Prepare a CAD Management Budget for 2016

11 Nov, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: It’s time to sit down and plan your monetary needs for next year.

"I'm a CAD manager, not an accountant!" I've heard this statement from perturbed CAD managers for years. My response to this objection has always been, "Well, unless you want to be a CAD manager with no budget, you'd better think like an accountant at least once a year."

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll walk you through the steps to create a thorough but concise budget. Here goes.

Critical Note for Autodesk Customers

Starting next year, you'll no longer be able to purchase perpetual licenses of Autodesk software. (The cut-off date for most standalone products is January 31, 2016; for product suites, it is July 31, 2016.) It is crucial that you budget for Maintenance Subscription for any perpetual licenses you wish to maintain; failure to do so could cost your company a lot.

For more information, see my recent newsletter articles discussing these new policies: "Autodesk Software Goes Subscription-Only in 2016" and "Autodesk VP Explains Software Licensing Policy Changes."

A Budget is a Needs Analysis

A concise budget should present a broad picture of everything you need to keep your CAD users well equipped, supported, and trained. Far from a quick list you knock out in 10 minutes, a needs analysis requires some real thought and computation on your part. Expect to spend some time on this task over the next several weeks to make sure you have everything accounted for. I've found several short budgeting sessions always yields better results than a single cram session. Here is a checklist of the items you should make sure to include during your first budget session:

Software: New licenses, subscriptions, upgrades, crossgrades, web-only applications, cloud storage applications, etc. Your challenge is to think about the growth of your firm for the next year, so you can right-size your software budget. Include everything you think might be needed, including your worst-case software needs — it's always better to come in under budget later than miss something now.

Hardware: New workstations, monitors, printers, and more. Even if your IT department handles hardware budgeting, don't leave it to them to have final say about what you need. Your job is to consider your company's growth, determine how many old machines you must retire, and then compute a reasonable hardware budget for the upcoming year. For the purposes of budgeting, I recommend this base workstation configuration for most CAD users:

  • Intel Xeon or Intel Core i7 quad-core processor at the highest clock rate possible.
  • At least 16 GB of RAM — 32 GB for heavy 3D users.
  • A solid-state drive (SSD) — preferably one based on NVMe technology.

Many IT departments will not specify high speed processors, SSDs, and this ample RAM, so keep track and confirm that you're buying machines up to the task.

Training: Training for you, your users, your subcontractors, your management teams, and the like. CAD training is often seen as an unnecessary cost by management teams because every hour a CAD user sits in training is an hour they aren't billing. But when you think about it more critically, every hour a CAD user sits in your customized training environment will yield many hours of error-free CAD use. When figuringout your training needs, be sure to include the time and cost for users to attend training, your preparation time, and any training that you need to become a better technologist and trainer.

Support costs: Software subscriptions, hardware maintenance agreements, reprographics repair contracts, external training assistance, software reseller support, etc. These expenses add up quickly, yet tend to be overlooked until repairs become necessary. Talk to your management about budgeting for adequate support before something blows up and throws your projects into a tailspin. The good news is that getting this data isn't as hard as it sounds. Most of your vendors will be happy to provide a quote for custom support options. Consumables: Printer cartridges, paper, backup media, memory sticks, toner, cleaning supplies, batteries, pens, etc. It is easy to miss this stuff, but it all adds up to big money over the course of a year, so be sure to track anything not covered by your company or another department.

CAD management costs: Have you ever been told to perform CAD management in "your spare time?" Many CAD managers find themselves in this position — stretched to the breaking point with no time allocated for their job. In your budget, include a fixed number of hours per week that you will perform CAD management activities, to demonstrate the value of what you do. You can always negotiate how to charge your time (to projects, to IT support, to departments, etc.), but the point is that your job will be an allocated function — not just a spare-time activity. By budgeting your time, you may actually get permission to do more CAD management.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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