AutoCAD Civil 3D Custom Template Setup & Training Done Right

Civil 3D Setup and Training

Civil 3D Setup and Training

A large organization asked me this week if I could give them AutoCAD Civil 3D custom template setup and training. They're looking to use AutoCAD Civil 3D in their workflows. What struck me about their request is they recognized that a successful implementation of AutoCAD Civil 3D is more than simply setting up a template, and that training throughout the template creation process and implementation is important.

Members OnlyThis organization clearly put a lot of thought into their needs and what a successful customized Civil 3D templates project would look like and more impressively, what levels of training they need. Today, in this Premium Post, I want to share with you how this organization is doing AutoCAD Civil 3D custom template setup and training right.

Here is their approach to AutoCAD Civil 3D custom template setup and training done right!

1. Understanding your work process and user needs

This organization understands their work process and their user needs. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Unfortunately, this step in the AutoCAD Civil 3D template setup and implementation is often skipped or overlooked completely. Every solution (software or otherwise) to a problem is unsuccessful if those problems are not first correctly and completely understood.

More impressive than that they took the time to understand their individual user needs, is that they balanced those needs with the needs of the organization at large. Truth: Just because any person thinks that "their way" is the "best way" does not mean that they are right. This includes you, too. The fact of the matter is that oftentimes there are several ways to do any task. While you certainly want to help every user be effective when working with AutoCAD Civil 3D, bending over backwards to meet any one worker's preferences should not come at a cost to your overall organization.

You can get your Civil 3D setup project off to a great start by first understanding your work process and user needs. Do not, however, limit your thinking to how you will do certain tasks using Civil 3D. Determine the ACTUAL processes and workflows you use, then refine and document those workflows.

2. Identify your base AutoCAD systems

Have you noticed that the first word in AutoCAD Civil 3D is "AutoCAD"? As great as AutoCAD Civil 3D is, considering its more advanced features, do not forget that at its very basic functionality it is still AutoCAD. As such, you likely already have, or need to decide, prefered AutoCAD settings, setup and workflows that you would like to continue using or add. Forget about 3D for a minute, and consider the following:

  • Blocks (for nodes and otherwise)
  • Text styles
  • Linetypes
  • Layer names
  • Sheet layouts
  • Company borders

This is a short list, but I think you get the idea. You also need to consider the core AutoCAD settings that you use, regardless of whether you're using plain AutoCAD or AutoCAD Civil 3D.

3. Design templates that help workflows and deliverables

First, notice that the word templates above is plural. You likely need to create multiple templates for different workflows and work products. Each template needs customization that results in effective workflow and output.

If you do not put in the time into understanding your workflows and user needs in step #1 above, then you will not know which templates you need in the first place. With that said, the organization requesting the Civil 3D customization, setup and training did not specify exactly the templates needed. Instead, they outlined the processes they need to carry out and left it up to the trainer to find and create the appropriate templates.

In effect, they acknowledged that while they had a good understanding of what and how they do things, they did not necessarily understand how to use AutoCAD Civil 3D in those workflows.

4. Don't leave training until the end

Beyond creating and customizing Civil 3D templates, training is a key part of this organizations needs. But, what I think they did really right, is to break training into two distinct areas and functions.

First, they want training for a limited number of higher level management users during the creation and preliminary release of the new templates. Then, after analysis and beta testing on the templates, training for the general users.

Essentially, they are involving management and those people who will become the go-to people later on, right from the beginning. Too often, management is left out of the training picture. Even if some of your management team is resistant to technology, or removed from its daily use, it seems a waste not to benefit from your most experienced workers.

5. Plan for yearly maintenance and upgrades

They also included planning for yearly maintenance and upgrades in their request. What a great idea! And, no, this does not need to cost very much. Yearly AutoCAD Civil 3D template maintenance and upgrades should need minor tune-ups resulting from programmatic  updates and changes, and for continuously improvements.

First, there will always be minor changes made year to year by Autodesk to AutoCAD Civil 3D, which every organization needs to fix. Second, after a year of working with your new Civil 3D templates and systems, you will likely find areas for improvement. All these yearly changes, while necessary, typically are minor.

6. Integrate training that gives results

I'm sure many of you have received ineffective training. Too often I've found, training fails because there is simply too little of it, or the training is easily forgotten by the time you actually get to use it.

This organization required one-on-one or one-on-two training for that limited group of management and beta testers mentioned above. Then, once corrected for bugs found in the templates and processes, provide general training to their everyday users.

Instead of long AutoCAD Civil 3D classes, where the training might be forgotten by the time the user gets to use the training, they broke down the training into one hour increments with at least four hours between sessions. Preferably, training is on separate days. Additionally, each training session begins with a question and answer session covering trainee's issues with the previous training session.

Additionally, they asked to deliver training through internet based training. Leveraging webinar software solutions, we can work directly with the trainees remotely, while recording the training sessions for those trainees to play back, or for new trainees and users to view.

Let's look at what this training plan accomplishes:

  • With internet based training, the trainees can learn at their desks (or at home) while using that sessions topics right in AutoCAD Civil 3D.
  • One hour sessions don't overwhelm the learner or cover too much content at one time.
  • Breaks between training sessions let the trainee try out that sessions training right away, but not hold up everyone else.
  • Timely question and answer sessions (no later than the next day) resolves problems while still fresh in everyone's mind.
  • Specific one on one, or one on two training for management during the template customization process to work out the kinks and to give power users (those likely to help the general users throughout the year) a strong competency in template and process usage.
  • General training only starts after the working out the templates and designed process kinks. The worst thing you can do, which is surely going to result in failed training, is to start the general training with incomplete or unfinished template and process design.
  • Internet based training through webinar technology can easily scale from one trainee up to thousands of trainees, which results in successful training without a huge increase in costs.
  • Internet based training through webinar technology can easily be recorded for future use.


I think we've all experienced training gone wrong. Sometimes, this is due to too little training, just bad training, or getting too much training at once. With training done right, like outlined above, you'll get much more bang for your buck.

Contact me if I can hep you or your organization with your AutoCAD Civil 3D training.

Work With Me-Eric Colburn, PLSThis Professional Land Surveyor Premium Post written by Eric Colburn, PLS, Professional Land Surveyor Adviser & Revivalist.

Eric D. Colburn, PLS, "The Geo-Business Innovator", helps geo-professionals improve through innovative solutions, mastery of marketing and business growth strategies, and coaching/training. Eric is a successful, serial entrepreneur, podcaster, industry writer, product development consultant, and RI licensed professional land surveyor.

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