CAD Manager's Newsletter #98

7 Jan, 2004 By: Robert Green

Untitled Document

Issue Focus: CAD Manager Resolutions

-Resolution 1: Research technology

-Resolution 2: Prepare for 3D

-Resolution 3: Assess your needs

-Resolution 4: Broaden your reading

-Resolution 5: Train your staff

Wrapping Up


CAD Manager Resolutions 2004

We may be a few days into the New Year, but there's still plenty of time to post some CAD management resolutions for 2004. I've based my list of resolutions on various business, technical, and knowledge factors that affect the CAD manager.

My hope is that these resolutions, and the justifications I've provided for them, lead you to think about your job in a more balanced way and thus help you achieve greater success this year.

Resolution 1: Take time to research what's available in CAD technology from a variety of software vendors, not just the CAD vendor you currently use.

My reasoning: Sometimes you can learn new ways to approach tasks based on how other software programs tackle them. For example, the easy and intuitive drag-and-drop symbol manipulation in the old Visio product inspired me to make AutoCAD 2004's Tool Palettes emulate that behavior. So even though I'm not using Visio in my production tasks, I still benefit from that program by using its design philosophy to make my AutoCAD environment better.

You never know when you'll find a great idea that you can use to improve your department. What you do know is that if you're not out looking for inspiration, you'll never find it!

By the way, it isn't only Autodesk, Dassault, and PTC that have good ideas. Often, smaller players such as GiveMePower (PowerCAD), think3 (thinkdesign), and @Last Software (SketchUp) pioneer new CAD features that the big companies later emulate or acquire. So don't limit your research to the big guys--also check out what smaller companies are up to.

Resolution 2: If you're in manufacturing or product design, take time to learn what 3D modeling and simulation tools you could use to reinvent your design processes. If you're in an AEC environment, take time to investigate new 3D building modeling and management tools. As you investigate, collect data on costs, training options, and reference accounts.

My reasoning: Switching gears from traditional 2D CAD to 3D knowledge-based methods is a complex and long-term investment of both time and money. By doing your research now, you'll be better educated, more alert to market factors as they change, and much better prepared to answer the inevitable questions from management. Simply put, you can't just switch your operation over to a totally new generation of software tools overnight, so get your homework done a bit at a time while you can.

An additional bonus to an ongoing investigation of new software tools is that you'll be able to note trends in functionality, pricing, and vendor performance over a period of time. Of particular interest to me is comparing what software vendors said they would do with what they actually did.

Resolution 3: Take more time to understand what your company actually needs and plan your CAD strategy accordingly.

My reasoning: Many CAD managers assume they need an ever-changing stream of upgraded CAD products so their users can stay productive. But closer inspection of the CAD department may reveal key problems such as losing drawings, lack of backup/archiving procedures, or computer instability caused by inconsistent configuration. If these scenarios are problems in your department, your priority should become drawing management, archival coordination, and more thorough control of computer configuration, NOT new software. I know that many of you may think that CAD managers shouldn't have to spend time on drudgery like file management and document archiving, but you can be sure that when drawings disappear, you'll be asked to explain why.

By determining where your company's needs and problems really are, you'll apply your effort in the right places. By finding your company's weak points (or needs, if you will), you'll have more time to fix them in a proactive mode instead of having to fight wildfires. One more thing--would you rather find the problems now or have management find them for you?

Resolution 4: Learn more about the computer industry in general by reading mainstream computer publications that cover IT (information technology) and business trends.

My reasoning: Many of the trends that are just now starting to affect CAD users have been on the general computing radar screen for some while. If you had been reading about these trends for a couple of years, you'd be much better prepared to deal with them now. The best example I can cite of this phenomenon is foreign outsourcing. It's beginning to affect CAD practitioners, yet has been well understood in IT areas such as technical support, phone center management, and programming for years. I've found that InfoWorld (, PC Magazine (, and Wired News ( are worthy reads that present a decidedly nonCAD-centric view of the computing landscape.

Resolution 5: If you have a staff that reports to you, schedule time for conferences with them and give them additional responsibilities so you can better leverage your time.

My reasoning: There are only two ways you can get more work done: work more hours, or have a better-trained staff. Unless you just like working 60 hours a week, staff training and development is the only weapon you have to get more done. Many CAD managers feel threatened by a well-trained staff, perhaps fearing that they may be laid off if their staff becomes too good. This fear is almost always unfounded and career limiting, because upper management will see your inability to delegate to and train your staff as a key weakness.

Also consider that if you ever want to be promoted to a higher position, you're going to have to find a new CAD manager. So why not start the training process now?

Wrapping Up

Give these resolutions a try for at least the first month of this year to see if they help you prioritize your tasks and become a better CAD manager. All of these resolutions have helped me greatly in my career, and I hope they'll do the same for you.

If you'd like to send me any of your CAD manager resolutions to share in an upcoming issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, please email them to