CAD Manager's Newsletter #99 (January 22, 2004)22 Jan, 2004 By: Robert Green
Issue Focus: Good News for the New Year
- OLD SOFTWARE/EQUIPMENT IS DYING
- SOFTWARE MANUFACTURERS ARE LISTENING
- USEFUL FEATURES ARE TRUMPING PIE IN THE SKY
- DATA MANAGEMENT IS BEING ADDRESSED SERIOUSLY WRAPPING UP
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I've noticed a definite move to upgrade network hardware and software this year, and CAD software upgrades seem to be happening as well. It's safe to say that business is looking up for technology vendors, in stark contrast to last year's market. I base my optimism on the following factors:
* Old software/equipment is dying
* Software manufacturers are listening
* Useful features are trumping pie in the sky
* Data management is being addressed seriously
I'll explain my thinking about each item and present some ideas on why we should be happy that these factors are working their way into the CAD software market.
OLD SOFTWARE/EQUIPMENT IS DYING
Remember the Y2K hysteria of 1999? Though it seems like just yesterday, that was four years ago, and all the network upgrades spawned by Y2K are now limping toward the end of their useful life spans. Several things conspired to give Y2K-justified hardware such a long life, but the main factor really was that hard times postponed spending. The plain truth is that capital spending on hardware has to occur now because it can't be put off any longer.
We're also starting to see the introduction of software applications (AutoCAD 2004 is one such product) that expect to run on new operating systems at the machine level, which means server upgrades. When you're forced to support new operating systems, it's often easier to purchase newer hardware designed to work with new Microsoft feature sets than to continue the patching/fixing routine required with old hardware. Finally, new equipment is so cheap and provides so much function in so little rack space that it becomes silly to spend money supporting old equipment.
Bottom line: The business factors to support a wave of spending on new hardware and software are converging, and businesses are noticing.
SOFTWARE MANUFACTURERS ARE LISTENING
How many times have you thought, as you battle to keep users working and software running, "I wish these software companies would listen to the working CAD manager and develop software that gives us the tools we need to do our job?" The good news for CAD managers is that software companies do seem to be acknowledging the CAD manager's expertise and taking our input seriously. I've noticed a sustained trend from CAD software companies over the past year that emphasizes giving customers what they ask for in software upgrades. Key metrics now include ease of deployment, ease of learning, and interface enhancements that reduce keystrokes. Rather than trying to tell CAD managers what they should be doing, software companies now seem to understand that CAD managers won't purchase software if it doesn't help them meet their objectives.
Bottom line: Rejoice. Vendors are paying attention to us!
USEFUL FEATURES ARE TRUMPING PIE IN THE SKY
As software companies add new features to product upgrades, they've started to emphasize features that users have asked for rather than trying to blaze new trails. Software companies comprehend that users want tools that make existing tasks easier as well as new features they haven't thought of. This does not mean that innovation is dead in the CAD software world. It does mean that when software companies spend money to develop new features, they want to know that they're solving a customer problem. It's finally OK to concentrate on user-friendly, productivity-enhancing software features instead of inventing Internet or collaborative features that few users take advantage of.
Bottom line: Software vendors see user requests as the key to selling software, which should lead to more attentiveness to our needs. And listening typically yields better results!
DATA MANAGEMENT IS BEING ADDRESSED SERIOUSLY
Software companies realize that producing all these CAD files without a way to catalog and find them later is becoming an increasingly large liability. Rather than leaving file management to aftermarket providers such as Cyco, Synergis, and SmarTeam, developers like Autodesk and think3 have begun to embed document management features into their native file formats that will work with file management products. An example of this is Autodesk's new Vault system that works with Inventor.
I'm not saying that file and document management problems have been solved or that you won't experience problems resolving your file management woes. But software companies do seem to understand the problems you face and are trying to produce friendlier ways to deal with the problem at lower costs. This market segment will be extremely interesting to watch this year to see who gains momentum and which approach gains favor in a skeptical marketplace.
Bottom line: Progress is on the horizon, and more players are entering the market. More players typically mean better products and lower costs.
We often get so busy with day-to-day CAD management activities that we don't take the time to consider where our industry is going. I hope this brief infusion of optimism gives you renewed energy to tackle your job knowing that things seem to be looking up! In the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter I'll complete my positive market evaluation by highlighting some changes in work trends and practices that you should be aware of. Until then.
In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD Video Tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter, and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!