You’ve Got to Have a Plan13 Jul, 2022 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager's Column: There are so many facets to your job as a CAD manager, you must have a plan that you reference throughout the year. Find out what you need to keep track of to help yourself, your team, and your company be successful.
Sometimes I marvel at how many things CAD managers must handle on a day-to-day basis. Dealing with so many moving pieces and responsibilities combine to make the job astoundingly tough. So, how best should you deal with all of it? Well, it starts with having a plan.
Do you have a CAD management plan? Is it realistic? Is it optimal? In this edition of The CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll take you through a rapid assessment and action item process you can use to adjust your CAD management plan. Here goes.
Image source: Numax3d/stock.adobe.com.
What’s in Your Plan?
This is the best place to start because if your plan doesn’t take the right issues into account, you’ll forever play catch up. The answer should be: “Everything pertaining to the care and feeding of your CAD ecosystem.” While you may not be responsible for every item on this list at present, you should, at minimum, be concerned with these items:
- Software usage and licensing,
- Hardware specification and purchasing,
- Standards and IT policy,
- Ongoing support,
- Budgeting, and
- Cost reduction and optimization.
If you’ve ever tried to explain to someone why CAD management is such a tough job, just show them this list! There’s a lot to worry about.
So, like any big problem, let’s break our plan into manageable chunks and get started by answering some questions in each area and assigning action items as required.
Software Usage and Licensing
Do you know how many licenses you have, if they are fully utilized, and how your needs might change next year? Do your users really need the software they have or could they get by with less expensive tools? If you have too many licenses of one product, can you afford to let their subscriptions lapse at the next renewal date or should you up/cross-grade or change to another product? Could network or remote access licensing allow you to own fewer copies of expensive analytical or rendering software?
Your responses to these questions allow you to truly understand your software needs and costs for at least the next year. It is often surprising how many software licenses companies have that are underutilized, such as having a full BIM suite license for an engineering manager that doesn’t do CAD work, or could be shared amongst many users. Since CAD software is expensive — and is becoming ever more so — it literally pays to understand all the variables and make sure you have the correct software licensing.
- If IT is responsible for licensing, then insist on doing a detailed assessment with them — they’d probably love to have your expertise.
- If you find ways to save, write it down in an executive summary and report to your boss!
- If your company is growing, try to forecast future software needs so management knows about upcoming increases in software budgets.
Conclusion: With software becoming so expensive, licensing can be one of the best places to find future savings.
Hardware Specification and Purchasing
Do you have a firm understanding of what workstation configurations you need to run BIM, mechanical modelling, and general CAD? Will you be replacing desktop hardware with more mobile workstations? Do you know which users will need specific graphics processors for new usage scenarios like virtual reality, coordination tools, or video rendering? Are you involved in specifying these parameters or do you live at the mercy of what IT chooses to give you?
Your responses to these questions predict how well your CAD tools will run on your user’s desktops so it is very important to be involved in the configuration phase.
- Create software specific hardware specifications like Desktop BIM user, travelling general CAD user, Desktop rendering user so that each person gets the right machine based on their software and travel profile.
- Work with IT to hone hardware specifications and source the best deals based on IT’s purchasing policies.
Conclusion: Get involved! If IT buys the wrong hardware you — and your users — will live with those bad decisions for years.
Standards and IT Policy
Are your standards up to date? Do your users know what your standards are? Do your users understand IT policy as it applies to CAD topics like cloud file storage, data loss, and the use of personal electronic devices? Do senior managers support your standards and empower you to enforce them?
Your responses to these questions indicate how well thought out, trained, and supported your standards program is. If you answered no to all these questions you are in deep trouble! If you answered yes to all these questions you are golden. A mixture of yes and no answers indicates some issues that need to be resolved.
- If your standards are in disrepair, update them.
- Be sure that IT standards protect CAD files from security threats.
- If you’re not training users on your standards, you must begin to do so.
- If your management doesn’t support you in your standards quest, then make them understand why they must.
- Read my article: Back-to-Basics Boot Camp — CAD Standards for more detailed strategies.
Conclusion: Standards are the only thing protecting you — and your company — from chaos, so make sure everyone understands that standards are a priority.
Do you have a user training program? Do you have any training materials for users to peruse on their own? Do you train your users — even if by self-paced video — on the proper usage of company procedures and standards?
Your responses here predict how well your software usage and standards adherence will go. All no answers indicate a CAD user base that is allowed to do whatever they want, has little advanced understanding of their software and little to no awareness of standards. It’s time to get busy.
- If you have no training program, start one even if modest.
- As you conduct training sessions, be sure to record them or produce handout documents so users can review the training later.
- Read my article: Back-to-Basics Boot Camp — Training for more on how to bring your training up to par without breaking the bank.
Conclusion: If you don’t have a training program, you need one — now is the time to approach your management team about getting one going!
Is support a recognized/budgeted activity or something you “do in your spare time” to respond to train wrecks? Do you have enough time to support users well? Do you spend all your time answering the same questions over and over again? Do certain users or departments require more support than others?
Your responses here will indicate how well understood the need for support is within your organization. CAD managers who have no budgeted time for support tend to answer the same questions over and over. CAD managers who do have time to support users typically see repeat problems/questions diminish over time.
- If providing proper support is a problem, you need to approach project managers, senior managers, and anybody else who will listen to describe the problem.
- If you’re answering the same questions over and over AND you don’t have a training program in place, make sure your management understands that the two issues are linked — no training means more questions, and more questions means wasted time and confusion.
Conclusion: Support = productivity. Users that are well-supported catch mistakes and fix them earlier which prevents rework and delays in the long run.
Do you have a budget? Does management listen to your recommendations on annual software budgets? Does your IT department solicit your input for hardware and peripheral budgets?
Your responses to these questions will indicate how involved you are with the identification of hardware and software budgeting. If you answered yes to all questions you’re in good shape. If you answered no to all these questions you are at the mercy of what people think you need. Any question you answered no to points out where you need to get involved.
- If you don’t have a budget, it is time to create one.
- If IT doesn’t respect your budget requests, it is time to make them listen. Set up a meeting.
- If your management doesn’t know what you need, you must tell them. Set up a meeting.
Conclusion: If you want something, you need to ask for it and a formal budget is the best way to ask.
Cost Reduction and Optimization
Now that you’ve thought through each topic and answered the diagnostic questions, you must now take action. But, what action? To figure that out, be honest about the problems you noticed and prioritize them using the following criteria:
- What can you change that will save money?
- What can you change that will make users more productive?
- Everything else.
- Anything that can save money should be submitted to your management team immediately!
- Anything that can increase user productivity that doesn’t cost money (like better standards, error avoidance via support, better management or IT engagement, specifying future hardware purchases, etc.) should be done ASAP.
- Anything that can increase user productivity but will cost money (ie., new computers, lengthy training programs, new software, etc.) should be submitted to management via the budgeting process and done as soon as funding can be obtained.
- All other items will be secondary to cost reduction and productivity enhancement so best to hold them off until later.
Conclusion: Knowing what your problems are means little if you don’t explain them to your boss and take action to fix them in priority of financial importance. Set up a meeting and start communicating your needs clearly.
I hope you’ll take the time to assess your CAD management plan and act in the areas I’ve outlined. I’ve found that assessing how things are going twice a year makes a huge difference in preventing small issues from becoming big ones. By knowing what to work on to cut costs and increase production, you can be sure management will value you.
So, why not take the plunge and assess your CAD management plan now and be ahead of the curve rather than waiting for problems to manifest themselves? Try it, it really does work. Until next time.