feel darned lucky to have, and, whether they know it or not, every woman should be positively green with envy that I got to him first.

AU2005 Video, First Down Line in Football, Illustrated Architectural Dictionary

Shaan Hurley has posted another AU Video from a talented user. You'll also find a link to the one from last year.

Ever wonder how they get that First Down line on TV during football games? Poke around the rest of the site too, there's really cool stuff on there.

Just saw a really cool link on the AUGI forums by user mead1 about an Illustrated Architectural Dictionary.

2006-02-10

rant on iHop healthy menu

Alright, this happened about two weeks ago, but, I'm going to use this public forum to rant because I was chatting about it with some friends of mine again today and they just didn't believe it.
Some restaurants have come up with healthier options for their menus, which I think is fantastic. I don't always like to cook, and I don't want to sacrifice my diet for the opportunity to eat out.


I like
applebee's weight-watcher's section. I like their quesadilla or their steak and shrimp skewers the best.

Well,
iHop came out with a new low carb or low cal menu (containing both adult and children's meals). I had the omlette and pancakes for breakfast with the promise spread and the sugar-free syrup. Fine.

Well, I saw they had Boca Burgers (a meatless patty), so I ordered it. It comes with a side salad and a pickle. The menu clearly says '600 calories as prepared'. Clear enough, if I make changes, the calories will change, duh. The dressing that comes with the salad is fat-free italian, which I don't like. I asked for ranch dressing (they don't have low cal ranch there), and a slice of swiss cheese on my veggie burger.

Well, the server puts in my order and tells me that the manager is allowing it this time, BUT! they can't make substitutions on these menu items, so next time I come in, I won't be allowed to get what I want.

I was baffled.
Why?
Well, because you might sue us if you don't lose weight.

Ok, first off... who says I want to lose weight? I don't eat a lot of meat anyway, I could be a vegetarian. But, whatever, let's not focus on the fact that this woman insinuated that I was fat.

Secondly, the menu clearly says 'as prepared'.

So, yeah, I'm sorry, but, I won't be going back there simply because of this. As someone who has worked in customer service, I am typically irritated when I hear 'I won't be going back there' but typically it's based one piece of bad service. This wasn't a bad waitress, it was a stupid management decision, and if I can't go into a local restaurant that I've been eating at for years and get ranch dressing and a slice of swiss cheese because I *might* sue them...
sorry... I'll go up to applebee's or buy some boca burgers from the grocery store.
I understand there are a lot of frivolous lawsuits, but, I would think the menu disclaimer would be enough to protect them so that I can order my food the way I want. darned shame.

2006-02-08

What Makes a Good Job?

After doing more detailed results on the salary survey this year, I find myself writing an article in hotnews and saying, "here are some good fields to go into"… but, that made me think… a good job is much more than gender equality, job availability and salary



I am thinking we should really consider adding some questions next year about perceived job security and overall satisfaction with one's current position. Those thoughts led me to analyze what factors make a job "good". These are the types of things I found myself really thinking about on a long flight back from the left coast last weekend, and I came up with a few major points: 
  • Type of Work
  • Change
  • Pay
  • Management
  • Coworkers
  • Physical Environment

Type of work:
Is it interesting? Is it attainable? Is it manageable?
I’ll use myself as an example here… I work mainly with MEP systems, but, break up the monotony with disaster planning, future expansions, historical research and other things. My job is definitely interesting.
Attainable? Are you able to do the things that you know need to be done? In the past 6 years, I have managed to make the common tasks much quicker and more effiecient and yet! there are so many more things we should be doing and further benefits our department could offer to the rest of the facility. But, there are many obstacles: workload, budgets, politics, etc. So, in some parts ‘yes’ but overall ‘not so much’.
Is it Manageable?
Is the workload bearable? Can you handle the tasks you’re expected to do, with an acceptable level of quality? 'Yes, I can complete the tasks without anything blowing up' or, 'No, I’m always so far behind people call for my head at every staff meeting?'
And, this isn’t just about difficulty or volume, but, more of combination of the two. I have many challenging tasks, but, most are just dull and numerous. My most-repeated mantra is that I didn’t spend four years in college to photocopy blueprints. ~shrug~ But, the most important part of working on a team is everyone contributing where they are most needed. 

