A CAD Manager's Letter to IT

27 Jul, 2011 By: Robert Green

Educate your IT department about what you really need to do your job right.

The following is an open letter from a frustrated CAD manager who is experiencing some common IT headaches. Although the CAD manager is imaginary in this case, these problems are all too real; I get letters from readers about them quite often.

I tried to have a little fun with this, while giving you some talking points with which to approach your IT department if these problems are plaguing you. I realize that many of you also serve as IT managers, so you might not face these issues — but you may enjoy reading through this anyway. I also realize that most folks working in IT departments want to do a good job, but simply don't understand CAD — thus the letter.

Here goes.

Dear IT Department:

It's me, the CAD manager. You know, the guy — or gal — who's always dealing with plotters and printers and screaming users. The one who slows our wide-area network (WAN) to a crawl by sharing all those 40-MB scanned aerial images with our branch offices. The one who has to juggle 2D, 3D, BIM (building information modeling), schedules, budgets, senior management demands, and software licensing. Yeah, that's me.

I've got a few things I'd like to explain about my job and how you could help me to help you (with apologies to Jerry Maguire), if you'll just hear me out and try to feel my pain.

Grant Me Access

I'm not like every other computer user in the company, so shouldn't my login privileges reflect that reality? Why restrict me with insufficient privileges so that I have to come crawling to you every time I need to fix something? I don't want to bother you, but you leave me no choice.

I'm expected to provide user support and problem fixes right away. Project schedules and deliverables depend on my ability to make things happen promptly. Project managers yell at me when things go wrong, and they don't like hearing that I can't resolve issues because my security status doesn't allow me to. Therefore, I need to be able to do the following, without contacting IT for approval each time: 

  • Overwrite/delete files, install drivers, uninstall/reinstall software, apply software service packs, update Java consoles, etc. (which means that I require administrative-level permissions).
  • Access all network drives at all our offices.
  • Manage printer/plotter file queues.
  • Add peripherals (portable drives, scanners, etc.) to user computers.

The long and short of it is that any problem I can fix without contacting you means one less problem for IT and one more happy CAD user. Every problem you don't allow me to fix will result in an angry phone call and an unhappy user. I promise I won't abuse the privilege — I just want to get things done.

Trust Me

Trust goes hand in hand with security. If you won't provide me with the privileges mentioned above, I must assume that you don't trust me to perform these tasks. I ask you to consider the following:

  • Management trusts me to see all our CAD work through to completion.
  • Management trusts me to interact with clients and vendors to finish projects on time.
  • Management trusts me to set budgets, purchase software, and perform training.
  • Users trust me to help them complete their CAD projects.

If management and users alike trust me to manage huge projects with all sorts of client and financial liability, why can't you trust me to manage some file directories and install printer drivers?

Communicate with Me

When it comes to my job, I don't like surprises. Remember how that "simple printer switch to a new system driver" you performed last week was supposed to be transparent to the users? It wasn't! All my CAD plotting scripts and configurations assumed the old server driver parameters, so nothing worked right after the switch! Getting 15 phone calls complaining that "the plotter doesn't work" was not a fun way to start my morning.

And how about when you moved all the CAD files to a new server box, keeping the same X: drive letter mapping and thinking nobody would ever notice? We noticed! Because our CAD tools use UNC pathing (not drive letters) to communicate with our branch offices (which don't have consistent drive letter mappings), all our file relationships stopped working. Going through a directory of 300 project files to re-path reference files was even less fun than the plotter debacle.

Please consider the following:

  • CAD printers and plotters are often customized, and often do not use system devices like Microsoft Office users.
  • CAD files often reference other files, so pathing changes can cause major problems.
  • CAD is highly customized, so any changes to the above items may cause automated functions to stop working and create serious workflow problems.

So before you move printers, reallocate server storage, or update drivers for network devices, could you please give me a warning?

Involve Me

Want to know how to size your servers and plotters, anticipate file storage requirements, measure the bandwidth required to support remote offices, or understand how cloud computing might affect our network? Ask me!

I support CAD users all the time, and I can assure you that they do certain things better than anyone else:

  • Tax servers and print devices.
  • Create big files.
  • Eat up WAN bandwidth (due to those large files).
  • Push the envelope of cloud technology.

In short, why wonder how things might work when you have a CAD department right here that can help you benchmark and understand how things do work right now and could work in the future? I'm ready to help you figure out these issues, because these factors slow my CAD users down. In fact, I want our systems and networks to better serve our users, so I'm motivated to do anything I can to make that happen.

If we work together to build a better user environment, everyone — CAD users and general office users alike — will benefit.

I Can Help You Too

I'm often at users' machines, so I can keep an eye out for problems or help you update configurations as needed. Why not use me as an adjunct IT staffer if I'm already at the user's machine anyway? And while you're getting me up to speed on IT issues, you might learn more about CAD in the process.

