CAD Manager's Newsletter (#356)16 Dec, 2015 By: Robert Green
Conversations at the annual conference shed light on what's happening in the trenches.
I recently returned from Autodesk University (AU) 2015, the company's annual user event, where I had a chance to interact with about 800 CAD managers over the course of four days. This year I participated in panel discussions and taught a variety of classes on topics ranging from software testing to programming languages. Drawing on what I heard in the Q&A sessions, as well as many conversations in the exhibit hall, I was able to form a broad opinion about the state of CAD management in 2015.
In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll try to share with you what I learned in the hope that it will help you clarify your agenda for the coming year. Here goes.
Something for Everyone
Let me first state that I realize not all CAD managers support Autodesk products. So, why should a non-Autodesk user care about AU? Here are my top reasons:
Strength in numbers. There's no larger gathering of CAD managers anywhere, to my knowledge, and tapping into that huge peer group can yield great insights into our career field.
Interoperability knowledge. Those CAD managers who don't use Autodesk products usually do have to interoperate with them, and I've never found a group of CAD managers with more experience in making disparate tools work together.
Non-CAD topics abound. Want to learn about .NET customization, document management systems, product data management (PDM) integration, or perhaps project management strategies? These topics are all covered at AU, and in a surprisingly product-agnostic way.
AU Size and Demographics
With almost 9,700 attendees this year, AU is nearing the 10,000-attendee mark it achieved prior to the 2008 recession. As usual, this year's attendees included architects, engineers, designers, detailers, IT professionals, artists, and visualization specialists from a broad swath of industry disciplines. Civil engineering, manufacturing, and architecture are the best-represented fields, with software classes distributed accordingly.
CAD and building information modeling (BIM) managers were widely represented in 41 class sections with more than 3,900 total class seats filled. With AU offering almost 700 classes total, it is clear that CAD/BIM management is a niche offering — accounting for about 6% of offered classes — but a substantial niche nonetheless.
Impressions via Informal Survey
During my class sessions, I always conduct some informal "show of hands" polls, followed by individual conversations to take the pulse of the CAD manager community. I try to survey a broad variety of topics and note particularly passionate responses, so I can draw conclusions about problems and trends facing CAD managers. This year, these trends were easy to identify:
Business is getting better. Whenever I asked questions like, "How many of you are hiring?" or "How many of you are struggling to get project work done?" more than 50% of the group raised their hands. Also, I heard many CAD managers talk about how hard it is to find really good CAD talent — more than any year in recent memory.
The struggle to do more with less continues. Even though business is looking up, questions such as, "Are you still pressured to get more done with the same staff?" caused more than half the hands in the room to go up. It seems that the push for maximum productivity is a trend that'll never go out of style.
More CAD managers operate without authority. Questions such as, "How many of you operate without any authority to enforce standards?" and "How many of you have all the responsibility and none of the authority?" always drew a 75% or better show of hands. Read more »
Access Learning Resources with a Free AU Account
I understand that not every CAD manager deals with Autodesk products, but the reality is many of us do. And, while not everyone who manages Autodesk products gets to attend the conference in person, everyone can benefit from Autodesk University (AU) by creating an AU account — and it's free!
Simply register on the Autodesk University web site to access the vast library of text and video resources. Class content for AU 2015 went online beginning December 15, while older content is already available.
Of particular interest to CAD managers will be the IT track courses (CAD management and technology content) along with the business management track (project implementation), architectural track (BIM), and civil/mechanical tracks (civil/GIS and mechanical modeling). Using the Search bar, you can enter keywords for more granular searches. Also be sure to investigate LAB session courses (which contain datasets and examples for hands-on learning). Plus you can view the multitude of recorded sessions anywhere you can carry a device.
Click on the CREATE ACCOUNT button shown at the upper right to get started.
Even if Autodesk tools aren't a part of your software environment, you'll still find tons of useful information on a variety of topics such as IT management, business and project management, building information modeling (BIM) management, interoperability of tools, and more. Given the cost — free — why wouldn't you register for an account and explore the resources available?
Do you have a helpful tip, recommendation, or question for the CAD Manager's Newsletter? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I use your tip in the newsletter, you'll receive a Cadalyst prize!
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