Resolve to Prepare with a New Year’s CAD Strategy Session

9 Jan, 2018 By: Robert Green

In order to make the best decisions about which CAD changes to respond to — and how — catch your breath after the holidays and plan for the year ahead.

Well it’s another New Year! If you’re like me, you take a little time at the start of each year to think about how the CAD industry is changing, and consider how to prepare for those changes. Many times, trying to predict CAD industry evolutions can seem like guesswork, but 2018 offers an unusually well-defined set of issues. Even so, it’s not always simple to figure out what you should do to prepare for the changes ahead.

To help me determine what action items are required at the start of each year, I analyze information from a variety of sources, including:

  • interviews conducted with software industry personnel
  • experience with my clients
  • feedback from readers of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter
  • input from the CAD Managers Unite! Facebook group
  • conversations with hundreds of IT and CAD managers at in-person industry events throughout the year.

Here, I’ll strive to provide some background information for the key areas of action, identify specific action items to complete, and wrap up each topic with my conclusions. Here goes.

Software Licensing Changes

As industry leader Autodesk has moved from a perpetual licensing model (you buy it and install it, then the software keeps running) to a subscription/rental licensing model (you pay them a fee on an ongoing basis, and the software stops running if you don’t renew), the option to save money by continuing to run old software is disappearing. (To be clear, it isn’t just Autodesk that is moving from perpetual to subscription, but Autodesk’s changes impact more CAD managers than those of any other company.)

This change in licensing policy brings up a few important questions, including the following:

  • How does the change to subscription/rental affect my software costs?
  • Does my company really need the latest version of a given software product, or could I just keep running my old software?
  • Do all my users require fully functional software, or could I reduce seat count to control costs?
  • Should individual licenses be turned into shared network licenses to further reduce seat count and control costs?
  • Are there compatible products/apps some of my users could transition to, rather than licensing expensive full-featured software tools for everyone?

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to look ahead and see that CAD software licensing will become even more complex, and costs will increase further; those changes are already under way. Running old software and/or reducing seat count can be a very viable cost containment strategy.

Action items:

  • Answer all the questions above honestly by conferring with your users and management team.
  • Envision your lowest-cost software licensing scenarios, and be prepared to implement them.
  • Keep everyone informed about how the licensing situation may change operations — ensure that these changes will not be a surprise to anyone.

Conclusion: It is far better to think through your options and costs now, so you’re prepared should your management team raise objections about software cost increases.

Software Migrates to the Cloud

In addition to changing how software is licensed, many development companies are creating truly cloud-based software, with programs and data files residing outside your enterprise. You may also find that tasks you used to perform with a desktop software product will no longer be supported, in favor of new cloud-based tools running on tablets or web browsers. In addition, you may be billed more for these new cloud tools, should you wish to use them.

These types of software changes bring up a few more questions to consider, including the following:

  • Will my company be forced to start implementing cloud-based CAD tools just to maintain current levels of functionality?
  • Will these types of tools cost us more?
  • How many of my users will need accounts on these new cloud-based CAD tools?
  • How secure will these tools be, and how will IT management of these tools differ from what my company does currently?

When you consider how disruptive these types of software changes can be in terms of deployment, cost, and security, it is clear that planning for change will be required.

Action Items:

  • Answer the above questions as best as you can, given what you know now.
  • Understand which of the software tools you currently use may be impacted by cloud migration in the future.
  • Reach out to your management and IT staffs to understand if they will be able to handle the costs and deployment tasks associated with these types of tools.
  • Establish a minimum user pool size for cloud-based tools to keep costs in line.
  • As tools and needs evolve rapidly, keep everyone involved in the decision-making process. Again, resolve that these changes will not be a surprise to anyone.

Conclusion: If you find yourself managing a transition to cloud-based CAD tools, you’ll not only have a CAD problem, but licensing, deployment, security, and financial problems as well. You’ll also find that a good dose of IT involvement will be required to make everything work. As with most “cloud” issues, you’ll be dealing with unknowns, so you’re far better off to investigate now than be caught guessing later.

Understand Your Security Risks

While security risks are always of concern, the movement to different software licensing mechanisms and cloud-based tools opens new sets of issues that CAD managers haven’t historically had to worry about.

To get an idea of the issues you may need to deal with, consider the following questions:

  • Will a move to subscription-based licensing mean that cloud-based connectivity will be required to validate software licensing? How might this impact mobile device users who don’t always have Internet connections?
  • Will a move to cloud-based tools mean that users with limited Internet bandwidth might find the software too slow to use in production?
  • Will a move to cloud-based tools result in applications and data files being unavailable during Internet outages?
  • What is the possibility of data loss if an employee using a tablet-based cloud tool leaves the device behind at an airport or conference?
  • How will user accounts be revoked and/or data files recovered, in the event that an employee is terminated?

The more you think about these questions, the more complex the management scenarios become. To make sure you’re ready, consider taking the following steps.

Action Items:

  • Answer the above questions as best as you can, given both what you know now and your best forecast for the coming year.
  • Determine whether branch offices and remote users, given their Internet connectivity, will be able to use cloud-based tools.
  • Determine whether your IT department can handle the new security problems/risks. If not, then you need to put cloud tool implementation on hold until they can.
  • Have an honest conversation with your management team to gauge their level of comfort with cloud-based tools.
  • Based on the results of your action items, create a one-year action plan and review it with all parties to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Conclusion: Moving to a cloud-based CAD infrastructure is a much more profound change than simply updating software tools. The degree of data security, Internet bandwidth, and IT coordination required to make everything work properly requires much more planning and involvement from the CAD manager than you may have thought.

Summing Up

As new licensing methodologies and cloud-based tools become more common, many CAD managers will come to realize that their jobs are changing. In addition to being an expert at CAD, today’s CAD manager must be conversant in IT and workflow methodologies as well.

It is my hope that by completing the action items presented above, you’ll have a better action plan for the year, and will be less likely to be surprised by technological change — because in our line of work, fewer surprises mean fewer headaches!

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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