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CAD Manager's Newsletter (#430)

24 Jul, 2019 By: Robert Green


To Prioritize Your Workload Effectively, Analyze Change and Need, Part 1

The degree of change and frequency of need are both important factors in determining which tasks you should be tackling at work.

One question I've been asked repeatedly by CAD managers goes something like this: "With all the stuff going on every day, how do I know what I should be working on?" Another statement I hear often is, "It seems like I just fight fires all day and never really get anything done." The common thread is that these exasperated parties don't how to forecast their workload properly — in essence, they don't know what to work on at any given time.

I've been revising my approach to dealing with CAD management priorities a good bit over the past five years, and I'd like to share my updated strategies for forecasting workloads. It is my hope you can use some of my ideas in your environment. Here goes.

To Understand Your Workload, First Understand Your Work Better

Let me explain what I mean by "change and need." There are some elements in a CAD management environment that change frequently — such as software updates. Then there are other factors that are consistently in demand, and remain relatively stable — like the need to support users.

But here's where things get interesting: Sometimes an infrequent change like a software update can really mess up something that should be stable, like supporting users. Why? Because support is always tougher when users are working through a large change of process, such as a software update. And therein lies the problem: Do you really know how to forecast what will change and when, so you can arrange your schedule optimally?

Rely on Radar Charts

Meet my secret weapon for figuring out change and need: radar charts. I've found that if I think about my workload in terms of how much change there is in each of my job functions and how often each function is needed, the fog starts to lift and I can understand what I'm up against. And the best way to understand it all is to create something visual like a radar chart with all your job functions, the frequency of need, and the degree of change, like the one below.

A Need vs. Change radar chart for CAD management tasks.
A Need vs. Change radar chart for CAD management tasks.

Here's how to create your own radar chart:

First, catalog your job functions, like I've done here:

•  Software Updates
•  Training
•  Standardizing
•  Software Support
•  Hardware Support
•  Project Management

(Note that you may have more or fewer functions, and they may have different names.)

Next, start an Excel sheet and create a three-column set of data:

Select the data cells and insert a radar chart:

Finally, simply adjust the formatting of your radar chart to your liking. (For example, on my chart I called my two data lines Degree of Change and Frequency of Need; label yours as you wish.)

Now that you can see the parameters of Change and Need graphically, let's draw some conclusions. Following are a few things I've noticed over the years.

Sum the Numbers

If you add together the Change and Need values for a given job function, you'll obtain a number that can be referenced. My totals look like this:

•  Software Updates: 130
•  Training: 100
•  Standardizing: 110
•  Software Support: 130
•  Hardware Support: 70
•  Project Management: 80

As you might suspect, a higher total value indicates job functions that will be more demanding — but let's dig a bit deeper.

Read more »


Tools and Resources

AMD Hosts Rendering Contest
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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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