The State of CAD Management at the Start of a New Decade

10 Dec, 2019 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: Conferring with hundreds of CAD managers and vendors at Autodesk University provides perspective on which issues are most pressing for the profession as we enter 2020.


IT is more and more in charge. When I asked questions like, “Who handles the hardware purchasing process?” or “Who dictates cloud software policy and cloud implementation responsibilities?” virtually everyone I talked to said IT was in charge. That number was more like 75% just a few years ago, so clearly things are changing. And, clearly, the CAD manager must have a solid working relationship with IT in order to influence budget and policy!

Licensing formats have become a real sore point. When perpetual software installed to a local machine, it was authorized with a software key. When perpetual software installed to machines via a shared network licensing scheme, a license manager was installed with a license manager application that tracked usage. In both cases the software kept running — sometimes for years before being updated. Now that software has moved to locally installed subscriptions, the authorization is tied to a named user account (usually the user’s e-mail address) but as software is being pushed to the cloud, everything is going in the named user direction. The problem is that named user accounts tie software usage to a specific user (rather than a user on a shared machine), which raises costs and makes managing which user has which license even more cumbersome. This conversation came up frequently at AU, and the overwhelming impression is that named user licensing is a burden that CAD managers would rather not deal with.

Software cost is a key issue. Throughout my years of talking to CAD managers, I’ve never heard anybody complain that software was too cheap. The perception has always been software is expensive, and that it’s a cost of doing business. This year, however, I heard much more aggressive complaints about software costs. There can be honest debate about why software is getting more expensive, but there can be no debate that CAD managers at AU are feeling the budget pressure from their management. More on this a bit later.

Taken together, I view the CAD management work environment as largely unchanged in recent years, other than the potential for cloud-based software to make software management more complicated and more expensive. CAD managers are now figuring out how to react to these problems. From a standpoint of lacking authority or fighting to get the right hardware and deployment from IT, CAD management is the same as it ever was.

Preparing for Questions from Management

Of course, consensus-based surveying only provides a snapshot of how things are today for CAD managers. To gain insight into where the future may be headed, I spoke to some power CAD managers from my Facebook CAD Managers Unite! Group, and combined their input with broader conversations. The resulting conclusions are worth sharing, and I believe your management team will be asking you about these topics soon:

Budgeting will become crucial this year. Because of changes in licensing models (from shared floating to named user subscription), software costs are going up. The only response to elevated costs is to rethink which software you buy, how much software you use, which vertical products (e.g., BIM, Mechanical, Civil) you need, and how many licenses you have. In the face of escalating costs it pays to consider your entire ecosystem and to know your options. Expect your management team to ask you these questions!

Uncertainty is for certain. Will our future tools be on a desktop or running on a remotely hosted workstation? Will our data be local or hosted in a cloud account? Will information formats be open or proprietary? We may not know the answers to these questions yet, but we’d be stupid not to think about the possibilities. Again, expect your management team to ask you these questions, and know that they view the answer as being financial more than technical.

Prepare for an avalanche of software change — or not. With software companies trying to move you away from desktop-based tools to cloud-based tools, it stands to reason that things are going to change — and change a lot. Or perhaps not, if you don’t make the transition. Your management team will want to know if a mass migration from tools you run locally to tools that are entirely on the cloud makes sense. How will you answer that question?

Getting it all done with less remains king. One thing that never changes is you’ll be expected to get everything done with less and — as always — failure will not be an option.

All things considered, the CAD management position appears to be moving to a more technical, IT-based position where we’ll be responsible for supporting an even wider palette of tools than in years past. Combining these challenges with the need to cut costs means CAD managers will need to be even more focused on controlling the CAD software licensing environment than before.

Wrapping Up

This year’s trip to Autodesk University convinced me that 2020 will be a year of strategic decision making more than a year of big software changes. Hopefully these observations and conclusions will help you to prepare for it.

And on a personal note, I’d like to say thank you to those of you I saw at AU who wished me well. See you next year for the 2020 event.



1 2 

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

Take the Gradual Path to BIMWhite Paper: Take the Gradual Path to BIM. Implementing building information modeling (BIM) can be a daunting challenge, but you don't have to take on everything at once. Learn how small, incremental advances can yield big benefits over time. Download your paper today!

Discover DraftSight(R) - the capabilities of Autocad(c) and more at the right price. DraftSight is a 2D and 3D CAD solution that can create, edit, view and markup any DWG file with greater ease, speed and efficiency. Learn more here.