Resolutions for a Success as a CAD/BIM Manager cad bim management resolution scaled e1580703780892

Resolutions for a Success as a CAD/BIM Manager

After nearly 9.5 years with CADD Microsystems, last week was the start of a new chapter of my career. That new chapter is marked by my decision to rejoin Timmons Group as their Design Technology Manager. Just as during my previous tenure at the firm, the people of Timmons Group are outstanding, and I couldn’t be more excited to get back in the trenches helping production teams better utilize design technology.

As with any transition, I’ve invested a lot thought into what will drive success in my new role. Conventional CAD/BIM management wisdom might define success as something related to the technology itself. While I appreciate the logic of such an assessment, it stands in contradiction to one of my strongest opinions about CAD/BIM management.

In my opinion, CAD/BIM management is a people management role disguised in a technology management wrapper. Put another way, I find the people who have the hardest time being effective CAD/BIM managers role are those who focus on the technology, not the people using the technology.

Recognizing this paradigm, my essential question became how can we drive success by more effectively focusing on people?

Like most things that focus on people, not technology, I found the answer to that question to be more internal than external. In other words, the change required to be a more effective CAD/BIM manager starts with us, not the end users we support, or even the leadership we report to.

With all of this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of seven resolutions I believe all CAD/BIM managers should challenge their self to embody in some way. None of us will ever be perfect, but I believe the principles represented by these resolutions only stand to make us better at the job we do with each passing day.

Resolution 1: Don’t be Judgmental

Several years ago, I worked with a CAD manager who said to me, and this is a direct quote, “users are idiots.” Given my own CAD management battle stories, I did not think much of the comment at the moment. It was not until I began working with the users he supported that I came to appreciate the full scope of the seemingly inconsequential comment. Working with these so-called “idiot” users myself, it was apparent to me the users shared a similar unfavorable opinion of the CAD manager himself.

Though an extreme example, the CAD manager had metaphorically shouted from the hilltops what he thought of the users he supported. That judgment was reciprocated by the users their self, and as you might imagine fostered an incredibly counterproductive environment where neither party felt supported by the other. Because of this dynamic, knowing they were being judged at every turn, users evolved to sharing only the bare minimum with the CAD manager. Accurate and complete information is the lifeblood of an effective CAD manager. While it is not necessary to be personal friends with every user you support, it is critical every user is comfortable coming to you, and a mutual respect between user and CAD manager maintained.

Resolution 2: Volunteer in your Community

Overcoming the 7 Deadly Sins of CAD/BIM Management,” the class I co-presented with Jason Kunkel, was named the top-rated industry talk or panel at Autodesk University 2019. While it’s an accomplishment I’m certainly proud of, I’d be remiss to ignore the place I first developed the skills necessary to deliver such a presentation.

That place wasn’t a professional setting, but instead a volunteer one. More specifically, it was through my volunteer efforts in the Boy Scouts of America I learned how to plan and execute my very first training program – a statewide leadership conference. It was through similar volunteer efforts as a member of the National Boy Scout Jamboree staff that I found myself on stage before an audience of 60,000+ instantly conquering any fears of speaking to large crowds of people.

Now perhaps public speaking and training program development aren’t your cup of tea, but perhaps improving your writing or project management skills is? While you may never be given the opportunity to practice those skills on the clock at the office, there’s a good chance you can gain such opportunities in a volunteer capacity.

When the currency is time, economics allows for greater risks, and therefore greater opportunity than when budgets and deadlines are on the line. Even if your objective isn’t to develop new project management skills or something similar, volunteering allows you to make a positive impact on the world around you, not to mention meet likeminded people in a way that expands your personal network of connections.

Resolution 3: Avoid the Curse of Knowledge

The Curse of Knowledge is defined as a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with others, unknowingly assumes those individuals have the background to understand. In my experience this is a curse that affects CAD/BIM managers in both directions; working with the end-users they’re entrusted to support as well as the executives they must elicit a necessary level of corporate support from. Chances are, you’ll lose either audience if you start telling either audience just a fraction of what you know about network deployments.

