Avoid CAD Management Traps

18 Nov, 2014 By: Robert Green

Yes, most problems can be fixed — but it’s much better to prevent them in the first place.


If you're like me, you're always looking for ways to do your job better, and you keep an eye out for relevant tips, guidelines, and advice. Many of these tips follow a particular format: "Follow this procedure," or "Here's an optimal way to approach a task." In other words, they tell you the best way to do something. While that certainly can be helpful, some of the best advice I've received in my career is about what not to do — thus helping me avoid critical mistakes.

In this edition of "CAD Manager," I'll point out some common CAD management traps to avoid and give you some clues on how to spot potential problems before they become serious. Here goes.

Don't Overstep Your Authority

This is the most important piece of advice I give to CAD managers: It is far better to operate from a position of what you can do than what you cannot do.

Unfortunately, it's the opposite scenario that I see play out over and over again: A frustrated CAD manager lays down the law and tells users, "Follow the standards or else!" Then, when people ignore the standards later, he or she has no authority to enforce them. This CAD manager now has a standards problem to resolve and, perhaps worse, now has a user community that knows they can ignore the CAD manager.

A better way to handle this situation is to get your project management team to state clearly what you are empowered to do. I recommend that you go to your project managers and say, "We've got a real problem with everyone on this project team working in their own, nonstandard ways, and it is causing a mess with our files. I need you to help me enforce the standards." A typical response will be along these lines: "If they violate the standards, then send them to me and I'll take care of it!"

You can now tell your users the following: "We've had a lot of problems pulling project files together because nobody is following the standards. Management has informed me they are serious about fixing this problem, and that violators will be dealt with by the project manager."

This response illustrates that you're serious about standards and states that although you don't have the authority to enforce the rules, you are backed up by the people who do.

Takeaway:Never assume authority you don't have, but always use the authority that you do have.

Don't Lose Control of User Devices

Are your users storing project documents or editing files on their personal phones, tablets, or cloud accounts? If they are, then chaos is coming your way — it's just a matter of when. The ability for users to store critical project data on devices that can be lost or are unsecured is a huge liability that cannot be overstated. Woe to the CAD manager who sits by and lets this happen! While all this isn't a CAD-specific problem, it can affect CAD data in a critical way, so we will increasingly find ourselves dealing with it.

Thankfully many companies are starting to implement policies about using personal devices for company business. If your company doesn't have a policy to address this issue, then you may find yourself having to create procedural controls to keep your data secure. If users ignore company policies, the burden of enforcement will likely fall on your IT department, but it will still be up to you to spot the problem and make sure everyone understands the rules.

Takeaway:Allowing users to combine company data with personal devices can get out of hand quickly — and it can cause a nightmare that is harder to fix than you can imagine. The solution is to set clear company policies and not let the problem occur in the first place.

Don't Ignore Problems

As a CAD manager, you'll have days when you simply want to close the door and stop listening to the various complaints coming from users, project managers, and senior management staff. However, ignoring these complaints does not make them go away and, worse, it sends the message that you don't care.

I like to remember that if someone cares enough to bring their problem to me, it means that they see me as being competent to solve it. Is it better to have someone bring problems to us so we can be part of the solution, or would we rather have them go off on their own and solve the problems in nonstandard ways we'll probably have to clean up later?

What about the problems you can't solve? Well, at least by listening to the person complaining you'll come to understand his or her frustrations, and hopefully be able to start working toward solutions in the future. If nothing else, at least people know you're listening.

Takeaway:Problems never go away by ignoring them; they usually morph into bigger problems. Be a patient listener and learn what your users' frustrations are, and you'll better understand how to manage your CAD environment.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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