To All Users — From Your CAD Manager23 Aug, 2023 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager's Column: An open letter to your users can help them understand how your job is to help them succeed and, in turn, make your company more profitable.
CAD Managers have a unique job in that we must serve two key contingencies — senior management (who funds our budget and wants everything done inexpensively) and users (who want to get their work done with minimum hassle). Obviously, CAD managers must all explain ourselves to senior management to get the resources required to do our job, but unfortunately many of us fail to explain our job to the users we must serve. I’ve found that my job is far easier when I take the time to explain my job and the limits I operate within.
In this edition of The CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’m updating my time-tested tips and tricks for building understanding with your users via an open letter. Feel free to use this as a template and edit it to suit your own needs. Here goes.
Image source: alotofpeople/stock.adobe.com.
To All CAD Users,
Hello everyone. This is <your name here>, your CAD/BIM manager. I know many of you don’t know exactly what I do, so you may not realize how much I can help you get your work done while making the company’s projects more profitable. I’m also aware of how much things have changed since COVID, with more of us working remotely on new cloud-based tools than ever before. I’m hoping this letter can serve as a reboot for how we can all work together to make our CAD environment as productive as possible.
What My Job Includes
One thing I’m asked often is, “What does a CAD/BIM manager do?” Well, first, I must follow the directives given to me by our senior management team. You may notice some of these directives showing up in your CAD environment, but you may not know why. Let me give a short run down:
Supporting projects. No matter what else I do, management has made it very clear that my number one responsibility is to keep projects on track by supporting CAD users and tools. Therefore I make sure files are managed, PDFs captured, renderings produced, and client transmittals are in order. These will always take priority over anything else.
Keep CAD software and hardware running. This means installing and supporting the software you use while making sure that I coordinate with IT on network issues and keeping up with the printers and plotters we all use every day. I may be debugging software deployments in the morning, debugging a plotter at lunch, dealing with file security issues via IT in the afternoon, or deploying new laptops all while fielding numerous support calls (see topic above).
Standardizing and optimizing CAD operations. This means trying to get everyone on project teams to work cooperatively so that the work is completed quickly, with minimal time spent, and the fewest mistakes possible. When I focus on standards and getting everyone to work in a consistent manner, it isn’t just because I want to, it is because I’m expected to and it saves time in the end.
Working with IT to secure data. As cloud software becomes more prevalent, concerns about data security have only increased and IT has had to become more disciplined about how they manage CAD tools. Please know that better security, strong passwords, and more attention paid to the threats of malware and data theft will continue to impact all of us.
Keeping CAD costs down. Our management wants to be sure that we keep our budgets under control, so I’m expected to purchase only the software we really need, squeeze more years from older workstations, and minimize the cost of training. If you don’t have all the software you might want, a brand-new workstation, or unlimited training, please know that cost containment is the reason why. If you think about how much all those items would cost for every single CAD user in the company, you can see why management is concerned, right?
It is sometimes stressful to have all these responsibilities while trying to support everybody working on such a wide variety of ongoing projects. If it ever seems like I don’t have enough time to spend with you on training or talking about new technology, just understand that I have limited hours in a day and that those hours must be focused on project execution.
We’re All In This Together
Another question I’m often asked by management is, “How can we do things better, faster, and cheaper?” This question has several answers — all of which you can be a part of! While our tasks and tools may differ, all of us are ultimately expected to get our projects completed quickly, accurately, and at minimum expense. If I can’t make your CAD tools work well, you’ll have more trouble getting your work done, right? Conversely, if nobody helps me get our CAD tools optimized, how can I ever help you get your work done faster? Simply put, we’ve got to help each other by doing the following:
Help me help you. If you view the CAD manager as somebody who simply deals with the same problem day after day, we will never realize the full value of this relationship. If you view the CAD manager as someone who can help you figure out how to eliminate problems before they begin so we can all work smarter, then we’ve got a promising future. So, when you see something that could be done better to make our design processes smoother and more profitable, let me know and let’s work together to make it happen!
Practice detailed, calm communication. Rather than angrily saying, “This %$*@ PDF driver doesn’t work!” when you have a problem plotting, take a deep breath and say something more like this, “Whenever we try to plot one of these consultant files, it seems to mess up only on non-standard layers and goes outside the sheet border.” Remember, I can’t help you unless I know what the exact problem is and can work calmly to resolve it.
Realize that standards really do help. I know it sometimes feels like CAD standards are a barrier to you, but they can really make your life easier. Imagine trying to coordinate a task with 10 people who all insist on doing the task their own way. You would go crazy wouldn’t you? Welcome to my world. Since we all want our CAD tools to perform better, faster, and more consistently, doesn’t it stand to reason that standardization and uniformity of work methods will be required? Together, let’s work to create standards that help everyone get their work done better and faster!
Realize that rework is our common enemy. How much time and money does our company lose when we must rework a project? A lot! And, since it costs so much you can bet that senior management wants us to avoid rework at all costs. Sometimes rework is due to unforeseeable consequences but many times it is due to a simple lack of coordination on our part. Let’s all resolve to talk issues over — whether we’re in the office or working remotely — and get things right the first time.
Mutual Respect and Communication
Moving forward I’d like to propose that we all take time to understand each other’s situations more and communicate better with each other. Let’s begin with the understanding of the limitations we all face (in terms of budgets and project deliveries) and work towards making our CAD environment better organized and more standardized. The more you can help me with the goals I’ve outlined above, the more time I’ll have to help you to streamline your job. And that’s a win-win!
I’m confident that if we all unite in the mutual pursuit of doing great CAD work and minimizing rework that we’ll all wind up better off than we are now. I, for one, am looking forward to getting the conversation started.
Your CAD Manager
Will you send a letter like this to your users? And, if so, what will you add or remove? Let me know your thoughts on how CAD managers can create a more constructive relationship with our CAD users. I look forward to receiving your comments. Until next time.