Conduct a CAD Management Audit

8 May, 2013 By: Robert Green

Are you like an overworked logger, too busy felling trees to sharpen your ax? Take the time to stop and think critically about what you're doing — and how you're doing it.

We've all been there — working so feverishly that we don't have time to fix the problems and bad processes that we know are undermining our productivity. Talk about a vicious circle! In this issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'd like to make a case for ending this cycle of inefficiency.

Take a breather from the chaos to perform a CAD management audit. I promise that your investment in this effort will pay off many times over in increased productivity and effectiveness. The more carefully you think about what you do, examine the systems you use, and evaluate the methodologies you apply to perform CAD management, the better your performance will be. In fact, I think you should self-audit your CAD management plan at least a couple of times each year to make sure you stay on the right track.

Here goes.

What to Audit?

First of all, I'm not talking about a painful tax audit; I'm talking about auditing your own CAD management processes. Think of an audit as a chance to understand the various factors affecting how you operate, so you can get better at what you do.

So what should you audit? In a word: Everything! But to get the conversation rolling, let's agree on at least the following major areas of CAD management responsibility:

  • Software use and licensing
  • Standards
  • Training
  • Support
  • Budgeting.

Seems intimidating when you think about everything you have to do, doesn't it? All the more reason to examine what you're doing, think about how you're tackling the job, and learn how to become more efficient at it. The audit you'll perform will enable you to accomplish these goals.

Now I'll break the audit down into pieces, provide diagnostic questions for each, and give you some action item suggestions.

Software use and licensing. Do you know how many licenses you have, how fully they are utilized, and how your needs might change next year? If you have too many licenses of one product, can you afford to let their subscriptions lapse, or should you switch to another product? Could network or remote access licensing allow you to own fewer copies of expensive analytical or rendering software? Are there cloud options for software rental that could save your company money in the long run?

Your responses to these questions will help you to truly understand your software costs for at least the next year. Because CAD software has a wide variety of licensing options, it is likely that your purchasing or IT department hasn't done the research needed to fully understand all the variables.

Action items:

  • If your audit finds savings, write up your findings and make your management aware — they'll love you for being thrifty!
  • If your audit foresees changes in software use that will cost the company more in the future, make sure management knows so it won't be a surprise next year.

Standards. Are your standards up to date? Have you been putting off adopting BIM standards? Do your users know what your standards are? Do senior managers support your standards?

Your responses to these questions will indicate how well developed, communicated, and supported your standards program is. If you answered Yes to all these questions, you are in great shape. But if you answered No, you are in deep trouble! A mixture of Yes and No responses indicates some issues that need to be resolved.

Action item:

  • If your management doesn't support you in your standards quest, make sure to approach them about doing so. Otherwise, you won't have all the authority required to enforce standards.

Training. 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 on the proper use of company procedures and standards?

Your responses here predict how well your software use and standards adherence will go. All negative responses indicate a CAD user base that is allowed to do whatever they want, lacks advanced understanding of their software, and has little to no awareness of standards.

Action item:

  • If you don't have a training program, you need one — and now is the time to approach your management team about getting one started!

Support. Is support a recognized/budgeted activity, or something you do "in your spare time" to avoid 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 the need for support is understood 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.

I've noted that companies with no training programs tend to have more problems providing support — which makes sense, because training typically reduces the need for support.

Action items:

  • If your audit shows that providing support is a problem, you need to to describe the problem to project managers, senior managers, and anybody else who will listen.
  • If your audit shows you 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!

Budgeting. Do you have a budget? Does management listen to your recommendations about 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 these questions, you're in good shape. If you answered No, you are at the mercy of what other people think you need. Any questions you answered in the negative point out where you need to get involved.

Action items:

  • If your audit exposes a "no budget" scenario, you must create the best budget that you can for a one-to-two–year plan. It may not be perfect, but at least you'll start to control your own destiny.
  • If your audit shows that you have a budget, but not as thorough a budget as you should, then now is the time to improve it.
  • Take budgeting seriously, because it is the only way you can get the tools you need to get the job done.

Prioritize Your Results

I can already hear the question, "What should I do if I have many of these problems?" You must determine which problem is having the greatest effect on productivity and attack it first. The most important problem is not the one you want to solve or the one your users want you to solve, but rather the one that is costing your company the most money in terms of productivity.

If solving your problems requires senior management intervention (in terms of authority or funding), then you'll be able to show them the auditing process you've gone through and the inefficiencies you've identified. Given your preparation and thorough understanding of your operating environment, your senior management is now much more likely to see that fixing CAD management problems is an opportunity to reduce costs.

Summing Up

It is my firm belief that we only get better at something when we evaluate our performance and think critically about our methods. Just as singers must listen to themselves to become better, so must CAD managers audit every aspect of the job periodically and adjust strategies as required.

Now create your own audit checklist and get to work evaluating your own performance, so you can get better at your job. I hope you find the approach as rewarding as I have over the years.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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