New Year, New Resolutions for CAD Managers

12 Jan, 2010 By: Robert Green

When setting your goals for 2010, be sure to take the economy, hardware and software capabilities, and BIM into account.

It's a new year, and that means that it's time to make resolutions to perform better in the workplace. As is my tradition, I'll pass along my predictions for the months to come, along with some resolutions I think will help most CAD managers. I base my opinions on my interactions with CAD managers over the past year, as well as my own judgment based on past experience.

So, in no particular order, here goes.

Little Change on the Economic Horizon

Prediction: Most of the companies I talk to now are somewhat optimistic about the future, but most U.S. firms have a "wait and see" attitude as far as hiring is concerned. That attitude is due in part to several pieces of legislation (including health care mandates and energy taxes) moving through Congress that could have major tax implications. Things may get a little better, but the safest approach is to plan for the same economic environment we're in now, and be pleasantly surprised if things improve.

Resolution: To continue managing your CAD resources with a keen eye on cost control, while planning for any new projects that may come your way. After all, nobody ever got fired for adhering to the budget.

No-Budget Scenarios

Prediction: Many companies will try to keep spending down by freezing new technology purchases.

Resolution: To optimize what you already have by updating device drivers, optimizing disks, uninstalling old applications, installing the latest software service packs, cleaning up registries, and decluttering network drives. In other words, coax peak performance from the resources you do have.

Prediction: Many management teams will want to increase productivity so they can keep staff counts the same as business grows. Often, you'll have to live up to the expectation of higher productivity even though your budgets for expenses such as training are frozen.

Resolution: To use standards and standardized work procedures to get everyone on the same page and reduce rework. Always remember to stress that standards equal savings, so your senior management team will back you in your quest for standards.

Prediction: Many CAD managers will have to answer to upper management teams about future technology plans for software and hardware, even though they have no budget to procure evaluation units for proper testing.

Resolution: To work closely with your software reseller so you can access new software titles running on new hardware to determine which direction your company should go. Remember that resellers want to cultivate a relationship with you so you'll buy from them — thus they'll be more than happy to help you learn about new software and hardware if you ask.

Sluggish Movement toward BIM

Prediction: While there is plenty of talk about BIM (building information modeling), there is little actual implementation of the software on large-scale projects. More than anything else, I attribute this trend to economic conditions resulting in fewer large projects to work on. So given an uncertain economic outlook, it will continue to be difficult to implement BIM tools this year, but sooner or later most AEC firms will have to deliver projects using BIM tools like Autodesk Revit or Bentley Architecture.

Resolution: To learn everything you can about BIM and plan for how you'll implement it in your company when the time comes. Go to seminars, read all you can find, take a training class offered by your local reseller, work though self-paced training materials — whatever you can do, you should do. If you wait for BIM to become a requirement before pursuing this knowledge, you'll never recover.

Alternate prediction: A company you work with undertakes the transition to BIM, forcing you to work with BIM tools even if your own company doesn't use BIM as a general rule.

Resolution: To stay in touch with the firms you work with and make sure you know what their BIM plans are, so you're never taken by surprise.

Implementing Better Hardware and Windows 7

Prediction: More powerful hardware and the new Windows 7 64-bit operating systems are a potent combination that will speed the performance of CAD software. My testing with Windows 7 has indicated a slight CPU performance boost on my old hardware and a substantial reduction in disk access when using the new ReadyBoost feature, making even two-year-old quad-core machines noticeably quicker. With new machines that incorporate dual quad-core processors and 12 gigabytes of RAM for roughly $2,500, it is now possible to create a Goliath of a CAD system at a bargain price.

Note: I do understand that budgets are tight and that new machines are a luxury many can't justify right now, but since these units ship with Windows 7 anyway, you'll be able to reap the benefits every time you do purchase new equipment.

Resolution: To consider upgrading your more recently installed machines to Windows 7 using ReadyBoost solid-state disk technology to speed up existing hardware.

Resolution: To purchase nothing less than dual quad-core for any new machines, plus plenty of RAM.

Resolution: To run 64-bit Windows 7 on any older machines with more than 3GB of RAM.

Resolution: To run 64-bit Windows 7 on all new machines you acquire.

Increasing CAD Management Stress Levels

Prediction: CAD managers will continue to be pressured to work on billable projects and to eliminate as much overhead as possible. There's nothing new in this prediction, but economic hardship tends to amplify the urgency with which senior management teams go after CAD management overhead.

Resolution: To do the best you can given the circumstances, stay calm as you do so, and hang onto your position. Try to remember that eventually things will get better, and for now it is good just to have a job.

Resolution: To communicate the value of CAD management in keeping people productive and eliminating errors via efforts like standardization and training. You will get a lot more sympathy for spending time on CAD management if everyone around you understands the value of doing so.

Summing Up

I encourage you to take some time and ponder how these predictions may affect your job or your company in the coming year. As you do so, make a prioritized list of the resolutions I outlined and see which ones you need to pay particular attention to, and then get to it! This may well be another tough economic year, but you'll always do better if you craft a plan for dealing with problems instead of waiting for them to get worse.

Throughout 2010, I'll be providing tips, tricks, and advice that will amplify some of the resolution points I've made in this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter. I thank you for your readership in the past and hope to provide you with more useful information in the future. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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