I need to make a strategic personal decision regarding learning/buying one of a number of competing software packages (Parametric CAD). In a perfect world, I would have unlimited time and system resources to spend on an exhaustive comparison of major players. Conversely, simplest solution is simply to go through the job sites and see what is most demanded. I hesitate to do this because a) current situation says little about 2-5 years out, and b) output cross-compatibility is so widespread at this point that any file produced by any of the major players will import into any other. There are market research reports, they are prohibitively expensive.

I am hoping that somebody has developed best practices for situations like this. It seems like a corporate it purchasing problem.

  • If the output produced by one will work with any of the others, does it matter that much which one you learn to use?
    – Brandin
    Oct 30 '16 at 18:48
  • Consier asking on softwarerecs.stackexchange.com and listing exactly which features are important to you. Maybe someone else has already done the comaprisson - that is what the site is for. Nov 9 '16 at 14:48

Best practice is to gather reviews and talk to current/past users about ease of use, functionality, reliability, customer support from the publisher/authors/community, interoperability with other tools (which it sounds like you have already considered), ... Then decide how to weight each of these factors, try the programs out yourself if you can, and make your decision.

It's really the same as selecting any other tool.

  • A bit if both, I think, @joestrazzere. Sometimes you don't realize how important something is (or isn't) until you have seen a particularly good or bad example.
    – keshlam
    Oct 31 '16 at 2:48

Two important factors you have missed.

Experience, what package are your staff familiar with? This is a big deal, in my country only one accounting package is taught in University, buying a different one causes all sorts of problems and expenses later on even though it's not the best package for some businesses. Also it means a learning curve for all staff at the start. However with CAD it does need to meet your needs. I'm only familiar with architural CAD, most flavours do the same things, but some are more geared towards 3d or presentation.

Secondly, long term maintainability is more important than importing/exporting CAD, the technical issues with this are well known and have been resolved a long time ago. You can import almost any major CAD drawing into almost any other major CAD package, at most you need a third party software to do it, but I've never had to.

  • 1
    Yeah, "can you get staff" is a huge factor to consider. It's not "can I learn this" or "do I know this", but "what happens when I leave".
    – Móż
    Oct 30 '16 at 23:53

There are formal processes for making decisions. I know Kepner Tregoe has(at least had) a decision analysis process. I have not used it formally myself for a longtime so the below may not be entirely accurate but it's close.

A very high-level description:
1. create a list of requirements for the software
2. categorise the requirements as mandatory or optional (must have/nice to have)
3. weight the importance of each requirement between 1-5, 5 being the highest (even for the mandatories, some reqs might be more valuable than others)
4. create a spreadsheet with the requirements for the rows and the software choices for columns
5. Review the specs of each software option and put a 1 if it meets the requirement or 0 if it doesn't
6. If an option doesn't meet one or more mandatory requirements, it's out
7. For the rest, multiply the weight value of the requirement by the pass/fail value
8. Add them up
9. Either choose the highest valued item or do a deeper analysis of the top 2 or 3

If you end up with no options that have all the mandatory requirements. re-assess your mandatory items. The weightings should help you decide which ones have a greater value.

Hope that helps.

  • Please do not answer questions which are blatantly off-topic, as it otherwise encourages similar off-topic questions to be asked and makes the job of removing them harder.
    – user53718
    Oct 31 '16 at 11:03
  • So have you tried to remove it or did you just feel like downvoting me? I note that you haven't made a similar comment to the two earlier responses to this question. Anyway. I'll just continue to lurk and not be helpful.
    – Damian
    Oct 31 '16 at 20:13

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