So, mostly manageable is my diagnosis.

Change:
This can be good and bad… Lynn Allen made a great example at AU a couple years back… something to do with roman chariots and modern automobile wheelbase.That’s an over-simplification of her fabulous example, but, I’m wordy enough already without adding that in.
 

So… is your company so constantly changing that noone can really keep up or become productive before someone trots out the next best thing? 
Or, is your company so mired in the past, or the habits of its users that they just can’t move forward to embrace new technologies?

I think I’m really stuck in the middle on this one myself. Some people are willing to examine new things, but, unfortunately, in a company as old as mine, with such a large number of diverse employees, syncing up with all of the people/workgroups necessary is nearly impossible.

Pay:
I’m not just talking about hourly rate or salary here, I will also throw in other types of compensation: 

  • vacation
  • retirement plans
  • pensions
  • childcare/reimbursement accounts
  • continuing education benefits
This will depend on your industry, your location and your experience. Some companies are more concerned about their bottom line and profit margin than they are about retaining the best employees. I am very lucky in that my department, along with my employer, have a fairly low turnover rate of skilled personnel and routinely review job classifications and payscales to ensure that we’re staying competitive. But! That could be a consequence of being a non-profit as much as anything. Whatever it is, most people are pretty proud to work here. (I would be interested to hear how/if others in for-profit industries ensure their employees’ wages remain competitive)

Management:
This is obviously a huge factor that can make or break a job.


Can you talk to your boss without being scared/dismissed/etc? 


Do you have a clear delineation on management/self-direction? Meaning, are you able to set your own priorities in your work, does your manager inform you which jobs are most important, or does he/she expect you do manage your own work, periodically swooping in to mix it up?


No matter what the problem is, the answer is probably going to be communication. I am not making this assertion because I am female, I assure you that it is vital for all. 

Not only, are you in an environment where you are free to communicate your concerns, but, also, on a more personal level, can you commicate with one another on a level you are both comfortable with, and which is most effective? I won’t go into too many details here, but, sometimes, you just ‘get’ people and their intentions, and other times, you look at them (or they look at you) like you have lobsters crawling out of your ears.

Also… how much manager, and how much human are they (tic)? Are they more interested in making themselves look good, or making their people and their positions the best for the future? Sometimes people have agendas. 

Personally, I operate on a total WYSIWYG level. I do not understand ulterior motives or hidden agendas. This likely means I’ll never excel in management, but, that is quite alright, I think. I like to believe that I am more practical than anything (although, I'm perfectly willing to admit that I might just be oblivious).
I will say that my boss (I want to guess he’s been in management in our company for about 7 years, I’ve been working there for 6), is a cool guy… but, sometimes I think he’s speaking a foreign language. A lot of the time I really have no clue what he’s saying, but, I try to listen closely, because he’s dropped some really important bits of information, about how things work, politically, sociologically, etc. and encourages me to find the answers to difficult questions myself, rather than running to him all of the time.
I reallly try to stay as open-minded as I can, because, I have to admit that I am young and someone who has been in the workforce since I was in diapers (or prior) probably has a lot to teach me. 


Empathy should be the key word in forming opinions about your employer or…

Coworkers:
Well… as much as a boss can make or break the quality of a job, so can your coworkers.
Are you working laterally with them, such as in a situation where you are equally responsible for the outcome of a project? Are they slacking off, or creating more work for you by doing sloppy work? Are they refusing to follow standards or use more efficient methods? Do they ask you the same questions over and over again without, evidently, learning a darned thing? Or… are they just personally offensive to your environment? (Strong perfume or smoke smell? Not washing their hands after restroom or sneezing? Spending too much time invading your workspace? Trying to draw you into their own personal drama? Taking personal calls, listening to voicemails on speakerphone, etc?) 