When getting my start as a CAD manager, I recall growing frustrated at how little executive leadership seemed to care about the design technology their own teams used to complete projects. How could they care so little about the primary hammer used to build the roof over their heads?

What I eventually learned was they did care. More than I ever gave them credit for. The problem was in the way I relayed the information to them. Our executive team had no need to have an intimate understanding of AutoCAD (that’s what they hired me for), but what they did need to know was the business reasons behind my recommendations.

My best advice for avoiding the curse of knowledge, is to imagine talking to yourself ten years ago. While it can be difficult to forecast what someone else knows, you know you better than anyone in this world. Crafting a message you would understand ten years ago is one of the most effective first steps to avoiding the curse of knowledge.

Resolution 4: Turn Enemies into Friends

Returning to the office after a planned vacation many years ago, I found myself in a meeting with the group/division manager of the department I worked almost as soon as I walked through the door. Turns out a deadline for the project I had helped another team with before vacation was missed during my absence. Also during my absence, the person I transitioned the remaining project tasks to (plus provided my personal cell phone to) shifted all blame of the missed deadline onto my shoulders. Suffice to say, though I avoided being terminated over the ordeal, my working relationship with this person was left in an incredibly toxic state.

About a year later I was promoted into a CAD management role, responsible for supporting all end-users at my firm – including the colleague who nearly got me fired by throwing me under the bus. The wounds certainly hadn’t healed at this point, but my new boss wasn’t going to accept that excuse as a reason for me to provide an inferior level of service to this individual.

This was my first big confrontation with the human elements of CAD management.

I had a decision to make. I could harbor the resentment that existed between me and the person who nearly got me fired, or find a way to move on. Every now and then, we all have to eat a slice of humble pie. This was one of those moments.

At the end of the day, choosing to harbor the resentment I had for this person only stood to impede my success as a CAD manager.

While I certainly hope you don’t encounter a situation as polarizing as the one I experienced, you’ll inevitably establish some enemies along the way. Though incredibly difficult to address, there will likely come a time where harboring a toxic relationship will limit your own advancement.

Resolution 5: Radically Rethink a Long-Held Opinion

As a CAD manager faced with the Curse of Knowledge, it’s not uncommon to establish very deep-rooted opinions about the way things should be. There’s no shortage of polarizing topics among AutoCAD experts; the Classic interface verses the Ribbon interface, shape-based (SHX) fonts verses True Type fonts, what to set LTSCALE variables to, external reference strategies about attach verses overlay, just to name a few.

Like many CAD managers, I began work on new standards for my company after making the transition from a production role. Because of my experience not only as an AutoCAD user, but also as a former designer at my firm, my opinion for the way things should be was as definitive as it was polarizing. At the time, I believed establishing standards was a core responsibility of any good CAD manager. Still, despite my best efforts, I was not making the progress I felt I should be, and I couldn’t figure out why. That was until I took a step back myself.

It was through that exercise my long-held opinion about the role of a CAD manager with respect to standards evolved. Putting myself in a frame of mind where I was open to evaluating an opinion different from my own was incredibly difficult. I had find ways to disconnect many hard-wired opinions about the way good standards were created. My first couple attempts were failures, but progress was finally made when I truthfully allowed myself to rethink my long-held opinions related to standards. That evolved thinking is the approach we ultimately took to develop new standards for my firm. Though I haven’t worked for that firm in nearly a decade, the basic standard I helped create is still in use today. I’m not sure that’s a statement I would be able to make if not for the conscious exercise of rethinking my long-held opinions about standards.

Resolution 6: Do Something That Scares You

Just about everyone I know has at least one school subject they were horrible at. I was no different, and for me that subject was English. Incidentally, I started The CAD Geek out of a desire to stop forgetting things I learned about AutoCAD, not to become a blogger (or better at English). Still, those early blog posts were enough for a friend to suggest I volunteer to write some articles for AUGIWorld magazine. As you might imagine, my first reaction was to resist the suggestion of my friend. It was one thing to write blog posts on a website no one read at the time, it was another to write something that would be printed and shipped to AUGI members across the world. Despite my fear, I finally reached out to the AUGIWorld editors, and you could say the rest is history.

