Get Your Users to Help You

10 Mar, 2010 By: Robert Green

Once you make the benefits of cooperation clear to your CAD users, they'll be happy to pitch in and help build a more efficient workplace.

In the previous installment of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I discussed how winning over your users makes them more productive, you more relaxed, and everyone happier. It is my hope that you used the concepts presented to examine how you can win over the users in your environment.

In this installment, I'll share some ideas for how you can use your newly persuaded user base to help you make things even better in your CAD environment. Here goes.

Strike a Bargain with Users

Now that your users like you and trust you — thanks to your thoughtful communication and efforts on their behalf — it is time for you to strike a bargain so that they'll help you in return. What do I mean by that? I'm talking about establishing some mutually beneficial agreements, where your users help you be a better CAD manager so you can help them be more productive users. I'm going to share some areas of mutual benefit that you can bring to your users' attention, tips on how to start the conversation, and an explanation of what the benefits are for all parties.

You've proved to your users that you'll put in the effort to make their jobs easier. Now, how can they contribute to your shared goals?


Find inefficiencies. Senior management will be happier if CAD operations are more efficient, right? And efficiency often comes from reducing clicks, picks, and steps, right? So your question to your users is, "Where are the inefficiencies in your day-to-day work?"

The payoff for the users is that they'll get an even better production CAD environment when the inefficiencies are resolved. The payoff for you is that you can spend more time fixing problems instead of trying to find them. The fascinating thing about this symbiotic approach is that while you remain the solution provider, the users become the detectives that unearth the nagging problems that need to be addressed. When they become involved in fixing a problem rather than just griping about it, users take ownership of the situation.

Moral: Users will help you find problems, but only if you ask them to.

Assist with ordinary maintenance. Certain tasks have a way of coming up over and over again, thus requiring ongoing maintenance. Things that come to mind for me are keeping project file directories organized, deleting unused directories and temporary files, keeping standards directories current, creating archive folders for completed jobs, etc. Your question to your users should be, "Since you are in these directories and dealing with these files more often than I am, can you please keep an eye out for problems and bring them to my attention when you see them?"

The payoff for the users is a better-organized CAD work environment, where files don't get misplaced or lost. The payoff for you is a more thoroughly standardized environment where users are more likely to follow filing procedures and create fewer errors. And even if you still have filing standards violators, at least you'll know about it sooner if a few extra pairs of eyes are helping you watch for problems.

Moral: Users are much more likely to police themselves to keep files organized when they feel a sense of personal responsibility to their CAD manager to do so.  

 Test new software. Whenever you roll out new or updated software platforms, somebody has to be the tester. Your question to your users should be, "You'll have to use this software, so why not help me test it more thoroughly and make it better in the first place?"

The payoff for the users will be a more familiar software environment, as well as the possibility to tailor the software more to their liking early in the process. The payoff for you is that you're more likely to catch big problems before they reach the masses.

Moral: The more you test, the better things work.

Check custom standards. If you're like me, you try to make CAD standards as automatic as possible by using template setups, custom toolbars, job directories, programming, etc. The downside of this sort of standards automation is that you need test users to pound on your standards setups to verify their functionality and error handling. Your question to your users should be, "These custom standards have the potential to make your life a lot easier, so why not help me make the software something you'll really enjoy using?"

In my experience, customized software doesn't just need to perform properly; it also needs to have a certain logical feel, or the users won't enjoy working with it. The only way to achieve that positive feel is to have users evaluate your customized software and then adjust it until a level of comfort is achieved. Do yourself a favor and find a few willing users who will help you optimize your customization projects and watch the rate of user adoption go up — which increase standards usage as well!

Moral: User involvement equals user confidence, which in turn equals greater usage of your customized standards tools.

Plan training. Let's face it, we never have enough time to train users, and the preparation time to get ready for training classes is more time-consuming than the training itself. So if users benefit from training, doesn't it make sense that they help you prepare for it? Your question to the users should be, "Would any of you like to create and present a short training session to help other users gain the benefits of your expertise?"

When phrased in this manner, the payoff for the users becomes a bit of an ego boost (acknowledging their expertise), increased status among the CAD community (as an instructor), and the opportunity to gain valuable experience as a trainer. The payoff for you is getting some badly needed help to run your training program. And since training benefits everyone, isn't it reasonable that the burden of conducting training be shared as well?

Moral: Making users at least partially responsible for their own training lowers CAD management costs and makes more training possible.

Summing Up

I've come to understand that being a CAD manager is a lot easier when the users I work with trust me and believe that I'm doing everything I can to help them work efficiently. I've also observed that successful CAD managers leverage the great relationships they have with their users to help spread the CAD management burden around.

No matter how you work with your users, I hope you'll take some time to think about how you can build the cooperative type of relationship I've outlined in this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter. I think both you and your users will experience a more efficient CAD environment as a result. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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