Data Management

CAD Manager's Newsletter # 115 (September 23, 2004)

22 Sep, 2004

Controlling CAD Files -- Part III

CAD Manager's Survey Update
In the last issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I introduced the CAD Manager's 2004 survey. As of this writing I've had 348 responses to the survey, but I would love to get a larger statistical sample before drawing conclusions.

If you've already participated in the survey, please forward a copy of this newsletter to everyone you know who has a CAD manager role, so they can send me their input. And if you haven't participated yet, please take a moment to do so now before you forget! Here's the link:

CAD Manager's Survey

The results of the survey will be published in the November and December issues of Cadalyst magazine and in this e-mail newsletter.

Document Management Continued
In the past two issues of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I continued my overview of EDM (electronic document management) by defining the general expectations for any EDM system. While an overview is, by definition, general in nature, it is required reading before delving into the specifics of any given system. If you haven't had a chance to read the last two issues, I recommend you do so now so you'll have proper context for this issue.

CAD Document Management, Part I

CAD Document Management, Part II

Before we can move to a discussion of specific products, we need to discuss some additional system expectations and establish a game plan for evaluating software products. This issue should serve as the bridge to product summary evaluations that we'll undertake over the next several issues. Here goes.

Customer Expectations
I get a good bit of e-mail from companies that have implemented various EDM systems, or have tried with mixed results. It seems as if the feedback is grouped into a few general categories, which I'll summarize here with a ranking of how often I receive each type:

• System XYZ works great for us (infrequent)
• System XYZ was a washout for us (infrequent)
• System XYZ didn't work well with our CAD software (common)
• System XYZ didn't integrate with other software in our enterprise (common)
• System XYZ was much more expensive and difficult to implement than we thought it would be (very common)
As you can see, extremely positive or negative feedback is uncommon, but technical problems associated with integration or complexity/expense abound. If you read between the lines, you can see that most feedback is in fact negative, but is due to the fact that the particular system didn't really fit the needs of the company or the company didn't understand what would be required to implement an EDM system. As I read through these sorts of e-mails, I always wonder how thoroughly the company researched its EDM options before purchasing a system.

I've come to believe that the vast majority of bad feedback is because the customer had an incorrect expectation of what an EDM system could do for them, then became disappointed as the implementation got under way. It is therefore imperative that you have correct expectations for any EDM system you attempt to implement so you can become one of relatively few EDM success stories I hear.

Know What You Need
Before shopping for any sort of EDM system, you need to know exactly what you need. I encourage you to make a list of the must-have features for your EDM implementation before you ever start shopping. Many times I've seen customers select a software system, then struggle to make their needs fit the software — which is exactly the wrong way to go about the task.

So before you do anything else, make a list of requirements you feel any EDM system must fulfill before you'll buy it. Take this list shopping with you and stick to it. You'll find it much easier to identify EDM systems that will fit your needs if you actually know what you need!

As You Shop
Any time you consider an EDM system, ask yourself (or your team) the following questions:

• Does this software have the features we need?
• Are we being realistic about our ability to understand and customize the software?
• Does the software have the right type of components and technologies to fit into our company's existing computer structures?
• Are we being realistic about our company's willingness to invest the time and expense this EDM system will impose on us?
As you answer these questions, keep track of your answers and be sure to solicit the input of others in your company's extended CAD team. After all, the time to ask questions is before you purchase something, not after.

The Zero Option
So after you've carefully compiled your needs and started shopping for EDM software, what should you do if you can't find a system that meets your needs at a price you can afford? Should you scale back your expectations and buy a lesser system, or should you argue for more budget dollars to purchase a higher-end system? These are real questions that require some mental preparation on your part.

My experience tells me that if people think they're going to be unhappy with an EDM system, they will be. I personally believe that even the most well-crafted EDM software can fail in almost any environment if the criteria of performance, cost, and expectation haven't been addressed. Sometimes it simply makes more sense to continue along the path of doing nothing — the zero option — while continuing to hone your system requirements and managerial support for funding the right one.

Trust me when I say you'll never be sorry that you waited to install an EDM system, but you can be miserable if you move forward with the wrong choice.

CAD Manager Survey and Wrapping Up
In the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll begin summarizing features from various commercially available EDM systems. If you have a war story you'd like to share regarding your experience with EDM software, please e-mail me at Until next time.