CAD Manager's Newsletter (#455)

14 Oct, 2020 By: Robert Green

Want to Make Things Better? Ask Your CAD Users How

Unclear on which problems are hampering productivity in your workplace? Your users will set you on the right path!

To find the barriers that are blocking productivity, ask your users what's tripping them up. Image source: Jaimie Duplass /
To find the barriers that are blocking productivity, ask your users what's tripping them up. Image source: Jaimie Duplass /

In the previous installment of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I advocated making your users your allies via a multipronged strategy of great support, task simplification, and user advocacy on your part. I also mentioned that in this installment, I'd explore how to use your newfound allies to improve your CAD environment, with very little effort on your part.

This time, we'll dig into how you can make things better in your CAD environment by simply asking your users how. It's a simple concept that works very well. Here goes.

What Should I Work On?

This is a vexing question that all CAD managers must deal with. After all, there's no shortage of things to do, so the question becomes, "How should I prioritize my workload?"

My answer is to work on the things that impact productivity first and foremost: Remove obstacles that hamper your users' efforts to work quickly and efficiently. After all, if you raise productivity you save money, and that should be the first priority for CAD managers. But how will you know what is slowing your users down? Ask them!

Phase 1: Focus Your Effort on Problems That Slow Users Down

If you ask a CAD user what their problems are, they will usually respond with whatever is vexing them at that moment. As they tell you, they will emphasize why the problem annoys them — and it's almost always because they feel it slows them down. I find that the trick is to take the following steps:

1.  Listen to the complaint
2.  Find out how the user is being slowed down
3.  Propose the fix to the problem
4.  Implement the fix.

For example, the exchange might go something like this:

CAD manager: "I understand from the project manager that you're having problems creating PDF files for export to our client on the current job. We've not had problems with that before, so what seems to be the issue now?"

User: "All of a sudden, when I create PDF files, some of my annotation and dimensioning text is missing when others open the files. It works fine for me, but others who use my files report problems."

CAD manager: "Let's have a look at your machine. I see that the font capture control in your PDF driver is turned off."

User: "I think it has always been that way on my machine, but I've just never had to export files to anyone outside our organization before."

CAD manager: "Let's change that setting and send a new set of files, and then we'll see if the client is happy."

(A week passes.)

User: "Wow, that was it! Everything works properly now."

CAD manager: "Excellent. I'm going to update our standard configuration to check for this variable setting. Thanks for bringing up the issue and helping me find it."

Drawing Initial Conclusions

There's a lot to learn from the above example if you read between the lines a bit. I'd like to mention a few things I've concluded and explain each as I go:

Many users just suffer silently. They are afraid to ask what they think is a dumb question, so they hide the problem rather than drawing attention to their situation.

Project managers are some of my best detectives. Users will complain about technical problems to project managers if they feel they are under schedule pressure, right? So I make sure the project managers know I'm ready to ask the user about the problem and resolve it, thus making the time to achieving a solution shorter and less stressful for all.

Users often misdiagnose problems. They'll work around technical issues and lose hours and hours of time because they don't understand the true cause of an issue. In contrast, the CAD manager is much more likely to diagnose the problem correctly.

CAD managers can almost always fix problems if they can see a good example and talk to the user experiencing the problem. By engaging the user, you're much more likely to get the files and answers you need than you are by guessing.

The idea behind surveying your users is to flush out these types of problems simply by asking them to share their problems with you. Do this and you will succeed; don't do it, and you will fail. Read more »

Tools and Resources

Prepare Yourself for CAD Management 3.0
According to CAD management expert Robert Green, we're now in the midst of the third major change wave in CAD management (CM 3.0). More a summation of several smaller trends than a single driving trend, CM 3.0 will place new demands on CAD managers and redefine what it takes to compete in the field. To be effective, CAD managers must analyze, adapt, and gain new skills in a never-ending quest for improvement.

Cadalyst has published a 24-page guide that collects seven columns from Green's series on CM 3.0, addressing topics ranging from standards and workflows to the psychology of CAD users and the many languages CAD managers need to speak. Download this free guide to learn which skills and strategies you need to be prepared for the changes coming your way.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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