Advocate for Internet Access for CAD Tools

26 Mar, 2014 By: Robert Green

Are you battling with your IT department over a necessary resource? As CAD software becomes increasingly Internet-enabled, these conflicts are intensifying — so it’s time to start talking.

CAD Conundrum

But while IT is in a constant struggle to lock down and secure the Internet, the CAD software we use is only becoming more Internet-enabled. So a CAD Internet conundrum arises: As more of us must use Internet-based tools to do our CAD work, it becomes harder to do so, because our IT department further blocks our ability to use those very tools.

If you've already experienced this problem, you know exactly what I mean. If you've never experienced this, chances are you will soon. In the ongoing struggle to keep security threats out of your network, it may seem that IT is doing everything they can to hamstring CAD users.

Keep in mind, however, that IT's goal is to keep your company secure, not to hinder your productivity. Your IT professionals are most likely unaware that their Internet policies are negatively affecting CAD workflows.

Educate the Gatekeepers

Short of pulling up the Internet drawbridge and working only within our own company's network, what can we do? This is an extremely important question for the CAD/BIM manager who must use these types of Internet tools to facilitate project completion. I suggest starting a real conversation with your IT department, project managers, and senior managers alike.

The conversation must include, at minimum, the following key points:

  • We must accommodate client requirements. Our clients expect us to upload to and download from their project management sites, and they don't care about our internal IT policies.
  • CAD users need access. It isn't enough for just the CAD manager to be able to access required CAD sites — users need the capability as well.
  • CAD managers need administrative capabilities. CAD managers can't afford to wait days for IT departments to add users to Internet-based CAD tools. CAD managers must be deputized IT agents to keep things moving.
  • The software will change. Just because things work today doesn't mean they'll work next month; Internet tools change frequently.
  • These are mission-critical tools. If my users can't use the tools they need the result is that schedules slip, clients get mad, and business suffers.
  • CAD support deserves top-priority status. If IT policy is causing a critical CAD tool to stop working, there is an immediate need to get it working again. If the accounting system stopped working, nobody would consider that a "small bug." Why should CAD tools be any different?

Manage the Conversation

This may be the first time that your project managers, senior management, and IT teams have been made aware that IT's Internet policies can negatively affect CAD tools and productivity. Be prepared to answer questions and explain your department's needs. Do not allow this discussion to degrade into bits, bytes, IP addresses, and firewall configurations (or other IT jargon). If you do, your management teams will be lost and the conversation will get off-track. The conversation must remain firmly rooted in functionality and be governed by the tools you need to use and the client demands you must fulfill.

Summing Up

One thing to stress during these conversations is that the ever-changing landscape of Internet-based CAD and business tools requires long-range planning for IT support of those tools. It will no longer be enough to simply plan, say, for a SolidWorks upgrade or a new version of AutoCAD — you'll also have to think about how those applications integrate with Internet applications and how IT policy will have to change to support them. This all means that to be successful, CAD/BIM managers have to think a lot more like IT managers and force their way into the company's IT policies.

How will you get more involved with IT? What other problems are you experiencing with Internet-enabled CAD tools I haven't mentioned? I await your feedback. Until next time.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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