They can be mean people, or they can be nice people that you just can’t stand for certain reasons. The point is, they add stress to your days, and you have no control over them.

Physical Environment:
Is your job safe? Can you do the work you are paid to do without hurting yourself? Are you given the proper equipment to safely do your job? 


In our field, as drafters and designers, that can mean the often-ignored issue of ergonomics, which I’ve covered before both here on my blog and in my LUG newsletter. We shouldn’t have to end up with carpal-tunnel syndrome. I feel free to tell my boss that my wrist is experiencing some slight pain or tingling and I’d like to order a wristguard for my mousepad or keyboard… or, in my secretary’s case, a stand to position the computer monitor at the proper height.

This could also encompass things like travelling or commuting. Noone wants to spend over two hours in a commute, whether because of boredom or family obligations. Some people might enjoy being able to travel for their jobs, others might resent the time away from home.


So, of course, there is no one thing that makes a job good or bad, but, a combination of everything above and more. 


I would be interested to hear if you think I’ve missed anything major. In your opinion and experience, what factors make a job 'good'? 


If you have found this topic interesting, you might also like to read about "Two-factor Theory" (also known as Herzberg's Motivation-Hygeine theory). This theory suggests that the things which satisfy employees and things which dissatisfy them are separate. It is an interesting read.

2006-02-03

The AUGI Board

Well... since I've got two links to throw in here, I'll go ahead and talk about the augi board (~sticks tongue out at those who might read this ;p ).

I had the pleasure of taking a trip to SanFransisco/SanRafael last weekend. I arrived as the AUGI board was finishing up their meetings. I'd met all but one of the members of the board at Autodesk University, and I have to say that they are really a bunch of great guys. I've been friends with Mike Perry and Glenn Pope since about the time I first joined AUGI and have gotten to know the others since then. They are all volunteers who spend a lot of time and effort to make AUGI the best that it can be. There are many other volunteers behind the scenes too, moderating the forums, updating web pages, writing for hotnews and being involved with CAD Camps and AU. There are a lot of things these guys do that probably don't get reckonized enough. ~stands and applauds~

I had the pleasure of joining the guys for dinner Friday night, which was equal parts industry-related discussions and sheer hilarity. Some of the BODies stayed an extra day or two and we went down to San Fransisco and did a little sight-seeing and took a ton of pictures (nerd alerts!), extra special thanks to Steve B, fellow AUGI moderator, who made the drive up to see us and taxi'd us around and showed us some great sights.

Now, for the links...

Lynn Allen (AUGI Sweetheart and staunch augi advocate) made a post about the meeting, and put up a picture of the Board with their Stubbies? I don't know what that is, but, Australian member, Bill Adams (aka KingBlads ;) ) brought them as gifts. BTW, Bill, my son LOVED the platypus you sent him!

Also, check out BLAUGI for a shot of the BOD reenacting a famous Autodesk photo, as well as some hints about what AUGI members can expect (for free!) in the coming year.

Check it out.

2006-02-02

Hotnews Podcast, Mfg in StL & Keyboard Navigation

Podcast
Richard Binning creates a podcast of AUGI Hotnews January 2006 Edition. What easier way to get your CAD news than to upload it to your mp3 player. Sweet.

AUGI Manufacturing Conference in St. Louis
augi member rate is $69, non-members pay $79
Includes 2 classes, 2 presentations, breakfast & lunch

I'm a keyboard junkie and I saw these tips on navigating on the AUGI and Autodesk forums:
Managing Multiple drawings in a single session - Jay H
switching between layouts
Use keyboard to jump within a selection list

2006-02-01

Vote on the Autocad Features Wishlist!

AUGI is autodesk's official user representative, and they compile wishes for future versions of autocad (and branching out into other products), which are submitted directly to the 'desk.

Past AU's have shown that many of these wishes make it into Autocad, so go to http://www.augi.com/autocad/ballot.asp and rank the current wishes by what you think is most important.

AUGI has just started making multiple submittals a year rather than just waiting for the annual meeting in the winter, so, if you don't see something up there that you'd like, submit your own wish and vote for it in the next cycle.