The sum of my blog and those articles played a major role in receiving an offer to write six editions of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required, which collectively served as a catalyst for my career.

Resolution 7: Become a Technical Evangelist

Chances are, you didn’t enter the world of design to become a CAD/BIM manager. Instead, things probably began with you being among the best software users in your company, that evolved to you being the person who everyone went to for help, and all of that led to you one day being named a CAD manager. While I understand why companies call their CAD/BIM managers, well managers, it’s a role whereby what you manage is technology, not people.

Considering those who become CAD/BIM managers typically do so from an inherent love for technology, this dynamic between technology and people makes sense. Chances are, in the eyes of your friends, youre the one who gets far too excited about technology. Although your friends are quick to consult you when they need advice about technology, they probably tune you out any other time you talk about technology.

While it might be impossible to make them as excited about technology as you, how do you get them to at least listen in some capacity?

Getting others to listen is the very craft evangelists of any discipline learn to master. In the simplest of terms, they find a way to compel people to listen or read about a topic they have little interest in. But what’s their secret sauce?

The secret sauce is simple. They solve a problem. Sometimes it’s a problem people already know they have, sometimes it’s a problem they were unaware of until your presentation. No matter where on that pendulum a presentation rests, the presentation solves a problem.

Whenever crafting a technical presentation, I apply what I’ve coined as a PBS framework. I begin the presentation defining what the Problem is, I then define the Benefit of solving the problem, and only then do I progress to offering a Solution to the problem. The key principle in the PBS framework is every step of the process is focused on solving a problem.

Wrapping Up

Every organization is different, and because of those differences, how each organization defines the role of CAD/BIM manager often varies as well. Despite the many dissimilarities of the role, one universal similarity I’ve always found is the expectation for a CAD/BIM management role to be one focused on service.

The bottom line is you are there to serve end production staff of your organization, not the other way around. Likewise, nothing will make the already difficult job of CAD/BIM management more difficult than a user base that loathes you. It’s for that reason, I believe the most important skill to develop as a CAD/BIM manager is that of leadership. And as easy as it can be to shift blame elsewhere, becoming a leader starts with no one other than yourself.

What are some of the resolutions you apply to your work as a CAD/BIM manager? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

Influential Leadership

Enforcing CAD Standards Without Authority

There's a myth among CAD and BIM managers that authority is the secret to success. A common belief is unless you are given the authority to enforce what you create, the odds of being successful are stacked against you. Struggling to get my firm to adopt the standards I had developed for it, there was a time where I too subscribed to this belief. I thought to myself (and sometimes out loud), the company's CAD standards will remain a dream of unrealized opportunity until I'm given the authority to enforce the standards.

Like so many I've spoken to over the years, the mystery I couldn't solve was why the company had made it my responsibility to build CAD standards but not given me (or anyone else for that matter) the authority to make sure they were used properly? How could a company I admired for its history of smart business decisions fail so badly with this one?

Focused on solving this mystery, I tried everything I could think of to convince the company to give me the authority I needed to make pure awesomeness happen with respect to our design software. I did everything I could to navigate the corporate hierarchy both above and laterally to me; making my case to anyone who would listen. Still, days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months, and while I got the politely cooperative head nod affirming the merits of my arguments - I made very little progress. Put simply, the company had a CAD standard that no one used because no one had the authority to make sure it was used. Or at least that's the version of the story I firmy believed in.

That belief didn't change until I finally took a step back to reevaluate what I was asking for. After all, didn't Albert Einstein say the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? By every objective measure I could think of, I was a certifiably insane CAD manager.

In taking a step back, I quickly realized I was asking for and pursuing the wrong thing. What I needed to enforce our CAD standards was influence, not authority. Some might say influence and authority are synonyms, and in many ways you're probably right. The net result from each of these terms is largely the same; having the power to affect the way people use design software at my company. Who cares what you call it so long as people use the software the way they should be?

