CAD Management Strategies — Building Relationships

12 Mar, 2019 By: Robert Green

Building strong relationships as you perform your job builds your career, but how do you nurture those relationships?

I'm often asked how to approach CAD management from a strategic position. We have to manage models, produce PDF files, and keep users productive, but are there ways to approach the job to make improve the process on a larger scale or are we doomed to perpetually fix the same problems with our users?

In this newsletter, I'm introducing an ongoing series that covers strategic concepts of CAD management. This edition will focus on how to build strong relationships as you perform your job. These strategies work no matter how large the company you work in or how little actual authority you have, making them invaluable. Here goes.

Image source: Fizkes/
Image source: Fizkes/

Be the Font of Knowledge

Establishing your technical credibility with all those around you is Job 1 in CAD management, right? In addition to getting the job done, demonstrating your knowledge also has other benefits. Consider that:

  • Users will love you, because you have all the answers.
  • Project managers will love you, because you can solve issues that could otherwise delay project milestones.
  • Senior management will love you, because project managers love you AND because they won't hear complaints about problems.

Being available and knowledgeable are the best strategies for making yourself invaluable (and lovable) to all those around you.

"Where are the Problems?"

A funny thing happens when you ask people what their problems are — they tell you! As a CAD manager, I'm always trying to prevent problems, rather than waiting for them to blow up. I send out e-mails and constantly ask people, "How can we do things better?" or "What keeps you from being efficient?"

It is amazing how many times I'll receive great suggestions for improvements that I never would have thought of on my own. Of course, I can't fix every problem or implement every solution, but I can do my best to make sure people know I'm listening and that I'm open to new ideas.

Instigate Improvement

Once users have suggested ways to improve things, do as Captain Picard said and, "Make it so!" Users are counting on you to be the squeaky wheel that instigates change for the better and management is always looking for ways to attain greater efficiency and financial savings.

If you can fix the issues and save money at the same time, not only will both users and managers appreciate you, but your career will benefit. So, go for it, and push for those improvements!

View Troubleshooting as an Opportunity

Whenever you find yourself bogged down in troubleshooting a nasty issue or fixing a problem, don't just suffer through the experience — make sure you seize the opportunities that troubleshooting presents to you. "What opportunities?" you may ask.

Building more credibility. Every time you fix a nasty problem, you become a more credible technical resource to those you help. The more people who see you as a technical hero, the better for you.

Talk to project managers. Chances are that any urgent problem you're fixing impacts a current project and that means a project manager is involved. Be sure you talk to that manager and understand their concerns so that you confirm that you fix the problem to their satisfaction and in return earn their respect.

Fixing core issues. Are there any lessons to be learned from troubleshooting that will lead to fewer problems down the road? If so, why not make that part of the conversation with both users and project managers so that you won't have to fix the problem again?

I used these troubleshooting techniques extensively early in my CAD management career and found that they worked to my advantage every time. Let's be real here. You have to fix all these problems anyway, so why not build your career and credibility while doing so?

Mentoring for Improvement

Do you have users in your company that want to learn more about CAD or BIM? Do they look to you for advice and skill building? If so, you're in a great position to build relationships and achieve some extra productivity as you do so.

  • Offer to teach specific skills that increase worker productivity.
  • Ask for work trade so that everyone learns the lesson. For example, agree to teach a user how to create linked Excel table and in return ask them to share that knowledge with the others on the project team and help you document it as a CAD standard for the office. In this situation, you not only trained a user, but you updated your standards and gained an assistant.

The equation is simple: I'll help you become a better CAD user, if you help me become a more efficient CAD manager.

Use Your Network

I mean your personal network, not a computer network. As you gain more knowledge, establish credibility, talk to users, and continue to mentor, an interesting thing will happen — you'll build a network of users and project managers who want to work with you. One of the benefits is that you'll be able to tap into that network of people when you experience problems as a CAD manager. Consider these examples:

Project managers. If your team is starting a new project, but you know a key CAD or BIM issue has been overlooked, enlist a trusted project manager to help you resolve the issue. Don't suffer in silence, use relationships to help.

Users. If a new project requires that your CAD standards revisions, enlist trusted users who will work on the project to proactively formulate a response. Do not wait for the issue to blow up, get others to help you tackle the problem.

Departmental coordination. If two departments are having difficulty with project coordination, chances are you know users in both departments. Use your relationships with those users to help negotiate possible solutions to the problem rather than ignoring the problems or using brute force to solve the issue.

I've always taken the approach that users will want to help me, if I help them. By using your personal network to make projects run smoother you'll help users get their jobs done more quickly — and with less fuss — so they'll have every reason to help you.

Note: Like all relationships, it takes time and experience to build trust. But, if you keep working at it, I promise it'll pay huge dividends.

Summing Up

You may notice that these strategies all have to do with building personal relationships based on interaction and credibility. "What's technical about that," you ask?

Nothing! But, it has everything to do with the working relationships you'll build as you perform your technical tasks each day. I've found the CAD managers who focus on these more personal and communicative strategies are better valued than those who take a purely technical approach.

It's my hope that you can use these strategies to advance your career just as I have advanced mine. Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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