Management

CAD Manager's Newsletter #97

10 Dec, 2003 By: Robert Green


Untitled Document

Issue Focus: Autodesk University from 37,000 Feet

AU 2003 STATUS REPORT

- CAD MANAGERS WEAR MORE HATS

- TECHNICAL CAD MANAGERS

- BUSINESS ACUMEN LACKING

- CAD MANAGEMENT IS STILL TOUGH

- SOFTWARE FOR US?

- AU IS A GREAT RESOURCE

- WRAPPING UP

***************************************************

 

AU 2003 STATUS REPORT

Well I've just settled into the airport waiting area after my last teaching session at AU (Autodesk University) 2003. I figure the best way to recap AU is to write it all down while it's still fresh in my mind, so I figured I'd leverage my four-hour flight downtime to do so. Every AU session is a mixture of technology, education, marketing, and the chance to be around hundreds of the best CAD managers in the world. I always come away from AU with a wide range of thoughts and perceptions based on what I hear from CAD managers who are in the trenches every day. So in no particular order here are the trends and interesting tidbits I learned over the past week.

 

CAD MANAGERS WEAR MORE HATS

My last CAD Manager's Survey shows that CAD managers juggle a wider range of design, managerial, and technology responsibilities than ever before. I was eager to see if this trend would be validated at AU, so I polled all my classes, by show of hands, to see how many CAD managers were squeezing more tasks into their work week. The responses closely matched my survey data, and further conversations led me to the following conclusions:

* More CAD managers are forced to have a higher percentage of billable time than in years past. While 40 to 50% overhead for CAD managers was not uncommon three years ago, the rate is now much closer to 20%. Clearly, the economic downturn of the past few years has affected CAD managers.

* More CAD managers are managing multiple CAD systems. It's now very common to manage AutoCAD plus any number of vertical packages, from the Autodesk Desktop series of products to nonDWG products such as Inventor and Revit.

* More CAD managers with substantial AutoCAD installations are managing not only multiple Autodesk products but also products from other vendors-for example, Solidworks or Bentley's AutoPLANT or InRoads.

All in all, CAD managers are more harried, more pressured, and more in need of technical skills to stay on top of their company's CAD needs than ever before. And of course, there's less time to do it all, right? Looks like in the future CAD managers will simply have to juggle more stuff, not less.

TECHNICAL CAD MANAGERS
Because of the trend toward having less time to handle more software, the pendulum has swung back in favor of the technical CAD manager. I spoke to more people at AU this year who program, customize, coordinate networks, and optimize hardware and software platforms than I have in years. It seems that there simply aren't that many people out there who have enough technical expertise to keep the nonhomogenous hardware and software CAD infrastructures prevalent in industry running.

This trend is where I see the most promise for future employment opportunities. Simply put, if you're a good technologist who can manage multiple technical systems, you're going to be in demand!

BUSINESS ACUMEN LACKING
As CAD management swings back to an increasing emphasis on technicality, it becomes ever more obvious that CAD managers, on the whole, don't understand the business environment they operate in. Basic understanding of ROI (return on investment), tax consequences of investment, leasing, budgeting, and how to use all of it to make your department run better is critically lacking for many.

My most popular presentations this year had less to do with technology than with the above-mentioned business metrics. I conclude that business education will be a very hot item for CAD managers in the coming years. And I promise to do my part in future newsletters to highlight these skills.

CAD MANAGEMENT IS STILL TOUGH
I continue to observe that CAD managers have a very difficult job. I can't think of another career field where you need to be proficient in technology, management, and communications and and hold your overhead down to a small fraction of your total work time. The great news here is the same as the bad news: It's hard to be a CAD manager, so fewer and fewer people can compete with you for the job.

SOFTWARE FOR US?
I was able to attend several classified briefings for new software products from various vendors at AU this year. I can't report specifics of these meetings due to nondisclosure agreements, but I can report that all these software firms understand how critical it is to understand, and satisfy, the CAD manager's needs if they want to sell software. This is great news because we finally seem to have arrived on the software companies' radar screens.

Look for 2004 to bring us new software products that highlight the need to manage information and CAD installations with less effort. I'm genuinely excited about what I saw at AU this year and look forward to highlighting the CAD manager-centric features when I'm permitted to.

AU IS A GREAT RESOURCE
There is always the question whether attending an event like Autodesk University is valuable. I may be biased, but I can't think of a better learning and collaborating environment for CAD managers anywhere on the planet. There simply is no other place where you can rub elbows with 2,000 of your colleagues, as well as major software vendors, in an environment targeted toward learning.

Believe me when I say I've attended all the trade shows and I've struggled to justify the expenses. Autodesk University provides a unique opportunity for Autodesk product users to gain a wide range of knowledge in a short time in a peer environment that can't be replicated elsewhere.

WRAPPING UP
I'd like to thank all the CAD Manager's Newsletter readers who took the time to look me up at Autodesk University this year. It was a pleasure to meet so many of you and connect faces with e-mail addresses.

As we move into 2004 I'll be looking for new and better ways to serve you, the working CAD manager, with this newsletter. I heartily encourage your comments and hope you'll always feel free to e-mail me at rgreen@cad-manager.com with any ideas you may have for newsletter topics.


AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a different AutoCAD feature in every edition of her popular "Circles and Lines" tutorial series. For even more AutoCAD how-to, check out Lynn's quick tips in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Subscribe to Cadalyst's free Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!
Follow Lynn on Twitter Follow Lynn on Twitter