Ten years ago, I was an IT Manager, CAD Manager and newly minted BIM Manager at a firm of about 50, just dipping our toes into Revit. I had software to install and patch; things I had to do, but really hated doing because, well, it sucked. I also had families to make, training to do, and staff to talk off the ledge from time to time. All of that I had to do too, but I also wanted to do it. So I found ways to automate the stuff that sucked, and saved time for things that were more compelling, or rewarding, or just enjoyable.
Fast forward six years and Aaron Maller (you may have heard of him ;) convinced me that others might want to do the same thing, and a business was born; Pragmatic Rollouts: Deployments that Fail to Suck. Four years, four rewrites in two programming languages and a move to Berlin later, and things are pretty good. Then Steve Stafford, and Aaron again, suggested maybe the RTC Committee should consider automating things a bit for the RTC labs.
You see, behind the scenes at every RTC, there has been a dedicated group with lots of responsibility, who would take a day or two to pull together and get the labs up and running. Computers had to be unboxed, network cables run, software installed. So this year I was invited on board to apply my automation tools to the task, and I loved the idea because it allows me to dogfood my own tools. And I’ll tell you, getting rubbed by the rough spots in your own tools is annoying. “What doofus thought THIS was the right way to… Oh, yeah, me.” ;)
But in reality, beyond saving the Committee and the Events Management crew the time to focus on the things that only they can do, and the chance to find my own warts, the RTC Labs offered a chance to really focus on something even more important; that old chestnut “User Experience”. Even in an office situation this is an important consideration. Little things, like migrating power users’ keyboard shortcuts from previous years or putting office libraries at the top of the Places bar in Revit, are those nice bits of polish on an install process that I find users really appreciate. But of course a three day conference takes user experience to a whole new level. And RTC cranks it up another notch. I mean, delegate experience is basically what it’s all about!
Our goals for the labs start with just having all the software there, so every session can go off without a hitch. Sometimes that even means swapping versions between sessions (I’m looking at YOU, Dynamo). Additionally, we want to give every delegate a consistent experience, every session, every time. We want you to feel like you are getting a brand new machine for your own use, so you can cover the desktop with working files, even change the Revit background to black if you want. And the person sitting down at that machine for the next session gets the same clean, consistent, new car smell.
Our first go at this new process, our Pilot Project if you will, was in Gold Coast Australia, and it went really well. We found some rough spots that need polish, but we think we’re off to a good start, and we have some ideas on where to go from here. And I get the pleasure of being “stage crew” for some really fantastic Talent.
So, if you’re in a lab at RTCNA in July; I hope you totally forget about this post, you hardly even notice your machine, and instead you spend your time totally engrossed in whatever awesomeness your session has on tap. But if something isn’t as polished as it could be, or you have an idea for making things even better, hit me up between sessions, because we want to hear from you. And most importantly, have a great time!