CAD Manager's Newsletter #120

12 Jan, 2005 By: Robert Green

New Year's Resolutions 2005: Follow my plan of action to develop a more productive CAD staff

Follow my plan of action to develop a more productive CAD staff

Welcome to the first edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter for 2005. I'll begin the year by laying out a proactive course of action for CAD managers based on my 2005 forecast in the January issue of Cadalyst magazine. You can always find the current issue's contents at Because it's early in the New Year, I'll build a list of resolutions that should serve most corporate CAD managers well.

These resolutions are based on two core principles I believe will guide the business environment this year.

One: Business conditions will improve, yet companies will want to keep staffing levels constant. Therefore, CAD managers will need to do everything they can to make their staffs more efficient.

Two: CAD software will make modest, evolutionary advances that will force CAD managers to evaluate new software on productivity metrics rather than sweeping technology changes.

Even if you aren't totally constrained by pressure to keep staffing the same this year, your management will appreciate your taking decisive action to support a more efficient workplace. So here are my suggested resolutions for the New Year, in no particular order.

1. Know the Problems
What do your CAD users need to be more productive? What sorts of utilities, file management tools and network improvements can you implement to make CAD work flow more smoothly? Which training topics will your users really benefit from? What frustrates your users?

By asking these sorts of questions, you'll quickly tune in to the real problems that confront your CAD users. You may be surprised to find that a nifty new release of software is much lower on users' lists than you think. By constantly asking yourself questions from a CAD user's perspective, you'll become more proactive about solving the problems that really irritate your staff.

As you strive to identify and understand your users' problems, be sure to keep an open mind and actually listen to the core complaint. Frequently we dismiss user gripes, thinking those users don't understand the technology or the budget limitations we must deal with. Rather than dismissing user complaints, always strive to understand the root cause of the complaint and devise ways to attack the problem within the confines of your authority. This is easier to say than do, but it is essential!

2. Prioritize the Problems
Now that your users have told you their problems, it becomes your job to solve them to the best of your ability. The first step is to prioritize the list of problems and resolve to tackle them in order. I suggest the following methodology for prioritization.

First: List the problems in order of user irritation rather than by technical complexity. Sometimes the most irritating problems can be easy to fix using some CAD management elbow grease.

Second: Resort your prioritized list in order of how quickly you can fix the problems. In this pass, be realistic about which problems you can solve without major capital spending or budgeting.

You should now have a list of problems that starts with the most irritating problem you can most quickly solve. Now you know what to work on.

3. Go for Quick Success
Now resolve to work through your problem list in order so you can demonstrate to your users and your management that you're making progress. Because you've sorted your list according to irritation, you'll earn great favor as you quickly solve nagging problems. The good will you gain from your users will make them more likely to support your future work, while your management will notice that you're getting a lot done without spending a lot of money.

I've found this methodology to be effective in all types of companies, but particularly so in companies that are technology averse or have low technology budgets. By making positive changes on a shoestring, you build confidence and might actually find more budget money coming your way. Try it — it does work.

4. Watch Software Progress
Obviously the CAD manager is the person best suited to evaluate new CAD software. For 2005, why not resolve to keep track of software progress as it happens rather than waiting for new software to be released? All too often we get blindsided by new software after its release and have to answer questions from users or management. By remaining proactive and reading as much as you can at vendor Web sites and blogs, you should be able to stay in front of new software releases. Here's a brief strategy that should help you stay in front of the technology curve.

  • Read everything you can from your software manufacturers' Web sites.

  • Pay attention to stock values of your software companies, as stock values frequently reflect good or bad trends in the market. After all, if your software company is having financial troubles, it may not be in a good competitive position in upcoming years.
  • Subscribe to industry newsletters (like this one) that provide information on software trends.
  • Work with your reseller to schedule advance demonstrations or product briefings so you'll know what's coming.
  • Attend user group meetings in your area so you can talk with your CAD manager peers about how they see new products shaping up.

Obviously this isn't rocket science, but rather good common sense. If you just keep on top of things daily, the task of evaluating software becomes much easier. Resolve to monitor the market constantly rather than when new software is released.

5. Match Software to Needs
You now know what new features will be heading your way in new software releases, so you should have a good idea about how the new software may solve any problems you have. If new software looks promising, you'll want to benchmark the product and prepare your management for the idea that new software may be warranted in the near future. You'll also find that your budget will be much easier to forecast as you match new software to your company's needs.

Wrapping Up
Now that you've seen my suggested New Year's resolutions, why not resolve to make your own list? As you build your list, be sure to write down your ideas (before you forget anything) and discuss your New Year's plan of action with your senior management team. I think you'll find that when you plan ahead and work to obtain management approval early in the year, you'll accomplish more with far less frustration.

I encourage you to share your resolutions with other readers by e-mailing me at In the next edition of this newsletter, I'll share any particularly good resolutions I receive and finish up the CAD manager's action plan for 2005. Until then.