New Year, New Plan18 Jan, 2023 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager's Column: Even with all the uncertainty in the global economy and day-to-day work, the best way to have a successful year is to set goals and make plans.
2023 is now upon us and with global economies in a state of uncertainty due to high inflation, interest rate hikes, global energy problems, and war in the EU, 2023 is a bit of a crap shoot to forecast. All things considered, New Years is as good a time as any to refactor your CAD management plans. But, how can you adjust your plans given all the uncertainty?
In this installment of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll share some of my analysis and predictions for the New Year along with some resolutions that should help you meet the challenges we’ll all face in 2023. Here goes.
Author’s note: I base my opinions on my interactions with CAD managers, senior management teams, and personal experience to draw my conclusions.
Image source: hakinmhan/stock.adobe.com.
Management and IT Become Ever More Important
This trend became a big deal during the remote work upheaval brought on during COVID. As companies struggled with how to host remote meetings, control files, and integrate new technology for remote work, CAD became less about CAD and more about remote work management.
This trend shows no sign of reversal as management of file sharing, cloud apps, scattered resources in Teams silos, remote access issues, and CAD licensing changes continues to be an ever-larger part of the job. Think you can just focus on CAD or BIM work as a CAD manager and make everyone happy? No way. Not anymore. We all have to become more IT and management savvy and this will impact everything from software to projects to staff.
So, what resolutions can we make for this increased management burden and how do we know where to place our emphasis?
Resolve to: Manage your CAD and IT resources in a way that saves money, increases employee output, and maximizes speed of output for your company. If any task you are asked to do doesn’t support these objectives, then it is low priority.
Resolve NOT to: Change software just to make changes, undertake big organizational changes, or enter into expensive new software contracts without seeing PROOF from vendors that it will keep IT costs down.
Software Costs Go Even Higher
Any of you who participate in budgeting know that software costs keep going up. And, more and more it isn’t the cost per seat that is driving up costs so much as other ancillary factors. These trends became prominent last year but are accelerating and will become even more common this year. Consider the following:
- Named user policies mean license sharing or “pooling” can no longer be used to keep costs down.
- More and more “extras” and “upcharges” are being applied, such as premium fees for Single Sign On (SSO) or cloud data tools.
- Migration from traditional desktop-based CAD/BIM tools to a patchwork quilt of cloud applications costs a substantial amount of implementation time, and time is, after all, money.
- Administrative burden — in terms of IT and CAD manager time — continues to increase as licensing compliance becomes a more difficult task.
- Dealing with licensing issues like AWS server outages that power cloud-based licensing and application services can cause serious loss of production time.
Taken together these trends are making CAD/BIM a lot more expensive these days and causing a lot of consternation in corporate boardrooms. In 2023, I predict more calls from CFO’s and boards to reduce seat counts and licensing costs; you know they’ll be asking you for recommendations, right?
So, how to approach this problematic budget reality?
Resolve to: Optimize what you already have — especially if you can leverage perpetual software tools rather than annual subscriptions.
Resolve to: Skip software updates to keep implementation costs down unless absolutely required.
Resolve to: Analyze what software your users need to do their jobs and lower license counts aggressively to save.
Resolve to: To be creative in using remote access and machine sharing to keep software costs down. I’m not telling you to violate any licensing policies here, but I am saying that you should do everything you can to keep seat counts down.
Resolve NOT to: Buy software that isn’t mission critical at your location or cave-in to software company pressure to buy things you simply don’t need.
CAD Software Becomes More Modular
The good news is that there is a whole new selection of products (not from the big CAD companies) that are making CAD a more modular and plug-in architecture than in years past. Products like Enscape, Grasshopper, and Lumion are changing the visualization and complex surface modelling environments, for example. And, as more modules that operate with IFC file formats permeate the BIM environment, it will become even more modular.
So, how should you take advantage of this and how do we navigate this complex, plugged-in, and modular landscape?
