Dec 9, 2020
By: Robert Green
CAD Manager Column: What can we learn from this chaotic year that will help us guide our CAD management strategy going forward?
Now that we’ve all endured most of 2020 – with all of its ups and downs – can we look back at what this exceptional year has taught us and draw some conclusions? For my part, I will tell you that the whole experience has refocused me on the essential.
In this edition of the CAD Manager newsletter, I will share a wide range of responsibilities that today’s CAD manager faces, identify some of the complicating factors to consider, and define strategies for managing CAD management during the current COVID. -19 pandemic and beyond. Here is.
It’s really a basic question
As we moved through working from home, remote software licensing, virtual private networks (VPNs), and Teams / Zoom meetings, one thing became very clear to me: being a CAD manager is everything. about the basics of work, and everything I do must support that mission. And what are these bases, exactly?
Make production a reality. At the end of the day, the first thing we all do is make production easier. If the job can’t be done, the business can’t make money, and we’ll all be out of work. So making sure production runs smoothly is our top priority.
Make sure the software supports the production maximizing the function. Given that production is done on software that we already have in place, it stands to reason that maximizing existing tools will help us the most. It’s time to put aside the crazy notions of drastic change and spend more time on the fundamentals of how best to support our users with the tools they already have in place.
To save money. This year has shown us that business can be volatile and that there is never a bad time to save money and prepare for future surprises. To this end, ask yourself the question, “Where can we save money?” You might be surprised at some of the options (more on this soon).
Securing files. As more and more people work remotely, it becomes more difficult to keep CAD files / models safe. When you can’t rely on “screaming over the wall of the cabinet” to coordinate projects, you will likely need to emphasize how users can keep all of their information properly stored and backed up. Which brings me to the next item on the list …
Manage the formulation and deployment of standards. Creating, optimizing, and deploying standards – especially around file security and user best practices – becomes even more important in remote working environments.
User training. While training is difficult to do remotely, it may be our only option for a while, so we just need to design training schedules that allow us to communicate our standards through video conferencing. we can not allow the COVID limited work environment to kill our training programs!
New technology creates new problems
Now that we’ve defined the back-to-basics responsibilities we all need to take on, let’s take a look at how new technologies – whether hardware, software, or IT – will complicate the job. I’ll also draw some conclusions about where you might want to delay the new technology, given the COVID-19-based work-from-home paradigm:
Facilitate production. Increasing complexity of all kinds means more possibilities to make mistakes, and mistakes tend to hamper production. Therefore, does it really make sense to deploy new software platforms if you can’t sit on users’ machines to troubleshoot? Will you waste so much time in the implementation that the new technology is not even worth it? These questions deserve critical reflection.
Forecast of software requirements. Software evolves rapidly as stand-alone software becomes cloud software, licensing models change, and software bundling seems to change every year. Simply put, it is much more difficult to predict what you will need and what it will cost you in the years to come. I find it best to forecast next year’s usage on existing software usage patterns, unless I see some really compelling reasons to switch platforms (like cost reduction) .
Planning of equipment purchases. Workstation hardware is getting more and more powerful every year as the costs stay roughly the same, but remote labor transfer has made us far more laptop users than we are. ‘before, and it’s hard to see this trend change.
In the past, the decision was simple: we just bought the fastest machines we could afford. But now the kind of desktop required for cloud-based software and remote computing makes planning difficult, and new laptops don’t come cheap. My only strategy here is to assume that more of us will use laptops in the future and change hardware budgets accordingly.
Save money on your budget. Since software and hardware uncertainty make planning more difficult, it stands to reason that budgeting will be more difficult as well. But in tough business environments, one thing never goes out of style and that’s saving money. Your management team is far more interested in savings than new technology right now, and anything you can do to save right now deserves your immediate attention.
Securing intellectual property. As files are increasingly stored on cloud platforms such as Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, etc., and users can access these platforms with tablets, smartphones and home computers, the security is much more complex than in the past. In many ways, file security has become a much worse issue as the cloud has grown bigger – and more remote workers only make it even bigger.
User training. Perhaps the bright spot in the whole COVID-19 mess has been that we’ve all learned how to use technology better from a distance, and users have become more familiar with the concept. For CAD managers, this should mean that your users will be more than willing to attend virtualized training and the experience should be familiar after all the hours we spent in video conferencing last year. So take your training virtual and don’t look back!
Work closely with the IT department. CAD managers haven’t always had to be IT savvy in the past, but that has changed dramatically in recent years. With CAD requiring more security, more remote access, more cloud, and increasingly complicated licensing schemes, IT needs to be involved more than ever.
Given the evolving CAD environment and the non-negotiable requirement that all CAD work be done, the question becomes: How can the CAD manager handle all these issues? Here are some strategies I use to better manage the chaos:
Become much more computer aware. Some of the biggest changes in the CAD environment are no longer CAD issues, but network and IT issues. Think how a program like AutoCAD, Inventor, or Revit has changed relatively little over the past five years compared to how networks, cloud programs, and smart devices have changed! The only solution is to learn all you can about IT and how it will be implemented in your business. Don’t guess how IT changes will affect you, find out more!
Expect longer lead times. Changes to key infrastructures such as networks, security procedures, hardware implementations, and cloud software deployments do not happen overnight, so your planning horizon should be longer. And when all of your employees are working from home, the problem is even more acute. So, start thinking of CAD resource planning as a 2-3 year exercise rather than an annual problem, and don’t be too impatient if things take longer. Remember that getting the job done always trumps system changes.
Think a lot more about security. CAD is no longer limited to a set of DWG / DGN files in a server directory. The reality is that we now have to keep large collections of files scattered across multiple branch offices, using shared storage to do our jobs.
How will you ensure the security of these files to prevent data overwriting, accidental deletion or outright theft of digital assets? How will it all work when all users are remote? Don’t assume IT knows the answers to these questions; be vigilant and check for yourself that things are working as they should.
Question everything. In a rapidly changing technological environment, it is safe to assume that your CAD environment will also experience disruption and change. The more you ask yourself how these changes will impact you and ask to check out any proposed changes, the better prepared you will be to deal with them. Never assume everything will keep working just because it works today, and never change what works today just for the sake of change.
So what has 2020 really taught us and how could we better plan 2021 accordingly? I hope this edition of the CAD Manager Newsletter has given you a few things to consider, but you can rest assured that we’ll be going deeper into these topics next year.
If you have anything to add to the list of “basics” or comments that you would like to see included in future issues of the CAD manager newsletter, please email me at [email protected] Till next time.