What's New in 2013?
AutoCAD 2013 has some really nice features included (here's a nice intro to them) that seem like they'll make your CADD staff more productive, and that's just in the base product. Vertical add-ons like Civil 3D and Inventor, are likely to have many more improvements. One important change to 2013 you'll need to keep in mind is that this release entails a change to the DWG format so you'll need to SAVEAS back to earlier versions in order to share new files with other users. This also means that new object types can't always be translated back to a readable form for users on older versions; a definite concern. Changing file formats means that in a production environment it's an all or nothing proposition: everyone in the firm goes to 2013 or no one does, otherwise you're going to lose a lot of billable time translating files back and forth between versions.
Why You Should Wait To Upgrade:
As Director of Training & Development for my firm, making the decision of when to make the leap to new software is a large part of what I do. The tech geek in me always wants it, but luckily, my brain reels me back to reality before I cause too much damage. My firm stays on a yearly upgrade cycle, in order to keep us competitive and productive, but here's the key: I keep us one year behind the current version. Yup, it's spring and I'm upgrading my CAD seats but I'm just upgrading to 2012.
In my little corner of the world, AutoCAD 2013 is slated for a spring 2014 install. The one year lag allows the software to be fully tested, patched, upgraded and it gives me a chance to test and find solutions to any known issues prior to putting it into full production. In the highly competitive Infrastructure Industry, small hiccups in plan production can mean the difference between year-end bonuses and year-end layoffs. I don't know about you, but I definitely prefer the bonus!
What's The Danger In Upgrading Too Soon?
In the real world, small bugs in your CAD system equate directly to lost profits. As an example, in AutoCAD 2012 there was a major "upgrade" to the ARRAY commend, a vital utility for anyone in the architectural and mechanical industries. Autodesk did add some nice features to the command but it was notably unstable, had an archaic user interface, and generated some flat out wrong results on occasion. (Take a look at this Cadnauseum article for the details). It seems like a small issue but consider this: a designer may use ARRAY upwards of twenty times each day and they'd need to manually verify each result because of bugs. You can see how quickly lost time would add up. That's actually the best case scenario here; worst case is the designer fails to verify results and the flawed design goes to your client. Yikes!
My best advice for you? Keep an eye on the latest software, test it, prepare it and get it ready -- but don't put it into place until its first birthday! Let the developers iron out all the bugs and issue appropriate patches before you make the leap to the next version.
What have been your CAD upgrade experiences? Do you blaze the trail or lag a bit behind?