Frankly, not many people should care what you call things, and fewer than that probably do care inside your firm. My advice to you is not to waste your time trying to promote your definitions of the words authority and influence. Afterall, wasn't it a series of tell and ask assertive behaviors that got you here in the first place?

Although the net result is the same, the difference between authority and influence is how you receive the power you need to oversee the use of standards inside your organization. The quest for authority is just a disguised way of asking for this power to be given to you as a singular action. By contrast, the quest for influence is a form of authority earned through a series of actions. Put another way, authority is something given by your superiors, influence is something you earn from your peers.

As a CAD/BIM manager you're expected to be as much a leader as you are a technical expert. Strong leaders know authority is something that's earned, not given. I suspect it's for this reason so few company's give their CAD/BIM manager the authority to enforce standards. They instead leave it to the CAD/BIM manager to find ways to lead the use of things like standards within a orginization.

There are numerous tactics one can employ to earn influence within a orginization. I'll share some of my own thoughts into that topic in future blog posts. In the meantime, let me know in the comments whether you were given the authority to enforce standards at your company, or if it was something you had to earn? What tactics did you employ to earn that status within your company?

Eagle Scout

The Noble CAD Manager - A Servant Leader

image As many of you may already know I am proud to say that I am both an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor Member in the Order of the Arrow (Scoutings National Honor Society). Most recently, my local council (Heart of Virginia Council) has been leading an initiative to form a local Eagle Scout Alumni Association. Just last week the council hosted its first alumni association event at which I had the distinct honor and privilege to speak at. The subject of my speech was simply to share what I felt it meant to be a lifelong Eagle Scout.

My Trail to Eagle

Looking back upon my Trail to Eagle, I couldn’t help but notice the number of scout skills I learned on my Trail to Eagle, that are especially poignant to my “real-world” CAD Management job. Most poignant of which seems to be a leadership principle I learned as a member in the Order of the Arrow (OA). Dr. E. Urner Goodman, founder of the OA, was once quoted “For he who serves his fellows, is of all his fellows, greatest.” The quote is a fundamental building block to a leadership concept taught in the OA known as “Servant Leadership”.

The CAD Manager

This leadership concept I learned long ago has proven itself invaluable as I have entered into the realm of CAD Management. Like many other firms, CAD Management is seen as an IT service, and IT is seen as a support service for the firm. Given the fact my role includes things like end-user CAD support, training, license servers and the like – I can’t necessarily argue this placement. Even still the separation between our production staff and IT introduces an interesting dynamic when one sets out to do something like implement CAD Standards.

Quite simply as CAD Manager you are responsible for developing and implementing CAD Standards, but yet you have little direct authority over CAD production staff. Conversely, a project manager typically has a great deal of authority over the designers for which he supervises. And so the diary of a mad CAD Manager begins: I’ve been trying to implement these standards, but no one will adhere to them…

Like most things in CAD Management, there’s no single answer on how to successfully standardize a company. Things like managerial buy-in, CAD committees, etc are each integral parts to the whole process, but I’d argue the most important factor is you. How you personally approach the standardization process will have an overwhelming impact on the end result of your CAD Standards.

You could certainly choose to become the dictator of CAD Standards, effectively stating “it’s my way or the highway”. Of course if you have ever worked under such a CAD Manager you know how miserable that can be. The other option if you can become more of a coach, conditioning your team to win the World Series of CAD Standardization – become the servant leader.

Servant Leadership Defined

Wikipedia defines the concept of Servant Leadership with 10 points; listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community. To me – these are more than the ten points of being a Servant Leader; it’s more like the ten points of being a successful CAD Manager.

