Analyzing the CAD Manager's Survey 2007

23 Oct, 2007 By: Robert Green

A preview of the annual survey results indicates some market changes -- but not all the ones we expected.

A few weeks ago I concluded the CAD Manager’s Survey for 2007, and I've been looking at the results. The main statistics on salary, job responsibilities, and statistics on user support will be published in the November edition of Cadalyst magazine. But given that there's only so much space in the printed edition of Cadalyst and there's so much information coming from the survey, I wanted to expand the coverage in CAD Manager's Newsletter.

In this prequel to the CAD Manager's Survey report, I'd like to share some of the results regarding software usage, 3D design, and technical metrics that CAD managers have reported. Results are based on 585 respondents. I hope you find the results interesting and thought provoking. Here goes.

CAD Software Overview
Since software trends shape CAD managers' careers, I surveyed these trends again. In the survey I asked respondents to indicate both their primary CAD system and their secondary (if applicable) CAD system. The reason I've split the survey into primary and secondary systems is to gauge how many offices manage multiple CAD tools and to draw conclusions about where the market is moving.

As has been the case in all past surveys, AutoCAD (all versions plus AutoCAD LT) stands out as the most frequently used CAD package at 44% (down slightly from 46% recorded in the last survey). Architectural Desktop comes in next at 18% (same as last year), with the combined total of Land Development Desktop and Civil 3D showing up next at 15% (same as last year). Bringing up the rear for Autodesk were Inventor, Mechanical Desktop, AutoCAD Mechanical, and Revit combining to capture 4%, 1%, 1%, and 0.2% of the market, respectively. MicroStation (5%), SolidWorks (4%), and a host of products including Alibre, ArchiCAD, AutoCAD Map, Building Systems, CATIA, DataCAD, ProE, REVIT, and Solid Edge made up the balance of responses.

The conclusions I draw from these results include the following:

The reliance on AutoCAD as the primary CAD tool continues to dip but not so much as the big drops we saw in the 2005 and 2006 survey data. Clearly 2007 wasn't a year that signaled mass defection from AutoCAD, but as AutoCAD continues to dip below 50%, it is no longer the primary CAD tool of most companies. That is at least psychologically significant.

AutoCAD has largely lost ground to Autodesk's Civil 3D product, and the percentage of civil companies using Civil 3D is chipping away at the old standard Land Development Desktop. In fact, for every two companies using Land Development Desktop, there is another company that has fully implemented Civil 3D -- a big jump over the 1:4 ratio I noted in last year's survey.

The 2D/3D Hybrid Office
In recent years I've continued to note more and more offices running a 2D primary system (like AutoCAD) with a 3D-enabled secondary CAD system. Of course this multisystem or "hybrid" office environment means that CAD managers must do double duty in terms of software support. I wanted to get a feeling for how this trend has evolved in the past year, so I've resurveyed this topic.

In this year's survey I've broken the 2D/3D hybrid office environment down into more choices as follows:

2D/3D Hybrid Mixture -- 44%
Mainly 2D but evaluating 3D -- 26%
Totally 2D -- 24%
Totally 3D -- 6%

Since the last survey the number of totally 3D and totally 2D responses have gone slightly up and slightly down, respectively. The number of firms operating in a hybrid 2D/3D mode and those that still mainly use 2D have remained the same.

Taken together I conclude that we've seen remarkably little change in actual 3D implementation in the last year. I would have expected to see more adoption of 3D in the past year, but the numbers tell a story of a marketplace that simply isn't moving toward 3D with any sort of vigor. It seems that companies that adopted 3D early have finished that process, and those who were waiting to adopt 3D are still waiting.

For all the 3D hype seen in the marketplace, it simply isn't translating into actual adoption of 3D systems.

Technical Expertise
CAD managers have historically been technically minded types, but the level of technical interest has been changing in recent years, so I wanted to survey CAD manager comprehension of programming languages.

It turns out that CAD managers are well versed in programming technologies. Those reporting some degree of familiarity with AutoLISP made up 64% (up slightly over last year), and those with some degree of familiarity with Visual Basic (VB) comprised 33% (down from 37% last year). A closer examination of the data shows that those who report being fluent in AutoLISP/Visual Basic is actually down slightly at 24% (from 26% last year) and 11% (from 13% last year), respectively. Cross-correlating AutoLISP and VB yields some interesting statistics: 28% of those who are familiar with VB are also familiar with AutoLISP, but AutoLISP users have a 47% familiarity rate with VB. I continue to conclude that new CAD managers are entering the field with VB experience but have no experience with AutoLISP. At the same time it is evident that technical CAD managers who've learned AutoLISP before are taking steps to learn VB and are still in the majority.

I continue to believe the following conclusions regarding CAD managers who can program:

  • No matter how feature-packed design software is, CAD managers aren't satisfied with out-of-the-box systems, so they learn how to extend and customize. And those who can do so are more effective.
  • AutoLISP is not dead by a long shot, but VB is gaining ground. Serious AutoLISP users still outnumber serious VB users by a 2:1 ratio.

As the number of full-time CAD managers has dropped, we've seen the technical expertise of the remaining CAD managers stay at very high levels. I think it is safe to assume that CAD management will still be a career in which technical skills will be rewarded as CAD systems are tweaked and customized to fit companies' specific needs.

Summing Up
In the next edition of CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll dig into more of the CAD Manager’s Survey results and point you toward the main survey results published in Cadalyst magazine. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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