CAD Management in a Continuing Recession, Part 3

12 Aug, 2009 By: Robert Green

In Australia and New Zealand, where the recession isn't hitting so hard, CAD managers are taking the opportunity to optimize technology and do more with less.

In the last two editions of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I shared some of the economic bad news that CAD managers have been dealing with and published interviews with industry experts. The reader feedback I've received, unfortunately, has corroborated my findings.

Most of the questions I'm receiving from readers focus on how to weather the economic storm and emerge in a good position to take advantage of economic recovery when it begins. To that end, I'm embarking upon a specialized CAD manager survey, and I invite you to participate. In addition, I interviewed CAD manager and blogger Robin Capper to get a New Zealander's take on the current situation.

Survey on the Economy
The mini-survey won't take you long to complete, and will only focus on key financial and business questions designed to determine how the economic downturn is affecting CAD managers. I will break the findings down by country, as well as by region for the United States market. Take the survey at:

Questions include:

  • Has your company had layoffs? When?
  • Has CAD management been cut from your job description?
  • Are you under more pressure to be billable?
  • Is overhead being more closely scrutinized?
  • Has your training program been eliminated?
  • Is senior management taking more or less interest in CAD management now?
  • How many CAD operators have you lost or added during the last year?
  • Is your company dropping software licenses or suspending subscriptions?
  • Are you still updating your software?

I'll compile the results of the survey soon for delivery in a September issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, so please take the survey now, while you're thinking about it.

Interview with Robin Capper
I've had a number of CAD managers from Australia and New Zealand report that they aren't experiencing the global downturn like the rest of the world. To verify, I asked fellow CAD manager, blogger, and BIM (building information modeling) enthusiast Robin Capper a few questions. I thought you might find his replies an interesting counterpoint. You can check out Robin's blogs at

Q. Do you think the market for CAD managers is pretty bleak?

A. I think it's less bleak here [in New Zealand] than the U.S. but companies are being cautious; the old "get more for less" thing applies more than ever.

Q. Do you see any bright spots in the market that CAD managers should be aware of?

A. BIM plus the market equals change. It's forcing companies to really look at how they do stuff beyond just throwing more resources at projects. While these times are tough, they are probably accelerating change rather than slowing it. Might mean fewer CAD seats, but it means those there have to get more done.

Q. Do you see CAD managers as being under more pressure to provide billable services like architecture, engineering, or design than before the recession?

A. I think in our market [architectural design and construction] the nonbillable/production CAD manager is rare anyway. The pressure to get money in the door means most will have some production aspect. I actually think it's good anyway. Testing is fine but there is no better way to find problems than by doing real projects!

Q. What career advice would you give a CAD manager who's trying to stay employed or find work in this economy?

A. Keep in touch with your network. Although some regard things like blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, or even user groups a waste of time, it's important to establish contacts — and your reputation — before you really need them!

Q. To what extent do you think CAD managers should expand their skills via formal or self-training?

A. Never stop learning; the world isn't going to stop changing. Besides, the new challenges, work methods, and technology are the fun part!

Q. Is the recession a time for CAD managers to change how their companies use software or a time to just keep the status quo and wait for things to get better?

A. Depends where your company is. You need to at least match your competition with an eye on the future, though.

Q. Could you share any tips for cost savings that CAD managers could use to help their companies?

A. Perhaps look at free versions before buying software, but remember to calculate in the total cost of ownership. "Free" isn't always the cheapest if it consumes time due to things like different application user interfaces, retraining, file translations, etc.

Economic Conclusions
This series of newsletters has been eye-opening for me, as I've been able to see things from the perspectives of all manner of CAD managers around the world. I've struggled to draw conclusions from the wide-ranging data I've collected, but I've settled on a few items I think are worth sharing with you. (Of course, I'd love to get your opinions or viewpoints to the contrary, and I welcome your e-mail feedback.)

CAD managers have been set back. As the recession has forced companies to cut positions, CAD managers have suffered more than most. In fact, the CAD management role is now viewed more as overhead than it has been since the beginning of the CAD revolution. I fear that we're going to spend years building the CAD manager's position back up to the level of prominence it enjoyed just a few years ago.

CAD mangers must be production-ready. A simple rule of economic survival seems to be that being billable helps you stay employed. Brush up on your production CAD skills and be ready to do whatever it takes to meet production deadlines.

Study to advance. You'll need to spend more of your own time studying new software technologies, since companies aren't investing in them as much during the downturn. Don't count on receiving training from your employer, because training budgets have been cut. It all adds up to an "educate yourself" mantra if you want to stay up-to-date with new technology.

Abrupt change is coming. I found it interesting to view economic recession from Robin Capper's perspective. Because the New Zealand economy isn't affected as much as the U.S. economy, he sees the economic downturn more as a chance to modernize and implement technology than a time of crisis. I suspect all companies would do well to embrace the idea of making smart technology changes in the downturn, as opposed to playing catch-up when the economy bounces back.

Summing Up
I know this series on economic recession hasn't been light or happy reading, but I do think the survival strategies will help you make it through the recession and emerge well educated when it passes. I welcome your feedback and any ideas you'd like to share.

And don't forget to participate in the CAD manager's mini-survey at

Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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