CAD Manager's Newsletter (#438)

28 Jan, 2020 By: Cadalyst Staff

CAD management 3.0 will place new demands on CAD managers and redefine what it takes to compete in the field.

CAD Management 3.0 — The Change Is Real

We're now in the midst of the third major change wave in CAD management, which will place new demands on CAD managers and redefine what it takes to compete in the field.

When I talk with CAD managers, I'm always looking for trends and listening for questions that come up repeatedly; this information shapes my opinions about where our career field is going. Many times these trends align with market forces such as cloud computing or building information modeling (BIM), for example, but in the past year I've noticed a seemingly disconnected group of questions that don't paint a clear picture. The more I've delved into these questions, the more I've come to believe that we're now in the midst of the third major change wave in CAD management — which I'll call CAD management 3.0 (CM 3.0). More a summation of several smaller trends than a single driving trend, CM 3.0 will place new demands on CAD managers and redefine what it takes to compete in the field.

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll set out my case for why I believe this is so, and set the stage for a wide variety of related content in the coming year. So get ready for some change in 2020! Here goes.

A Brief History of CAD Management

So if I'm positing that we're heading into a third major change wave in CAD management, it might be instructive to examine where we've been in order to provide context for the future. I'll do this by outlining the characteristics and timelines I've experienced; your mileage may vary.

CAD Management 1.0: 1985 to 1997. When CAD displaced drafting boards, the software was primitive, computers were expensive, and nobody — including myself — knew what they were doing. There weren't many CAD packages to support in those early days, and the concept of universally available connectivity was alien. CAD management was simply a struggle to make the software work and deal with new office computing technologies in a world where e-mail was a luxury, updates were sent on floppies, and any support was found via phone calls or on CompuServe forums, if your CAD vendor supported it. All this was combined with the fact that the idea of PC networks was also new, and the IT management staffs were just as confused as we were on most days.

Simply put, there was no playbook for being a CAD manager, but a few expectations did start to develop: CAD managers had to be tenacious and self-supporting "do-it-yourselfers" that were willing to put in long hours to figure out the basics. They had to be able to jump from task to task as they supported users, found files, performed backups, kept plotters running, dealt with IT issues, and supported users who knew even less than they did. CAD management was a lot of work, but it was uniquely satisfying if you enjoyed the challenge of figuring it all out.

CAD Management 2.0: 1998 to 2018. With CAD now being accepted as normal, the job started to evolve into supporting more specialized software — from the dawn of products like Solidworks to today's BIM tools — which meant that CAD managers had to have far more software skills than they used to. And they needed not just general knowledge, but detailed knowledge, because these new technologies had to be brought into the organization from scratch with configuration, training, and management.

On the positive side, keeping things running became easier as support systems became more common (via e-mail and bulletin board system [BBS] services at first, and leading up to today's web-driven support regimes) and IT support for devices like printers/plotters and backup systems became a given. Generally speaking, CAD managers spent far less time finding information and far more time learning software in the CAD management 2.0 age.

So the complexity of the job became more about how much software you could learn and work with at once, and less about the primitive struggle of finding information and just getting things to work; CAD managers shifted toward being specialists, rather than generalists, in this age. Another trend that emerged was the idea that CAD managers would actually become managers by delving into the creation of standards, formulation of budgets, training of staff, and providing recommendations for the forward CAD path for their organization. As time passed in the CAD management 2.0 age, the job became more involved and required a broader set of skills to be successful. (It was in 1998 that I started my CAD Manager columns to address this new type of CAD manager.) Read more »

Tools and Resources

Cadalyst Publishes Guide to CAD Tech Trends to Watch in 2020
When you're surrounded by emerging and evolving technologies, it can be difficult to determine which developments will be impactful and which are overhyped. To help you see the future more clearly, eight representatives of CAD software development companies discuss their picks for which trends to watch. Download the Top CAD Technology Trends of 2020 guide to read insights and predictions from eight CAD software companies about how CAD and related technologies are changing.

What's New from Our Sponsors

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What's New at

Radica Launches Fully Browser-Based Electrical CAD Software
Thomas Yip, CEO and founder of Radica Software, discusses the "world's first" solution for 2D electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic schematic drawings that runs in the cloud. Read more »

Webinar Today Will Explore the Future of AEC
A free webinar sponsored by Lenovo and NVIDIA will explain five transformative trends revolutionizing the AEC industry. Read more »

Viewpoint: Infrastructure Digital Twins: From Vision to Reality, From Idea to Action
As digital twins advance, what do you need to know? Advice from Bentley Systems founder Keith Bentley can help you get started. Read more »

Sponsored: White Paper Tests Notebook PC vs. Mobile Workstation
From Lenovo: When it comes to visual computing for CAD, these two types of machines are very different — and the numbers show why. Read more »

CAD Manager Column: Predictions and Resolutions for Better CAD Management in 2020
Resolve to manage your resources more effectively, make the most of your budget, and become more involved with IT, and you'll be better prepared for the challenges coming your way this year. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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