An Open Letter to Your Boss (CAD Manager Column)

31 Jan, 2008 By: Robert Green

Companies, senior managers, and CAD managers can benefit from increased understanding and improved communication.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a letter to senior managers extolling the virtues of CAD management. I've received a lot of feedback about that letter from CAD managers who wanted me to include more information or touch on particular topics. In this month's "CAD Manager," I've set out to write a letter to your boss in hopes that the company, senior managers, and CAD managers alike will all benefit from increased understanding.

Why CAD Management Matters

If you're a member of senior management and you're reading this column, it's most likely because the CAD manager in your company has brought it to your attention. Over the years I've written columns that advise CAD managers to become more businesslike and communicate more effectively with their upper management. This open letter to you is the inverse; my attempt to speak directly to senior managers about the great effect that CAD managers can have within your company.

You've spent money on computers, software, training, and implementation for CAD tools, and I'm betting you'd like to get more for your money, right? Well I'm here to tell you that your CAD manager is the perfect resource to help you accomplish that goal. Who else around your company actually understands enough about CAD to make all the software work while being able to explain it all to users and senior managers alike? You have to admit that your CAD manager is a unique commodity.

CAD Management Is Not Overhead

A common misperception is that CAD management is simply an overhead activity like unjamming a printer or installing a new phone at a user's desk. CAD managers do perform some clerical tasks, but their core value is in making your projects run better so your company gets more work done with the same number of people. Do I have your interest? To drive the point home, ponder these questions:

  • 1. If you could hire someone who could increase every team member's efficiency by 10% for a particular project, would you call that overhead or a job-billable expense with a very nice return on your investment?
  • 2. If you could bring in a consultant to tell you where all your process problems are and how to attack them, would you call that overhead or an investment in your future success?

CAD managers allow you to gain all the benefits to which I've alluded, if you'll let them. Start telling your department staffs that you'd like to see CAD management used as a cost-saving and efficiency-maximizing engine that works on every project. By touting the value of CAD management, you'll communicate that it's not about unjamming printers — it's about better design processes.

Authority: CAD Managers Need It

You've likely asked your CAD manager (or have heard others ask them) to undertake tasks such as setting up project kickoff meetings, managing CAD standards, or conducting user training. After all, these tasks are the sorts of things CAD managers should be doing, right? But let me ask, what happens when people don't make it to project kickoff meetings, standards aren't followed, or training classes are postponed? Do you come to your CAD manager's rescue and back him or her up?

Why not resolve to help your CAD manager by backing him or her up with the authority needed to do the job you've asked him/her to do? Some easy things you can do to help your CAD manager are:

  • 1. Send out notices for training sessions and project kickoff meetings from your e-mail account and make sure everyone knows that you expect everyone to comply.
  • 2. When project or client CAD standards are violated, make it clear that you expect the violators to fix the problems they've caused. You could even offer to attend a standards meeting with your CAD manager to make it clear that standards are a priority for the company and that you expect everyone to work with the CAD manager. You can excuse yourself from these meetings after a few minutes, but the clear message that you support your CAD manager will linger in the room long after you leave.
  • 3. While you're at it, give your CAD manager some minor purchasing authority such as a corporate card that will allow him or her to purchase small items — software utilities, a training manual, or emergency plotter supplies — without having to run the accounting gauntlet. The message you send by trusting your CAD manager with some financial responsibility goes a long way.

CAD Management Unifies

Do you have many departments in your company that all have a different set of CAD rules? Does every project seem to have a different CAD standard? Do you realize how much this lack of standardization actually costs?

When empowered by you, your CAD manager can serve as a unifying power to get departments and projects to follow the same set of standards or processes. The reason the CAD manager can serve this useful function is because he or she understands the CAD problems that the various departments and project managers experience. There's simply no other person in the company who can bring the knowledge, clout, and unifying power to bear that your CAD manager can.

The Job Is Growing

Think managing CAD is the same now as it was five years ago? It isn't. CAD management is a lot more complicated now because of the mixed use of 2D and 3D software tools and rendering, visualization, and Internet support. They intertwine to form a perfect storm of CAD support. In fact, most CAD managers are now overwhelmed with making the decisions about which software their companies should adopt and implement.

The single best thing that senior management can do to help their CAD managers in this crucial area is to allocate some time and funding to adequate training. This will allow CAD managers to stay in front of the rapid pace of software change. Asking CAD managers to figure out these types of complex software problems without adequate information is simply inviting errors that could cost your company money in the long run.

As your company moves forward with implementing new software technologies, realize that your CAD manager could really use some time to get the work done. Simply realize that the more software you expect your CAD manager to implement, the more time it will take.

Budgeting for Hardware and Software

I've noticed a growing trend of companies handing over all hardware and software budgeting to IT departments, some of which are disconnected and unaware of CAD users' needs. If you have an IT department that can deliver cutting-edge hardware and software to your CAD users, that's great. If you don't, then empower your CAD manager to get involved with the budgeting process and listen to his or her advice.

I speak from experience when I say that running today's CAD software requires more hardware, networks, and storage and higher-end monitors, graphics cards, and plotting devices than ever before. Your CAD manager supports these requirements every day and can help guide you toward budgeting for the resources your CAD users need to do the job properly. Use your CAD manager in this area of your business. Why not? If he or she can help you make users more productive and prevent you from making hardware and software mistakes, your company benefits.

Invest in Your CAD Manager

If your CAD manager has the potential to provide so many productivity-enhancing functions to your company, what can you do to cultivate and maximize this resource? Here are a few suggestions:

Have regular CAD manager work sessions. Get together with your CAD manager and kick around ideas for how you could save the company time and money using clever CAD management.

Be clear about your goals for the CAD manager. This suggestion sounds easy but is frequently overlooked. Tell your CAD manager what you need, when you need it, and why and then listen to his or her advice to help you meet those needs. You'll avoid costly mistakes by doing so, and your CAD manager will be a lot less frustrated.

Communicate more effectively when you meet. Educate your CAD manager about financial terms such as return on investment (ROI), budgeting, and project forecasts so he or she can help you get better financial results. Listen to your CAD manager's technical terms, and you'll learn more about IT and CAD. Agree that you'll both strive to understand each other better because you'll both learn.

Help your CAD manager learn about management. They already know the CAD part, but CAD managers are often woefully unprepared to manage people and projects. Ask them where they need help and then provide it. You'll get a better CAD manager and fewer surprises.

Empower your CAD manager. Use some of the tips I provided in the "Authority" section above to pump up your CAD manager's reputation among your company's staff members. The more successful and respected the CAD manager, the better off the company will become.

Summing Up

I appreciate your willingness to read my endorsement for the great value of CAD management. I believe that senior managers who develop their CAD managers reap huge efficiency gains in the long run, so get to know your CAD manager. You'll be well rewarded for your time and effort.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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