CAD Manager Pleas to CAD Software CEOs14 Sep, 2022 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager’s Column: Dear CAD Software CEO, Please help make my job easier!
I hear a lot of griping about CAD software companies and, to be honest, I even gripe a lot. What I hear most from CAD managers is that it seems that nobody at CAD companies listen to them. CAD manager complaints have become more pointed in the last few years as prices have gone up, licensing has become more complex, and managing remote workers has become even more difficult.
In this edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll try to sum up the general gripes into a cogent message and target it to the only people at the CAD companies that can really change things — the CEOs — in hopes they might read it and act. Here goes.
Image source: JonAndersWiken/stock.adobe.com.
Dear CEO, Understand Our Plight
As CAD managers, we toil in the trenches trying to make your software work. We operate in stressful conditions that include long hours, irritated users, limited budgets, and we have inadequate authority, yet we’re expected to make your CAD/BIM software tools work. It isn’t an easy or glamorous job, yet we do it because we love CAD technology and want our companies to succeed.
If it sounds like we’re just griping, we’re not. Remember we’re your fans and we want your software to work so we can get our jobs done. But, the more we struggle to use your tools, the worse you look by extension. What would help us most — and would help you build better customer relationships — would be for you to listen to us, understand our problems, and help us. If you would do this, we’d be happy to spread the word.
How can you help? Here are a few things you could do.
Dear CEO, Drop the Marketing Double-Speak
Remember when everything was about a “paradigm shift in design?” Remember when every other word in CAD marketing seemed to be “collaboration?” Remember when the word “cloud” had to be in every other sentence? Now everything is “BIM-BIM-BIM” or “digital twin.” And, when you put them together in today’s marketing environment, phrases like “synergistically moving towards a digital twin collaborative infrastructure” start to pop out. Trust me when I say that we CAD managers read things like this in marketing, roll our eyes, and say, “That’s just a bunch or marketing nonsense.” I don’t need to hear about “cloud-based collaboratively optimized BIM,” I need to learn how to design buildings better using your tools. I don’t need glossy pictures or snazzy phrases, I need knowledge.
So, could you please drop the glitzy marketing materials and spend that money producing materials that help my users use your tools better? Rather than trying to persuade us to buy something from you using buzzwords, teach us to use your tools better. Chances are we’ll recommend your tools more if you help us make them work.
Dear CEO, Quit Telling Us What We Need
As I think back through my own career, I recall that CAD companies have always tried to tell CAD managers what kind of software we needed. We’ve been told we need Internet extensions, proprietary viewing and CAD formats, cloud applications, rental software, and the like. To be fair, some of these needs have come to pass (such as, Internet-enabled CAD), but it took years for the changes to permeate the marketplace and show up in our day-to-day workflows. On the other hand, many of the changes advocated, like the need for proprietary file formats and cloud-based tools, were never able to overcome our company’s needs to use industry standards — which explains why so many of us still manage standalone CAD tools and work with DWG and PDF files.
Moral of the story? Customer data requirements determine the software we use and the file types we deliver, not your marketing department.
Dear CEO, Give us Speed and Stability
In addition to learning to use your tools better, we need software that is lean, fast, and stable — not bloated, slow, and buggy. No one has ever been yelled at because their software rendered too quickly, plotted too fast, or performed design functions without crashing.
If you want to really get CAD managers on your side, focus on providing software updates that are more compact, install faster, crash less, and run faster than the previous version. Do this and I’ll stand over my boss’s desk until he signs the purchase order for your updates and will install it the minute I receive it. Don’t do this and I’ll recommend sitting out the updates.
Dear CEO, De-clutter and Add Functionality
As software tools become more mature we invariably see more icons, floating dialog boxes, and system tray components in the user interface. In fact, sometimes there are so many UI components, causing my workspace to be so small that I have to compensate by working across multiple monitor. If the user interface of the software were minimal and worked well, my users would have less to learn and more space to work in.
