Information to Help You Better Manage Your CAD Environment

by Mark Stefanchuk, CADmanage.com

Information is the key. Without it we can’t analyze and resolve issues, or win funding for new initiatives. As a CAD Manager, one of the toughest things I had to do was present and support the business case for moving projects forward. It required formulating data in a way that each stake holder could understand. Often that was a monetary presentation other times it was technical. We need information that can help us to understand overall operations, as well as detailed data about each workstation. With information readily available we will have much better control of the CAD ecosystem and a better argument when we have to reach out to our boss for funding. Here are five things, pieces of information, that can help you manage your CAD environment.

Computer Names

Capture computer names to support automated deployments. If you have a small footprint this is easy enough to manage and you probably aren’t doing automated deployments – but can offer you insights when combined with other data. In larger environments, especially those with self service request centers knowing who has what software isn’t always that easy. Even if you have a small pool of licenses your installed base could be much larger. Automating license capture is necessary and can help you with the next deployment.

User Names

In addition to providing very granular usage stats, user names can also provide data on asset usage – shared and individual. Tracking user names per computer name can tell you how effectively you are using your hardware assets. And you may find there are opportunities to consolidate resources or in some cases pro-actively address maintenance issues for shared resources. You can extend usage monitoring to just about any asset including software. In large environments software deployment, including CAD software is often managed by a centralized IT department. In this scenario CAD Managers will quickly lose track of who has and is using critical software assets.

How can we capture username and computer name? In a small environment (say fewer than 10) you can just survey the team and catalog the data manually. In larger environments you will want to use automation to capture this data. A quick and easy way to do this is to add some code to your start up script or program. In VBA you can use the following…

   Dim sComp as String, sUser as String
   sComp = $Environ(“computername”)
   sUser = $Environ(“username”)

And a quick way to save this data is to just append it to a log file using the open and print statements. Check http:\\en.wikibooks.org\wiki\Visual_Basic\Files for details on writing text files. Of course a more sophisticated approach would be to use a SQL database or some other data system that you can query and report.

Version Audit

Going a step further in your intelligence gathering you might also consider capturing version dates on first tier software. These include your business critical applications – that is MicroStation, AutoCAD, Civil3D, and so on.  Version audits can help to avert support issues. For example, incompatible plug-ins.

In both MicroStation and AutoCAD VBA this is easy – it’s just a simple call to the application object.

Application.Version

 

In addition to analyzing support issues, version audits can also help with funding – as is the case with Adobe applications where each version counts as a license instance. In larger environments with self service software requests I’ve seen incorrect versions deployed and version audits can help identify workstations that need to be upgraded. For those of you working for a consulting shop, it’s not unusual to be running multiple versions because in these situations we tend to upgrade as users finish one project and are just starting a new project. So in this case we can use version audits to avoid potential production losses.

In smaller environments versions and software deployments are more easily managed, but if you’re managing a reasonably sized CAD ecosystem computer names, user names, and versions can provide better feedback from your CAD environment. And there are many other things you might want to consider tracking – hardware form factors, plotter usage, and user profiles – each provides valuable information and combined they can inform upgrade schedules, refresh strategy, and software management policies. I’ll investigate these more in future posts, but for now experiment with user, computer, and versions, and let me know what else you might want to track.

About Mark Stefanchuk: Mark is a VP and senior consultant with CAD Management Resources, Inc. He divides his time between developing innovative custom software solutions and helping clients navigate complex design automation environments. If you would like to find out how he can assist you with your design technology he can be reached by contacting us at info@cadmanage.com.

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