Resolve to: Evaluate any modular tools based on their function and merit and only use those tools that provide value to your users/company — particularly if you can replace subscription tools with perpetual tools.
Resolve NOT to: Play the “plug-in of the week” game! Don’t allow users to randomly install the latest modules they’ve downloaded without supervision from you.
Resolve NOT to: Allow users to install proprietary plug-ins or modular apps on workstations, tablets, or phones that deviate from your CAD/BIM application’s native OS without specific vetting from you and/or IT.
Hardware and OS Mostly Stable, but Laptops are Problematic
Powerful hardware and the relative stability of Windows 10 has made it easy to specify CAD machines in the last few years, but new laptops increasingly ship with Windows 11 which makes managing mixed environments more likely. Since legacy CAD applications can sometimes have problems on Windows 11, I try to keep everyone on Windows 10.
So, what is a minimum configuration for CAD/BIM that you should you specify to IT then? Use these guidelines.
Resolve to: Purchase 6/8 core i7/i9 machines with a minimum 4 GHz base frequency, 32GB RAM, 1TB high-speed solid-state disk, and a 6GB or higher GPU, and you should be good for most CAD/BIM machines at a price point under $2,000 for desktops and around $2,600 for mobile machines. Continue to specify Windows 10 if possible. (US pricing)
Resolve to: Get more involved with IT at your office and “become one of the tribe,” so they’ll take you more seriously when you make requests.
Resolve NOT to: Get bullied into accepting less. Any new machine should be robustly spec’d and supplied to those who need the power. If that means recycling existing machines to lower end users, then so be it. The motto for CAD/BIM hardware must always be onward and upward.
Inflation Leads to Staff Shortage Issues
Last year’s “Great Resignation” staff shortage seems to be lessening and candidates are becoming slightly easier to find. But, retaining your staff has become ever harder as increased wages are leading to candidate job hopping, which could mean high staff turnover. Reduced staff may mean more pressure to “work on projects” and “stop doing CAD management stuff.” (I put these phrases in quotes because I hear them all the time from management teams.)
So, how can we keep staffing issues from becoming a stressful problem?
Resolve to: Do the best you can given the circumstances, stay as calm as you can and deal with your day-to-day tasks professionally. Just do the best you can with the staff you have because that’s all anyone can really do.
Resolve to: Prioritize your task list to get the greatest amount of project output possible. If you can create more project output by being a CAD manager working on projects, then that’s even better. But when all else fails, project output trumps everything else.
Resolve NOT to: Work killer hours week after week after week as it only leads to burnout.
CAD Management Becomes Ever Less Valued
With each passing year I continue to see the CAD manager position become more part time, more lumped in with overhead, and less understood as technology has become more complex. Sadly, I think 2023 will only see this trend continue.
It seems that as any technology becomes more common, there is less desire to spend money managing it and that’s why CAD management is becoming less valued.
So, how can we break the cycle on this distressing trend?
Resolve to: Make CAD and BIM coordination part of the discussion in every project you do and speak up when you see mistakes being made. If everyone respects your expertise, they’re much more likely to value the job you do.
Resolve to: Evangelize on how CAD management can drive standardization and reduce errors thus saving time and money. You will get a lot more sympathy for spending time on CAD management if everyone around you understands the value of doing so.
Resolve NOT to: Suffer in silence or accept poor work practices. Management wants things to run efficiently and they need to understand that you are the resource that makes that happen.
Resolve NOT to: Stay in a dead-end job. The market for high end CAD professionals is still very hot and salaries are going up, so you DO have options.
Now I encourage you to take out a pad of paper — yes, I said paper — and jot down some of your action items for the coming year based on the resolutions I laid out. I hope that I’ve inspired you! Please do email me with any other predictions for 2023 that you think I’ve missed.
2023 looks to be a year of transition away from the COVID/remote work paradigm shift, back to more traditional economically driven issues. And, no matter what the uncertain markets bring us, we’ll never go wrong by working smarter to facilitate great production, saving money wherever we can, and always having a solid plan of action. Happy New Year. Until next time.