Assess Your CAD Management Plan

24 Jul, 2018 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: When you’re absorbed in the day-to-day challenges of your job, it’s easy to miss something important. Taking the time to analyze the various aspects of your work will help you become a better manager.

In the previous two editions of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I discussed ways to assess the status of your career. Since you’re already in self-assessment mode, I’m hoping you’ll be willing to stay there for a bit longer to analyze your CAD management plan — an exercise that can only make you a better manager.

There are so many aspects to being a CAD manager that it’s easy to overlook something. Doing a periodic assessment is a great way to see the bigger picture and determine how you’re doing. Get ready to make some notes! Here goes.

The Components of CAD Management

What to assess? Great question. The answer is: Everything that pertains to CAD management. Even though you may not be responsible for every item on this list at present, you should at least be concerned with these areas of activity:

  • Software usage and licensing
  • Hardware specification and purchasing
  • Standards and IT policy
  • Training
  • Ongoing support
  • Budgeting
  • Cost reduction and optimization.

If you ever wonder why CAD management is such a tough job, just look at this list and you’ll have your answer — there’s a lot to worry about! So, as with any big problem, let’s break our assessment into manageable chunks, and start by answering some questions in each area and assigning action items as required.

Image by olly /

Software Usage and Licensing

Do you know how many licenses you have, how fully they are utilized, and how your needs might change next year? Do your users really need the software they have, or could they get by with less expensive tools? If you have too many licenses of one product, can you afford to let their subscriptions lapse at the next renewal date, or should you upgrade or crossgrade to another product? Could network or remote access licensing allow you to own fewer copies of expensive analytical or rendering software?

Your responses to these questions will enable you to truly understand your software needs and costs for at least the next year. It is often surprising how many software licenses are under-utilized (such as a full building information modeling [BIM] suite license assigned to an engineering manager who doesn’t do CAD work) or could be shared among many users. Since CAD software is expensive (and is becoming more so with every year, it seems) it literally pays to understand all the variables and tailor your software licensing to your company’s needs.

Action items:

  • If IT is responsible for licensing, then insist on doing a detailed assessment with them — they’d probably love having your expertise and assistance anyway.
  • If you find ways to save, write them down in an executive summary and show your boss!
  • If your company is growing, make an attempt to forecast future software needs so management knows about upcoming increases in software budgets.

Conclusion: With software becoming so expensive, licensing can be one of the best places to find savings — and you know your boss will like that.

Hardware Specification and Purchasing

Do you have a firm understanding of what workstation configurations you need to run BIM, mechanical modeling, and general CAD applications? Will you be replacing desktop hardware with mobile workstations? Do you know which users will need specific graphics processors for new usage scenarios such as virtual reality, coordination tools, or video rendering? Are you involved in specifying these parameters, or are you at the mercy of whatever IT chooses to give you?

Your responses to these questions predict how well your CAD tools will run on your users’ desktops, so it is very important to be involved in the configuration phase.

Action items:

  • Be sure to have software-specific hardware specifications (such as Desktop BIM User, Traveling General CAD User, and Desktop Rendering User) so that each person gets the right machine based on their software and travel profile.
  • Work with IT to hone hardware specifications and source the best deals based on IT’s purchasing policies.

Conclusion: Get involved! If you let IT act without your input and they buy the wrong hardware, you — and your users — will live with that bad decision for years.

Standards and IT Policy

Do you have standards? Are your standards up to date? Do your users know what your standards are? Do your users understand IT policy as it applies to CAD topics like cloud file storage, data loss, and the use of personal electronic devices? Do senior managers support your standards and empower you to enforce them?

Your responses to these questions will indicate how well thought out, thoroughly trained, and reliably supported your standards program is. If you answered No to all these questions, you are in deep trouble! If you answered Yes to all, you are golden. A mixture of Yes and No responses indicates some issues that need to be resolved.

Action items:

  • If you have no standards, it is time to create them.
  • If your standards are in disrepair, it’s time to update them.
  • Be sure that IT standards protect CAD files from security threats.
  • If you’re not training users on your standards, you must begin to do so (otherwise, you’ll never get a handle on your standards problems).
  • If your management doesn’t support you in your standards quest, make sure to approach them about doing so (otherwise you won’t have all the authority required to make standards stick).

Conclusion: Standards are the only thing protecting you — and your company — from chaos, so make standards a priority.


Do you have a user training program? Do you provide training materials for users to review on their own? Do you instruct your users on the proper usage of company procedures and standards?

Your responses here predict how well your software usage and standards adherence will go. All No answers indicate a CAD user base that is allowed to do whatever they want, has limited understanding of their software, and little to no awareness of standards.

Action items:

  • If you have no training program, start one, even if it is modest.
  • As you conduct training sessions, be sure to record them or produce handout documents so users can review the training later.

Conclusion: If you don’t have a training program, you need one — and the time to approach your management team about getting one started is now!

Ongoing Support

Is support a recognized/budgeted activity, or something you do “in your spare time” to respond to train wrecks? Do you have enough time to support users well? Do you spend all your time answering the same questions over and over again? Do certain users or departments require more support than others?

Your responses here will indicate how well understood the need for support is within your organization. CAD managers who have no budgeted time for support tend to answer the same questions over and over. CAD managers who do have time to support users typically see repeat problems/questions diminish over time.

Action items:

  • If providing proper support is a problem, you need to approach project managers, senior managers, and anybody else who will listen to describe the problem.
  • If you’re answering the same questions over and over and you don’t have a training program in place, make sure your management understands that the two issues are linked — no training means more questions!

Conclusion: Support = productivity. Users that are well supported catch mistakes and fix them earlier, which prevents rework and delays in the longer run.


Do you have a budget? Does management listen to your recommendations on annual software budgets? Does your IT department solicit your input for hardware and peripheral budgets?

Your responses to these questions will indicate how involved you are with the identification of hardware and software budgeting. If you answered Yes to all these questions, you’re in good shape. If you answered No to everything, you are at the mercy of what people think you need. Questions you answered No to point out where you need to get involved.

Action item:

  • If your audit shows that providing support is a problem, you need to approach project managers, senior managers, and anybody else who will listen to describe the problem.

Conclusion: If you want something, you need to ask for it, and a budget is the way to make your request to management.

Cost Reduction and Optimization

Now that you’ve thought through each topic and answered the diagnostic questions, you must take action. But what action? To figure that out, be honest about the problems you noticed, and prioritize them using the following criteria:

  1. What can you change that will save money?
  2. What can you change that will make users more productive?
  3. Everything else.

Action items:

  • Anything that can save money should be submitted to your management immediately!
  • Anything that can increase user productivity that doesn’t cost money (like better standards, error avoidance via support, better management or IT engagement, specifying future hardware purchases, etc.) should be done ASAP.
  • Anything that can increase user productivity but will cost money (like new computers, lengthy training programs, new software, etc.) should be submitted to management via the budgeting process, and done as soon as funding can be obtained.
  • All other items will be secondary to cost reduction and productivity enhancement, so best to hold them off until later.

Conclusion: Knowing what your problems are means little if you don’t explain them to your boss and take action to fix them in priority of financial importance.

Summing Up

I hope you’ll take the time to assess your CAD management plan and take action in the areas I’ve outlined. After all, if you never review what you’re doing, how will you ever get better? I’ve found that assessing how things are going on a twice-yearly basis makes a huge difference in preventing small issues from becoming big ones. And by knowing what to work on to cut costs and increase production, you’ll always seem super smart to senior management.

So why not take the plunge and assess your CAD management plan now? You’ll be ahead of the curve rather than waiting for problems to manifest themselves. Try it, it really does work! Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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