CAD Manager's Survey Preview

24 Aug, 2005 By: Robert Green

Send your feedback for my annual questionnaire that takes the pulse of the CAD manager community

I have the good fortune to speak to many CAD managers throughout the United States and Canada each year, and one of the topics I’m always asked about is my annual CAD Manager’s Survey. This year has been no different. In fact, I’ve been hearing more questions from CAD managers on more topics than ever.

Given the increased interest, I'll be undertaking this year’s survey in a slightly different manner by asking you to help me build the survey questions. I’ll list the main areas of concern that I hear from CAD managers and tell you what I’d like to measure, along with ideas for the types of questions I’ll ask. It’s my hope that you’ll tell me what I’ve missed.

Here goes.


This is always the top issue in the survey--I usually receive about 100 requests a year from people asking me what their salary should be! I can’t negotiate your salary for you or get you a raise, but I do hope to give you the ammunition you need to prepare for negotiations.

This year I'll be breaking down salary data by country, but I suspect I'll be able to draw relevant conclusions only for the North American and western European markets. However, I expect to receive a decent bit of feedback from Mexico and some of the Asian markets, so who knows? At the conclusion of the survey, I’ll judge the validity of the survey based on respondents from each country and will publish the results accordingly.

For those markets where I receive high response, I’ll further break down the salary-data talk regarding how much you can expect to earn in a large city, small city and rural area, as well as which industries pay better than others.

Finally, I’ll ask questions about other compensation parameters such as raises, bonuses, overtime and job security. This section of the survey should be very interesting.

Job Metrics

Here I hope to find how many CAD managers are actually full-time and how many are part-time. I’d also like to find out how long you’ve been a CAD manager and how long it took you to reach that position. I hope to learn a lot more about who you are, where you came from and how arduous your journey to CAD management was.

The clear trend in past years has been toward part-time CAD management, so I'd like to see if that trend is continuing in 2005. I want to correlate this trend more closely this year to find out how much time part-time CAD managers are spending on their management duties vs. their design or engineering duties.

Budgeting and Purchasing

How influential are CAD managers are in the purchasing process , and how much financial authority do you actually have? I want to determine whether the trend toward part-time CAD management is lessening the CAD manager’s influence in purchasing, or if you’ve retained your role in that process.

Billing Pressure

In this section of the survey, I want to concentrate on how much pressure you’re under to produce billable time by being involved with projects in either production or managerial roles.

For the part-time CAD manager, I’m concerned that being pressured to perform CAD management duties in your “spare time” telegraphs upper-management’s indifference regarding the CAD manager’s function. For full-time CAD managers, I want to see how much pressure exists to make CAD management a project-billable activity as opposed to a traditional overhead support function.

Staffing Issues

I want to find out how much actual managerial control CAD managers have over staff — even in case of part-time CAD management. Of particular interest to me is whether you’re involved in the interviewing and hiring process and whether you participate in employee review and disciplinary functions. The survey will ask how many CAD managers have direct supervisory control and how many work within a matrix or support style of management.


I sense that CAD managers are driving a trend toward far more in-house training using new resources such as lunch-and-learn events or desktop learning on CD or via the Internet. I’d like to survey the field to verify my instincts. I also hope to determine whether training is becoming more or less important in the overall business environment and what sort of budget CAD managers receive for training.

CAD Standards

Who’s writing standards, who’s following standards, who’s enforcing standards and in which areas of business are CAD standards seen as especially beneficial? My hope is to understand much more about the circumstances that lead to successful CAD standards implementation and identify why certain aspects of CAD standards implementation are problematic.

Career Questions

Those CAD managers who identify themselves as part-timers will have some specific questions to answer this year. Most of these questions are subjective, and that's okay because I have to ask the CAD manager to draw some conclusions. What I'm trying to determine is the attitude of upper management toward CAD management. Does upper management see CAD management as necessary at all? Does management recognize the CAD manager as a contributing partner in the managerial team? For that matter, would you even want to be a full-time CAD manager if the opportunity arose? This feedback combines to form a portrait of the part-time CAD manager.

For full-time CAD managers, I want to gauge your job security. Do you worry about your job being eliminated or outsourced? I’ll also ask if you would make the same career choice again if you could go back in time. Answers to these questions should give us a picture of CAD management from the full-timer’s perspective.


I'd like to delve (carefully) into the entire process of outsourcing that has been so pervasive and divisive in past years. By asking CAD managers whether their companies outsource or not, we'll get an indication of how widespread outsourcing really is. By asking more qualitative questions, I hope to find out what types of work are being outsourced.

Frustration Items

CAD managers frequently report frustration with issues that haven't really changed much over the years. Some of the most common CAD management frustrations that I hear year after year are:

·Dealing with CAD standards

·Not having enough authority

·Providing user support

·Responsibility for training

·Lack of management support

·Lack of budget

·Too many responsibilities

·Unrealistic management expectations

I hope you’ll send me your ideas for additions to the list!

I’ll ask respondents to rank these frustration items, then I'll correlate the answers to find out which issues are the most frustrating for the greatest number of CAD managers. These results also help me decide which issues to address in future issues of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter.


What You Manage

In this section, I’ll ask which software you manage, which programming languages you know, how many users you support, your mix of 2D/3D users, your level of IT knowledge and so forth.

In the past few years, as CAD management has increasingly become a part-time endeavor, I've observed that most CAD managers are now what I call technically ambidextrous. That is, they possess a wide range of skills. I’m particularly interested in determining how many CAD managers are now programming- and IT-aware in addition to being CAD experts.

Document Management and PLM

My perception is that CAD managers are increasingly expected to provide document-management and product lifecycle management solutions for their companies. What I hope to determine is how many CAD managers are actually performing document-management duties and how many are exploring the possibility. I hope to draw some conclusions about this trend, including whether CAD managers believe that document management will become a CAD management function in coming years.

Wrapping Up

Now here’s the point where I ask you for help. What have I missed in these questions and topics? What should I be asking that I'm not? Are there any additional questions I can ask to clarify certain topics and give more satisfactory answers to your questions?

I’ll need your feedback promptly — by September 1 at latest —because I plan to launch the live survey with the  next issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter. E-mail me at

Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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