Digital Design Solutions

Thrive Through Change with CAD Management 3.0

24 Jun, 2020 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: We’re working in a very turbulent time right now, but there will always be more changes to deal with. Effective CAD managers must continue analyzing and adapting in a never-ending quest for improvement.

At the end of January 2020 I started a series on CAD Management 3.0, addressing the idea that CAD management is a changing discipline requiring a refreshed skill set. Little did I know how much things would be changing in the next several months, and how these challenges would add to the burden of many CAD managers.

In recent editions of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, we’ve discussed an array of CAD Management 3.0 topics, including user psychologystandardizing workflows, and how CAD managers must inspire those around them to greatness. To those of you who’ve followed along, thank you. This time, we’ll wrap up the series with some recommendations for extra strategies to help you excel in your role. Here goes.

A Brief Recap of CAD Management 3.0 Principles

So, what makes a great CAD manager in these changed times? The ability to work using these methods is a good summation:

  • Make things work better. Listen, find problems, suggest solutions, standardize the solutions, and teach people the solutions.
  • Evangelize and motivate. Use the psychology of motivation to make people want to work better. Use the psychology of “less effort” to make people want to be more efficient. Keep evangelizing both approaches.
  • Define missions. To make projects flow faster, to save money, and to make yourself indispensable to management and users alike, set out mission statements that strive for improvement.
  • Never quit. Realize that in CAD management you’re never done, you’re just waiting for the next thing to change.

Of course, knowing your software, supporting your users, and getting projects done will always be the bedrock functions of the CAD manager — but if you can work using the above approaches, you can achieve so much more!

Now Add Four Specific Techniques

To pull it all together, there are four techniques I use that can amplify your success:

  • Banish tool worship
  • Align tools with the mission
  • Use pilot projects
  • Continually repeat the process.

These techniques will keep you on track and keep your users positively engaged as you navigate the day-to-day business of CAD management. Let me explain.

Banish Tool Worship

What exactly do I mean by “banishing tool worship”? Always consider the results you get more than which software tools you use to achieve those results. For example, instead of saying, “We need to build a Revit model,” say, “We need to create the best BIM model we can (whether we use Revit or open-source IFC tools).” Never assume that you must use a cloud-based design tool when a locally installed app may work better, faster, and cheaper. And never assume that upgrading is smart if the old tool works perfectly well.

When this series touched on Good to Great concepts, I referenced Jim Collins’s belief that only software which “accelerates your business” should be considered. This is, essentially, eliminating tool worship, because if you consider software solely for the results it can generate, you’ll never purchase anything that doesn’t work.

Align Tools with the Mission

Now that you’ve banished tool worship, you’ll never be overly dependent on any given tools again. Now you are free to listen to great ideas your users have and consider only how tools actually work. In fact, great work teams often improvise their own tools to overcome problems associated with achieving their missions: Just as a carpenter might create a jig or template for a given task, your CAD users may propose custom solutions using new or existing CAD tools. As long as the job gets done more effectively, why argue with a great idea?

And as you preside over the evolution of your company’s CAD tools, make sure to keep your management teams aware of the progress being made. Be sure to document any time savings, cost savings, or quality increases achieved by considering CAD tools solely based on their functionality and suitability for the task — or mission — at hand.

Use Pilot Projects

Let’s say you’re now open to considering new software tools or new ways of using existing tools — but how will you know whether your proposed changes will actually work? I’ve found that a well-defined pilot project allows me to capture all the information I need to validate a new approach before rolling out new work methods to the entire company.

What sort of information do I aim to capture? At minimum, the following:

  • Is the pilot team able to learn and use the software like I thought?
  • How much training time does it take to learn the tools?
  • Can the pilot team deliver a final design with the tools?
  • Did the new software disrupt any existing work processes?

I’ve always found it better to test anything new with a small, targeted group so I can tweak my procedures to optimize them. There have been a few times where I’ve been pressured into implementing a new software tool to a broad audience without a pilot project, and I’ve always lived to regret it!

When you’re making up the pilot project team, there are particular characteristics you’ll want to look for. I always recruit the following types of personnel:

  • The best, most self-motivated users
  • Someone from IT, in cases where implementation warrants it
  • Those who want to make things better.

Why? Because these are the people who give you the best chance for success, and they will later help you communicate to, train, and help other users as they learn the new methods or tools.

Note: For more detailed information on how to create a sustainable system in your company to use pilot projects to your advantage, see my two-part series: Build a CAD Proving Ground, Part 1 and Build a CAD Proving Ground, Part 2.

Continually Repeat the Process

Through my CAD management career, and many of yours, has spanned from CAD Management 1.0 to 3.0, one thing has remained constant: You’re never done getting better. Therefore, I highly recommend adopting the dual philosophies of “How can we do this better?” and “What’s next?” as your mantras. Because as soon as you think you’re done optimizing your environment, something will change and you’ll need to react — so it pays to be ready for it.

Wrapping Up

I hope you’ve found this wide-ranging series on CAD Management 3.0 useful, and that you can put the concepts into practice in your work. Please let me know anything you’d like to add so I can address it in future newsletters. Until next time.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!