  • Listening: While you should strive to become the resident expert, you will never know everything there is to know about the dynamics of your firm and the work it does. Recognizing that fact, and being sincere with the folks who are kind enough to share their knowledge with you will get your further than you can imagine.
  • Empathy: There will come a time where you are in fact right about a point, and the user on the other end is wrong. Regardless if the person really is a moron, you certainly can’t say that to their face and expect them to have any longstanding respect for you. Instead you will foster a much stronger relationship with you users by helping them through their CAD difficulties than reprimand them for not knowing.
  • Healing: Taking an empathetic approach with some users just isn’t going to get you very far, and so a more blunt approach may be required. Maybe you have already coached someone on how to adhere to the file management standards a dozen times, and yet they still refuse to use them.Just as a good coach will likely fuss at a baseball player for improperly fielding the ball during a game, during the next practice he will also include exercises to help that player properly field the ball. Sometime after fussing at a user for breaking the standards you need to follow-up to make sure they know how to “field the ball”.
  • Awareness: Your users look to you to fulfill the role of resident expert. When so much of our lives as CAD managers is spent using Microsoft Office it can be hard to keep our own AutoCAD skills sharp. A CAD Manager has to have an intimate knowledge of both the CAD package your firm uses, and the firm you work for. Possessing this knowledge will allow you to better align the abilities of your CAD platform with the abilities of your firm.
  • Persuasion: As the old saying goes you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar. You could certainly say “here’s the standard, now use it”, but you probably won’t get too far. If you instead say “here’s our brand-new layer standard which if everyone uses will make it so we can share xref’s between departments”. Quite simply, people want to know “what’s in it for me”, or “how’s this going to be better than x”. You are much more likely to see your companies CAD Standard adhered to if you can answer those questions.
  • Conceptualization: Before you start a training program, assemble a CAD Committee, or begin writing your CAD Standards – you have to have a defined plan. It’s tempting to take pictures first, and build the frame to show those pictures in second. You must resist the temptation by building your frame first, and then composing the perfect photo to place in that frame.
  • Foresight: Just because something isn’t practical in your firm today, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t begin turning the ship today. Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D is a perfect example of this. For most firms implementing Civil 3D in a week or even a month isn’t a very practical ambition. There are a lot of small things that have to happen leading up to a Civil 3D deployment. As a CAD Manager you have to have the foresight to make those things happen 1-year, 6-months, 3-weeks before your deployment.
  • Stewardship: CAD Managers lead a peripatetic existence. They travel from user to user, department to department, sharing a philosophical vision on how to make CAD work both individually and corporately. While we may familiarize ourselves with the micro-environments (departments) in our firms, our true focus is more macro in nature, fostering initiatives which are for the well being of the firm as a whole.
  • Building Community: Building a CAD Committee, hosting regular user group meetings are each especially important communal building functions all CAD Managers should do. Beyond that however the random non-technical “water cooler chats” are in my opinion some of the most important chats you can have with a user. Although a person’s dog, the weather, or even the stock market has little-to-nothing to do with “work” it achieves an important goal for any CAD Manager. It builds rapport with your users!

CAD Management is unquestionably unique in the way that few of us have hire/fire authority over our users. Since the direct consequences for not following the companies’ standards are well – minimal, as CAD Managers we have to employ a much different approach to “management.” Today I look back upon my Trail to Eagle, and quickly realize the full breath of Dr. E. Urner Goodman’s quote “For he who serves his fellows, is of all his fellows, greatest.” In the role of CAD Manager that translates to building rapport with, listening to, and overall serving the needs of your users.

 

For those curious about my involvement in scouting...

I achieved the Rank of Eagle Scout on April 12, 2000 in the Heart of Virginia Council (then the Robert E. Lee Council). As an arrowman in the Order of the Arrow (Scoutings’ National Honor Society) I also earned their highest honor – the Vigil Honor. When you receive the Vigil Honor you are given a “Vigil Name” by your peers. Translated, my Vigil Name was “Tall Diligent Noisy One”. These days I still remain active in the scouting program, currently serving as the webmaster for my council.

Convincing Management to Upgrade

Brian Benton of CAD-a-Blog recently commented on my last post Engineered Efficiency offers Unlimited Live Training, telling a story I hear all too often. Let me summarize; in short his firm upgraded to Civil 3D 2007 a couple years ago, but aren’t using Civil 3D – instead they’re running “Civil 3D as AutoCAD”. Doing that is like buying a BlackBerry, and ignoring the all powerful e-mail abilities of the device. Consequently the kneejerk reaction is nothing less than – what are you thinking?