Many CAD managers believe CAD companies change their software interfaces just to make us think the latest update is more substantial than it really is. Please remember that every change in the user interface generates user questions, and user questions means more training. If I must spend time training, I’d rather focus on topics that facilitate better design rather than how to navigate an updated interface. So, please cut the interface bloat and focus on functionality and performance.
Dear CEO, Make Software Maintenance Easier
Have you ever had to update 60 seats of your software overnight and be ready to go the next morning at 6 AM? I have and so have most CAD managers. Let me tell you, it's not easy. And, when companies say, “But, we’re on the cloud now so upgrades are automatic,” my response is, “That has not been my experience and I find automatic upgrades often mess up my software and cause me great heartburn.” Bottom line: Upgrading software is a pain.
Doesn’t it seem reasonable that I should not have to be IT expert to install an update to the CAD system? Doesn’t it seem reasonable that your software should alert the CAD manager if an update is needed? And, doesn’t it seem reasonable that updates for CAD software tools should NOT happen automatically, since many projects must be completed with a specific version?
Help us, please. Please consider a CAD manager control panel application to make the job much easier.
Dear CEO, Make Licensing Easy and Stable
Perhaps more annoying than trying to maintain CAD software is the ever-changing world of licensing requirements. Can we share licenses or not? Can we use a license server or not? Are licenses concurrently tracked or based on a named user? How can we track users easily? Do we need single sign on or not? The answers to all these questions have changed and each CAD vendor has a slightly different way of implementing their licensing schemes.
The complexity of licensing is made ever worse as it seems to change every couple of years. And changes in licensing policy — like moving from concurrent to named user licensing — can trigger huge price increase surprises and software audits that senior management teams hate. I don’t think any CAD company CEO has ever had to make their own software licensing work or explain it to a hostile CFO who only sees a price increase. Please stop taking advantage of us with these changes and make the process easier. Choose a process and stick to it.
Dear CEO, I’m Your Secret Weapon
CAD managers are the ones who find the real productivity boosters hidden in your software. And when I find those hidden gems, I teach them to my users and advocate for using your software more functionally. I’m the evangelist who pushes your software and influences others to use it better. This makes me your secret weapon.
Why not use CAD managers to your advantage by providing us with the types of functionalities described along with better stability and documentation. After all, the easier it is for me to make your software work, the easier it is to recommend your software! I guarantee that my boss would much rather pay for the productivity boosting functions described here than to speculate on a bunch of buzzwords.
The best thing you can do for me is to provide me with software that works well in the first place, is easy to maintain, and doesn't overburden me in terms of training and tech-support. That is software I’ll be happy to purchase.
Dear CEO, Help Me Persuade My Boss
When I go to management to ask for money to upgrade or purchase subscriptions I'm always met with the same response, “Why do you need that?” The burden then falls on me to explain to my boss why they should spend their money on your product. You would sell more software if you provided your purchasing advocate (me, the CAD manager) with business-based information to explain why we should purchase your products. I need these types of resources more than buzzword-laden marketing materials. For example, details that cover estimated time savings, easy to manage licensing, automate deployments, perform bulk updating, or quick update tutorials, etc.
And, please remember, I don't have final budget authority, so I must convince my boss to update CAD tools and purchase support services. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if you help me explain your technology to my boss that I’d have an easier time purchasing it?
Dear CEO, Listen to Our Pleas
I know all these requests may sound like griping, but it is more an honest list of requests that would make you a more valued supplier to my company and make us a better customer for you. CAD managers everywhere would love to have a working relationship with their CAD suppliers that focuses on the actual metrics of CAD performance, such as ease of use, lowering training costs, easier maintenance, and faster performance. We’d love for you to listen. Please?
Do you agree with the items listed? What would you add or change? Please send your thoughts to RGreen@GreenConsulting.com. You never know, maybe the CAD companies might listen? Until next time.