Wouldn't it be great if we could cross-train? We'd get a more IT-aware CAD manager and a more CAD-aware IT department at the same time!

Thanks for Hearing Me Out

I didn't mean to go on a rant, but these issues really have been a barrier to me becoming a more effective CAD manager. I hope you'll take my letter in the spirit it was intended, which is simply to raise the issues, state my case, and respectfully request your help in giving me the IT resources I need to do my job better.

Let's open a dialog and see how we can help each other. What could it hurt?

The CAD Manager

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: A CAD Manager's Letter to IT
by: ITManager
September 26, 2011 - 12:56pm
IT has tools that are designed to make changes transparent. Their are a myriad of these tools in place. These changes are often at your request to either replace the plotter, and or server. However, when the tools you use bypass our tools and hardcode the parameters you remove the tools IT has to make the change "seamless". Drive letter mappings are one of our tools, however when the software decides that it "knows better" and decides to store the UNC path it removes our ability to make a seamless transition. Just as you cannot design a system where two objects occupy the same space, we can not have two servers with the same name occupy the same network, the name must be change. we agree this is a legitimate concern and suggest that you help your IT Manager work with their vendors to resolve.
Re: A CAD Manager's Letter to IT
by: ITManager
September 26, 2011 - 12:57pm
Additionally those relationships you like to build are a nightmare. They cause a significant amount of overhead on the workstations, they are conveyed between companies, and yes, we do not have the same server names or share names between business partners and sites. When we need to meet archive / retention policies and we ask you to clean up the other directories you created such as "old files, good files, bad files, backup files, restore files, etc." you report that you wouldn't dare because you might be defined in a relationship. Worse between the different companies, sites, users, versions we learn that the drawings contain cyclic relationships as identified by out of memory conditions which you expect us to solve.
Re: A CAD Manager's Letter to IT
by: ITManager
September 26, 2011 - 12:57pm
To this end relationships should be used infrequently and only when needed. Relationships should be well defined. Relationships should not use UNC paths. Ideally relationships would use virtual pathing or at least have the option for virtual pathing. What is virtual pathing? An example would be "this folder" often indicated by the path ".", or the folder above indicated by "..". These have been around since DOS. Don't believe me? Go to the CMD prompt and type "dir ". What are the first two directories you see?
Re: A CAD Manager's Letter to IT
by: ITManager
September 26, 2011 - 12:58pm
In our environment CAD printers and plotters are not customized and it affords us great flexibility when exchanging content between divisions and upgrading equipment. We recommend communicating/working with your IT Department to eliminate this customizations to resolve these issues. It CAD Manager makes these modifications, then CAD Manager needs to be responsible for the modifications to including supporting them while IT provides a seamless integration for all of the other departments. Departments that often do more than just print "Office Documents". This includes accounting systems, check/MICR printers, application printers etc..
Re: A CAD Manager's Letter to IT
by: ITManager
September 26, 2011 - 12:59pm
Involve Me It is aware of the storage CAD Manager is taking and we are aware of these large files. We see them on the server and we monitor link utilization. It may surprise CAD Manager, but typically the storage on the server can be address it CAD Manager used the same file management practices he used with the flat file system. I am sure CAD Manager has been involved with this, but does not have the time, and continues to ignore the messages sent to him by IT Manager.
Re: A CAD Manager's Letter to IT
by: ITManager
September 26, 2011 - 12:59pm
It may also surprise CAD Manager to know that CAD Manager typically uses a fraction of the bandwidth. Other applications such as E-Mail, Internet, Accounting, Printing, Citrix etc., also use a significant amount of bandwidth, and when totaled through the day often use significantly more. It is likely that IT Manager downloads far more content than you can imagine. In some cases software can be purchased tax free if no media is obtained. Many of these titles are multi-GB downloads and include items such as AutoCAD 2012 32 Bit, AutoCAD 2012 64 Bit, Office 2010 32 Bit, Office 2010 64 Bit, Microsoft Exchange 2010, Windows Server 2008 R2 32 Bit, Windows Server 2008 R2 64 Bit, plus all of myriad services packs, updates etc. IT Manager also understands the costs of the links, and problems downloading these items during the business day and IT Manager downloads this content on off peak hours.
Re: A CAD Manager's Letter to IT
by: ITManager
September 26, 2011 - 12:59pm
Additionally inexpensive high-speed Internet is not available at many business locations. When it is available the latency of the circuit or the lack of available upload bandwidth means that the other applications that need to use the same circuit suffer. IT Manager needs to balance the needs of all of the users within the organization within the budget available. When IT Manager hears that complaints by CAD Manager with his I need to download this small file NOW, while holding an e-mail dated a week back, with a total download time of 20-40 minutes IT Manager just smiles and agrees.
Re: A CAD Manager's Letter to IT
by: LarryNieder
October 12, 2016 - 4:56pm
Wow, good article Robert. ITManager sounds like Mordac, the Preventer of Information Services.
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