There’s no two ways to say this, other than the economy is nowhere near what it was just a year ago. Companies are looking for ways to save money and streamline workflows. As CAD Managers we look at inefficiencies in workflows and solve them with technology. CEO’s and COO’s will oftentimes look at the same inefficiencies and solve them with staffing/manpower. But why this separation?

Multi-Disciplinary Plotting Made Easy

image Plotting is a topic so simple in theory, but yet so difficult in practice. Looking no further than my own firm, I can attest for the difficulties users encounter while plotting. Prior to standardizing the plotting process within my firm; a typical week of support contained 2-3 requests about plotting. Today those requests have been all but eliminated, with only 1 or 2 every couple months. But I need not sell you on the idea of standardization; we all know that saves us in the long run. Instead what I’d like to discuss is the added complexities of plotting within a multi-disciplinary firm.

We have the super-firms out there, with Architectural, MEP, Structural, and maybe even Civil out there, but in that mix is also smaller firms. Maybe you work in a smaller MEP or Civil/Survey firm. Regardless the firm size, the challenge is the same, referencing another department’s work and plotting it is flat out difficult. Doing this typically means going through some sort of rogue procedure just to make the plan look good.

Secret to Training Engineers

Good employees are hard to find, and even harder to keep. While this virtue is undeniably true in just about any industry, I find it to be especially true within the engineering industry. Many have heard the timeless question; is the glass half full or half empty? Optimists will respond stating the glass is half full, pessimists half empty. Engineers on the other hand will simply conclude the glass to be twice the size it needs to be. While I mention the parody in jest, its truthfulness can unveil some key insights as to the way engineers learn.

Arguably the most fundamental trait of an engineer is their innate ability to solve problems. Simple or complex, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is a conclusive yes or no answer can be found. This passion for discovering the answers to problems big and small consequently feeds into what could be described as an endless appetite for information. Much like a chef can take seemingly unrelated ingredients and make a celebrated dish, engineers have the ability to take seemingly unrelated pieces of information and assemble it together into a larger concept or idea.

Sometimes the process of assembling fragments of information into a single concept can take seconds, other times it can take days or months. Engineers have the tendency of building a relevancy engine our non-engineer friends are likely to find annoying. So why are we able to remember things our non-engineer friends cannot? In essence it boils down to the way we as engineers commit things to memory.

Building a CAD Committee

No sleep til' Christmas!  Last week it was Autodesk University in Las Vegas, this week marks the start of our Layer Standard implementation.  Getting to this milestone is incredibly exciting, as this implementation is the culmination of about a year of planning.  You may be wandering - what took so long?  After all it's just a layer standard.

Our approach has been one coined by my co-worker Eric Chappell; Evolution not Revolution.  Just to shed some light onto my firm.  We are full-service civil engineering & GIS technology firm with about 350 professionals throughout 10 offices.  Among our strengths as a firm is the fact we offer a diverse array of services in-house; transportation, utilities, site development, residential, environmental, survey, etc.  At the start of our standardization initiative, this very strength posed itself as an innate challenge.  The challenge wasn't that our CAD users we not following a standard, it was the fact each department, and even office had their own standard.  These numerous standards were not necessarily the result of renegade users, but rather a series of custom tailored solutions directed towards the review agencies each group submitted plans to.  Right out of the gate, it seemed like an impossible task to somehow combine all of these standards into a single company standard.  So how did we do it?

The short answer is time, patience, and persistence.  Working through the needs of so many departments, and so many review agencies will undoubtedly take time.  To fast track this process is much like filling an airplanes tank halfway, and hoping you will be able to land before you run out of gas.  Fill your tanks now, it's going to be a long ride!

AU 2007 - The Training Trinity

imageMine included, it seems that many of the AU Unplugged sessions had a lighter turn out than expected.  Even with the limited attendance, I must say my session provided a great platform for some discussion I am certainly bringing home with me.  The concept of a Training Trinity is one I have not seen much (if anything published on).

