Welcome to the Cadalyst CAD Management Resource Center — your gateway to free resources that can help you be a more effective, and more highly valued, CAD manager. You’ll find something of interest whether you’re a rookie or you’ve been around since the early days of CAD. Check back often, as this center will continually be updated with new links and more guidance.
CAD MANAGEMENT 101 ...........................................
CAD management is an unusual profession: Although the role is key to a smoothly functioning CAD environment, some CAD managers perform the work without a title, budget, or even any official authority bestowed by upper management. They may be “power users” pressed into service simply because their experience with has given them the most CAD expertise of anyone in the company; they may perform CAD management duties on the side, while being expected to continue their CAD user duties and remain billable most of the time. At the other end of the spectrum, many are full-time CAD managers, complete with a title to match.
Regardless of their status in their company, however, all CAD managers face challenges that go far beyond CAD. In addition to selecting, implementing, and updating CAD and related software, the job often entails creating and enforcing standards of software use; training and supporting users; educating upper management and collaborating with the IT department; purchasing and supporting workstations, printers, and other hardware; and managing a budget for all of the above. And yes, managing users and projects to help ensure that work is completed efficiently, accurately, and on time.
Get Help from Experts, Peers, and CAD Users .......
Whether you are well supported in the role of CAD manager or not, you will need to draw on a network of resources to perform as effectively as possible. Cadalyst provides exclusive content from respected CAD management expert Robert Green, including free newsletters, webinars, and white papers. Managers who support AutoCAD can get guidance for themselves and their users from AutoCAD guru Lynn Allen. Make use of these free resources:
- Sign up for the free CAD Manager’s Newsletter, and stay up to date with Cadalyst Video Tips and CAD Tech News too.
- Read the archives for past CAD Manager columns by Robert Green.
- Visit the Cadalyst Library to download white papers and tip sheets by Robert Green and other authors.
- Watch the latest AutoCAD video tips from Lynn Allen.
- To network with and gain advice from your peers, check out Robert Green’s “CAD Managers Unite!” Facebook group.
In addition to these, look for videos on YouTube or on software vendors' sites that are relevant to the software titles you need to support. Identify and collaborate with super users in your workplace, especially if you need assistance with evaluating a new product or version before rolling it out to the entire group.
Prioritize CAD User Training ...................................
Training can feel like a burden when it takes time away from billable work, but it's essential that users understand their software's features and functions, and learn how to operate it efficiently. The good news is that there are many training types to choose from depending on your budget and time limitations, and how many users you support. On the more expensive end of the spectrum, you can invest in professional trainers that visit your workplace, live online training, or training workshops or programs your users attend offsite.
Most online training programs consist of recorded sessions that users can work through at their own pace; access to these libraries of tutorials is typically less expensive than live training, and allows for as much repetition as each individual requires. With screen-capture software and a good microphone, you can make your own training videos tailored to exactly what your users need. For a less formal, more collaborative option, lunch-and-learn sessions can build cameraderie as well as knowledge among the group. And whether you make your own or buy published guidebooks, printed training materials are still common, and serve as handy references for those who feel more comfortable looking things up on paper.
Beyond the format, another point to consider is whether you will train only when your users are learning a new software application or version, or you will implement an ongoing training program to help them retain information and add new skills over time. Regardless, be sure to identify your training goals and make a plan before you begin.
Improve Workflows with CAD Standards .......
CAD standards — codified guidelines, templates, and content libraries for creating and handling design files — are often undervalued. CAD managers may push them to the back burner because they take time to implement and enforce; users may disregard standards because they don’t know about them, don’t understand their usefulness, or don’t want to change their habits. But ignoring standards is a costly mistake: files that flout naming or location standards get lost, or slow down searches; files that aren’t consistent in terms of text sizes, lines types, and other variables are more difficult to compile and check for errors; files that don’t meet the expectations of partner firms and other collaborators cause confusion and delays. And when new employees join the organization, it’s much more difficult to get them started on the right path if you don’t have concrete, defined standards to guide them.
It’s up to the CAD manager to create and document standards, then train all users on those standards, clearly communicate their importance in terms that users appreciate, secure backup from upper management in the case of user noncompliance, and conduct reviews and make updates to standards as processes evolve. And before any of this occurs, it may be necessary to convince upper management that standards are needed.
It’s important to note that standards are not uniform across all organizations; instead, they are individualized to address the needs of a specific company or department, and sometimes for a specific project. (Also be sure to account for any standards imposed by industry organizations your company belongs to.) Examples of processes standards may apply to include:
- File naming, storage, and transfer protocols
- Processes for design archiving, deletion, and reuse
- Drawing elements such as layering, annotations, dimensions, and units
- Which software titles and versions employees may use for which projects.
Communicate CAD Budget Needs and More .......
In order to make most any major change, you need money. But to garner the funds to implement a training program, purchase new workstations for your users, or simply replace that much-used wide-format printer that’s on its last legs, you must convince upper management that it’s a worthy expenditure. Be sure to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of the purchase (learn all the steps of the process and download an ROI worksheet here) so you can back up your request with concrete numbers.
But the communication requirements of CAD management aren’t limited to budget requests. You must be able to convey complex technical information in simple, clear terms to people who aren’t CAD users (upper management); define the specific needs of your department for people who are highly technical, but usually know little about the hardware, software, and network requirements that yield a smoothly functioning CAD environment (IT professionals); and listen attentively, and explain features and processes clearly, when supporting your users.
EDITOR'S PICKS: Exclusive Cadalyst Content .......
Avoid Software Tool Worship by Focusing on Design
No matter how heavily promoted and feature-rich a software tool is, it’s just a means to an end — and it's not necessarily the right answer for your particular challenge. Read more>>
AutoCAD 2019 Introduces Major Licensing Changes
The latest release of Autodesk’s CAD software rolls the existing suite of separate vertical products, except for Civil 3D, into a single subscription offering: One AutoCAD. Read more>>
The differentiating metrics and decision criteria are shifting as market players and technologies change. Read more>>
Search and Rescue for AutoCAD Xrefs
Is there anything worse than broken xref links in AutoCAD? They can take hours to correct, depending on the extent of the path damage. Join AutoCAD tipster Lynn Allen to learn some amazing shortcuts to finding and repairing broken links that will save you loads of valuable time! Read more>>
Looking for more exclusive CAD management content? See all of Cadalyst's newest CAD management articles, columns, and videos>>
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!