Why Upgrade Your Software?

By Doug Aaberg • July 4th, 2017

It’s pretty much common knowledge now that software companies upgrade their products on an annual basis. Carlson is no different. As I write this, Carlson is working diligently on the release of their 2018 product line, which includes, of course, Carlson Survey and Carlson Civil Suite.

I have an iPhone and I get a notification every time an app gets upgraded. I usually just accept the upgrade because I hate having that little red button next to any of my apps. Besides if anything goes wrong, I always figure I can live without checking Facebook for a few days. I do, however more carefully consider upgrades when it comes to the operating system itself.There are many reasons to upgrade your software regularly.

Surveyors, I find, are a little apprehensive and sometimes a bit cynical when it comes to upgrading their surveying software, and understandably so. Unlike Facebook, they cannot afford to go without their computer for several days while “Joe down at the shop” figures out what went wrong when they tried to install their new software. For that reason, the annual evolution of new and better features from Carlson sometimes go largely unnoticed.

Throughout the 15 years of managing my small civil engineering/land surveying company and afterwards my consulting company, I stumbled into some decisions regarding annual upgrades and how to best implement them throughout the company. Keeping in mind I tend to learn absolutely everything “the Hard Way,” here are some points to consider when you ask the question “Why Upgrade?”:

New Features:

While it is true that the programmers at Carlson spend their time developing and improving the current software, there is also a continuous push toward the future of this profession. The new features you see each year in Carlson’s existing products are almost entirely based on user input. This creates an atmosphere of collaboration that doesn’t exist anywhere else I know. You actually have a voice.

Admittedly, not all of the new features each year are necessarily “sexy,” but they perform a very distinct function that will save you time and allow you to customize your product even better. At the same time, some new features can give you a peek at the industries’ latest trends. The use of the CRDB coordinate file, for example, allows GIS attribute information to follow the point data. For those who are involved in GIS surveys or are working closely with clients on an Esri® platform, you will love this new feature. Getting exposed to new features and working with them now will make your transition into new survey markets that much easier.

Stay Updated and Compatible:
One of the things I never wanted to have to do is call up one of my clients and ask them to “downgrade” one of their drawings so I could read it. I know there are free products out there that allow you to do that yourself now, but depending on your client’s software, that can be a problem as well. Some products don’t downgrade very well and in some cases you can lose data. That problem does NOT occur with Carlson. Since Carlson software ultimately creates nonproprietary CAD entities, you can still downgrade it to version R14, which is amazing.

Reduce Training and Down Time:
One of the fallacies I hear is: “I don’t have time to learn new software every year.” For the most part, Carlson tries very hard not to eliminate an old command in favor of a new one. That, in fact, is why some of the dialog boxes have grown so big. The legacy command still exists but with new options and/or a new command entirely. However, if you are upgrading from 2004 to 2018, you are going to notice a huge jump in command structure and new features. Staying up-to-date on an incremental, annual basis prevents the feel and time of a new learning curve.

Save Your Settings:
The benefit and purpose of all of those “Save” and “Load” buttons you see in a dialog box is to save settings and configurations to not only share within your company, but to get you back to where you were before you upgraded. Newer releases of Carlson will prompt when you install to “use old files” or “use new files.” You can choose those settings as you install, but if you forget or just hit “use all new” then you can always reload them from your saved files.
Here’s a tip: When you save the general configuration file .CFG, it saves with it almost all of the underlying settings you had at the time you created it. So, you don’t have to create 100 external settings files.

Make it Part of Your Business Plan:
Far too often, companies wait to upgrade when a crisis happens like a new computer, failed server or losing compatibility with their clients. This ends up in upgrading under duress, causing lots of anxiety, missed deadlines and just overall frustration. This is probably the biggest lesson I learned. I began to look at software upgrades as part of my business expenses just like the trucks, new instruments, employee benefits and annual holiday parties. Carlson has a very affordable maintenance program. It usually runs around 10% of the purchase price of the product if you upgrade annually. For those who like to wait a few months before actually installing it, that’s fine. Just know that you have it when you need it and it’s all paid for.

My upgrade plan ended up being what I called the 1/3 plan. That was: I upgraded Carlson every year and upgraded the AutoCAD® engine every three years. At that time, AutoCAD used to change the .DWG file structure every 3 years so that program worked well. If you are running with the intelliCAD engine, an annual upgrade would be a good choice because it is included with Carlson.

Company Wide Implementation:
I have had too many clients who were running a smorgasbord of releases and versions of their software. They would tell me how something “works on one machine and not on another” and “how come when I print from my computer it looks different than his” and my FLD file doesn’t work anymore..aaaaghhh! I found that creating standards and work flows and implementing them across the board was well worth whatever the initial cost. That included both software and hardware. I eventually purchased the same instruments and prisms (yes I got those 360 expensive ones) for the four survey crews we were running. What that amounted to was being able to swap out crew members, commit to semi-annual servicing of the guns, and preventing costly errors like “forgetting to set the prism offset because the foresight and back sight are different.” The same holds true with the office software.

Be Methodical:
Understanding that most users and especially owners are going to worry at least a little when it comes to upgrade time, I find that it is a good idea to have a consistent method for this task. If you are not capable of doing this yourself, then assign someone you can trust to install first on his or her machine. Reload all of your company standards and configurations and run through a couple of projects. Make fun of everyone in the office who is still running the old version for at least two weeks by showing them some cool new features that they don’t have and then upgrade the rest. If you really don’t want to commit just yet, download a 30 day trial version and test everything out before a complete install. If you maintain your annual license, all you have to do is go to www.carlsonsw.com and download your newest release.

Thanks for the emails and calls, I love hearing from you. And if you haven’t already, download my Easy Start Field to Finish Guide — Download Doug's Field-to-Finish Guide— and let us help you get “up and running” and make your company more profitable.fullsizerender

Douglas L. Aaberg, PLS
Survey Product Manager

Quote of the week:
After our survey department fully employed field to finish and worked with it consistently for one year, the survey department’s profitability increased by 50%.

–Brad M. Owner

« Previous | Home | Next »