About a month ago I made a post centered on "Starting a CAD Standard".  I'll paraphrase for those of you who may not have read that post.  My "Starting a CAD Standard" post focused on the idea that the most important element to a CAD Standard is not the awesome DWT you have set up, it's not the documentation (directly), not even the automated routine you may have programmed.  Instead what makes of breaks a CAD Standard is the unspoken (and undocumented element).  When starting a CAD Standard one must have a clear and concise goal, a mission statement even. 

Different elements of your CAD Standard shouldn't be established as islands.  I can assure constructing bridges between your islands is not an option.  Instead each element of your CAD Standard must compliment the other elements of your CAD Standard.  While I have always aired on the side of defining procedures outside of the CAD Standard, your standard will certainly imply numerous procedures.  For instance if your file management standard is set up to have model files and sheet files, you are implying a workflow in which sheets are generated by xrefing model drawings. 

So what does all of this have to do with training?

Free Tools for the CAD Manager/User

Those who read my last post, "Inserting DWG’s into MS Word or PowerPoint" may recall the mention I made about PDF Creator.  Since it seems many of you were interested in that tool, I thought it may be appropriate to share some other tools that I have used and/or know about.  If you're a big web surfer you have likely read a number of Top 100 Free Utility lists.  It's not my intention to litter this post with so much excess baggage.  Instead I have tried to keep this list as concise, and as relevant to CAD users as possible.  Even to that end, I know there are probably many more free tools than included on my list which a CAD user may find helpful.  If you would like to share such utilities, please do so by leaving a comment on this post.

PDF Creation

  • PDF Creator - I have found this tool to be one of the most versatile free PDF creators.  A couple things which stand out to me is the ability not only to create PDF's but also PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP, PCX, PS, and EPS.  Better still is the way you can plot to a logical sheet size like Arch D as opposed to some pixel resolution.  Another interesting feature is the way you can combine multiple PDF's into a single PDF.
  • CutePDF Writer - If all you need to do is create PDF's than this tool is second to none.  It's both quick, lightweight, and FREE for both personal and commercial use.

Online Meetings and Web Conferencing

  • Yugma - This is an awesome alternative to services such as GoToMeeting or MS Live Meeting.  If all you need is a basic online conference room this tool is perfect.  For the audio portion they have recently teamed up with skype, and they also provide a free conference line (non 1-800 number though). More advanced features are available through their reasonably priced paid plans starting at $9.95/month.

Starting a CAD Standard

Starting a CAD Standard 102607 2202 startingaca1A special thanks to Lynn Allen for her presentation to the Richmond AutoCAD Manifest (RAM) Thursday night. After Lynn's presentation I along with some other RAM members had a chance to chat with her. Numerous topics came up during the course of conversation. Oddly enough of all the topics we discussed, files seemed to be the most entertaining - don't ask. Although not in the same context, the topic of files leads me into a common question about CAD Standardization. How does one start a CAD Standard?

Oftentimes when one thinks about CAD Standardization, the first thing that comes to mind is graphical standards. While graphical standards are incredibly important to standardizing a company, is it the best place to start? Some would argue that a layer standard is the most important part of a complete CAD Standard. But is your layer standard them most important element of a CAD Standard?

Before I answer that, let's think for a moment why we create CAD Standards. The simple answer here is to make it so each of our projects share a common foundation. Consistency = Efficiency. Thus, classifying your layer standard to be the most important element of your CAD Standard is like saying one foundation block is more important than another.

Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide Review

image Books, magazines, and even blogs about CAD Management oftentimes scare me. They scare me in the message they broadcast, even if not intentional, that after reading such and such title I can create a CAD Standard in 30 days and be a world-renowned CAD Manager. While the timeframe may be a bit of an exaggeration, the fact readers oftentimes go away with false hope is not.

As anyone who has worn the hat of a CAD Manager if only for a day knows, CAD Management and Standardization is not an overnight process. Under that premise I have come to respect a number of authors who are especially diligent in what they write as not to convey a false message. At the top of that list is Robert Green who is arguably the most well known and well respected individuals in the CAD Management industry. Robert's notoriety comes with good reason, as he is one of the most versed individuals in nearly every industry that uses CAD. His packs a large portion of that knowledge into his latest book "Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide".