New Year's Checklist for the CAD Manager

9 Jan, 2007 By: Robert Green

Tackle these to-do items for an organized, effective approach to 2007

Those of you who are familiar with my monthly “CAD Manager” column in Cadalyst probably know that I always start the New Year with a few predictions about what to look out for over the next twelve months. In this issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'm providing a checklist of to-do items that dovetails with my 2007 forecast to help you get your house in order. (My January 2007 column will be posted on around January 12, so keep an eye on the column archives for that update.) Here goes.

Investigate New Software
Assuming that you have software subscriptions, you may not implement all the new software that you receive, but shouldn't you know as much as you can about it? And if you don't have software subscriptions, it is essential that you investigate what's out there to keep your company's management abreast of what's going on technologically.

Start by loading up new software via trial versions, and don't forget to ask your software reseller what they can do to help you. You should also use blogs, magazine articles, user groups, etc., to collect information on new software and learn about a host of different perspectives. Just immerse yourself in new information as much as you can, and see where it leads you.

And as I pointed out in my January column, focus on the following when investigating any new piece of software:

  • Find features and fixes that make it easier for your users to do their jobs.
  • Find advanced design tools that make designing faster and more accurate.
  • Find 3D tools that deliver the above, rather than making things more complex.

Rework Your Hardware Budget
We will see huge changes in workstations/computers in the coming year. Dual-core processors are now seeing a large price drop as quad-core processing becomes more prevalent. RAID 0 disk technologies and ever-faster RAM bus architectures mean we can run a lot more software at once -- and run it even faster than before. And I haven't even started talking about multithreaded analytical and visualization software that the big software vendors are working on, which will really start to utilize this powerful hardware.

The reality is that we can survive on older hardware for now, but by the end of 2007 even 1.6GHz dual-core machines will seem like Stone Age relics in comparison to the new stuff. Prime your management for the changes, because it's going to cost some money -- but it will be worth it!

Examine Vista
Get at least one machine in your office running on the new Windows Vista operating system. I don't think there's going to be a stampede to Vista, but the sooner you have a chance to run some applications under it, the sooner you'll know whether you're going to have problems.

I'm particularly interested in seeing how Microsoft's hard line toward having 64-bit drivers for all hardware is going to accelerate (or make problematic) the heavy graphics work that CAD users need to do. We won't know until we try it, right? Let's all start kicking the tires.

Review Your Company's Growth Scenario
Will your company grow this year? If so, by how much? More importantly, where? I've found that growth via more users in a central office is much easier to control than growth via acquisition of branch offices spread out over wide areas.

The main reason to examine growth scenarios is to determine how dependent you'll be on your IT personnel. Unless you're an expert on integrating SDSL or T1 lines, setting up firewalls and delivering VPN tunnels to branch offices, you're going to need IT help. And if you have no clue about the string of acronyms I just listed, you'll definitely need IT help. The more you depend on another department for your computing infrastructure, the more control you lose. Plan accordingly.

Reduce Your Overhead
Do this by making your CAD management tasks billable to jobs. I'll list an example here so you can see what I mean.

Wrong way: Suffer through the creation of project templates and standards as an overhead activity while getting yelled at by management because your overhead is high.

Right way: Go to the project manager before he or she kicks off a new job and explain that defining project standards up front will keep CAD costs down in the long run. Then obtain a job billing/charge number for that task.
By looking for ways to take the work you already do on overhead and making those tasks billable, you sell the value of CAD management and keep yourself out of overhead trouble. It takes a while to make the transition, and you will have to be an evangelist, but this approach really does work.

List Inefficient Practices
Do you have any problems that drive you nuts because you know how much time and money they waste? Most CAD managers can rattle off a list of such issues. I simply want you to write down these items as you think of them.

The real value of creating such a list is that you can use it as a road map for what you need to work on in the coming year. And because you'll be focused on eliminating productivity-sapping problems, you know you'll get good financial results for your company -- which management will love.

Keep your list handy and think about each item on it when you evaluate new hardware, software or training. Keep asking whether any purchase or action you undertake will help you cross items off your inefficiency list. I know this sounds simple, but keeping these problems in mind really will help you identify and address the highest-value tasks.

Keep a Diary
Write down what you do every day, and do it electronically, so you can search it easily when you need to recall something later. Keeping a diary will help you keep tabs on your accomplishments and other details of your job, and it can serve as excellent backup during performance reviews or any other time you need to document what you did.

Get Organized
I know it sounds obvious, but going through all your materials, cleaning up and rethinking how you're organized does an amazing job of clearing your head and providing new focus. And from a practical standpoint, a couple of hours spent cleaning up is better than spending the next three months lamenting the fact that you haven't done so.

Summing Up
I really believe there's a lot of change coming in 2007. Between the continued push to new 3D design methods such as building information modeling (BIM), 3D civil design and increasingly complex mechanical modeling software, we're all going to have full plates. And the software changes may be small compared to the hardware, operating system and network challenges we'll face.

Given all this change, it will pay to be organized and prepared for all challenges -- as you will be if you follow my New Year's checklist. I wish everyone the best of luck this year.

As always, feel free to e-mail me with any suggestions or questions. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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