CAD Manager's Newsletter #87 (June 19, 2003)

18 Jun, 2003 By: Robert Green

This issue will conclude my examination of your most common career questions. And in this final issue I want to embolden CAD managers everywhere to go to their company's management and demonstrate why CAD management is worthwhile.

What Do I Do When My Management Doesn't Think CAD Management Is Justifiable?

In the last issue, I raised this question by using the following language:

"Management may have reviewed, at least mentally, how they view CAD's ability to make the company money, and they may not feel that CAD management is saving/making them enough money to justify higher levels of expenditures."

In this sentence I've avoided using the first person, and, instead, cast it in the third person, avoiding personal judgments and focusing on upper management's desire for CAD management to produce tangible financial results. By understanding that management is taking a strictly financial viewpoint you'll be able to view the problem more objectively.

Here are the two actions you must take now to begin the process of making your management see the value of what you do:

  • Collect examples, from memory or written history, that illustrate what can go wrong when CAD management isn't used.
  • Collect other examples of how projects have gone really smoothly as a result of properly applied CAD management.

I recommend building two lists sorted along the lines of positive and negative because management typically tends to react strongly to negatives while largely glossing over positives.

Think about how you react to your own management responsibilities for a moment by answering these questions: Do you spend most of your management time tackling problem items (negatives) while leaving things that are running smoothly (positives) largely untouched? Do you think about processes that run well as much as you do processes that cause problems? Why should your management be any different?

Using Your Negatives List

By compiling a list of things that aren't running smoothly due to a lack of CAD management you put yourself in the position of problem solver. Here's how it works.

Problem: Our vendor drawings always come in with different layering schemes, fonts, XREFs missing, and so on. It always costs us lots of time to fix these problems.

Possible Answer: If we employed CAD management to give our vendors a set of standards and enforced the standards via some automated tools, we could save the company a lot of money.

This scenario is pretty common in AEC firms and illustrates how simple problems can cost lots of money. Your job now becomes to document how much time you've spent fixing vendor drawings to determine how much money could be saved. You'll also need to determine how much of your time it will take to create the vendor drawing specifications and oversight tools so a cost-to-benefit analysis can be conducted.

The interesting thing about using the negatives list is it tends to show how many of your highest cost problems are caused by poorly managed external resources. Your management should see that fixing negative issues would save money, but only with some proactive CAD management.

Using Your Positives List

By compiling a list of things that are running along smoothly, you shine some light on what you've done well and focus management's attention on what they otherwise wouldn't think about. Many times management will look at such a list and admit that much progress has been made by applying CAD management logic to everyday tasks.

You have to understand that this list of positives is your resume of accomplishments. While it may seem like shameless self-promotion, understand that if you don't point out what you've accomplished, it's unlikely that anybody will notice. So take the time to compile a list of CAD management successes, and don't be afraid to show them to your management team!

Here's an example of how you might write up an item on your list:

Accomplishment: implemented vendor CAD standards procedures for electronically transmitted documents.

Benefits to company: drawing error rate cut by 80 percent with CAD time cut an average of 30 hours per project submittal. Based on 20 annual project submittals and $45 per hour average labor cost, the company saved approximately $2,700 last year in this area.

Communicating It All

As you complete the compilation of your two lists, you'll want to use the following guidelines for communicating your results to your management:

  • Write it down.
  • Distill it down to an executive summary with short bulleted lists.
  • Prioritize your executive overview, listing worst problems first on the negatives list and greatest successes first on the positives list.
  • Back up your executive summary with the full version of your report for those who want to read the whole story.

Chances are you won't be able to get a lot of face time to make your points with an executive management team, so you'll need to reach them via writing. Remember that they've got a lot of stuff to read, so they'll use your executive overview to decide how much of the full report they'll read.


As you write your executive summary and report, use a detached, non-personal tone. Strive for neutrality. Base it on business and finance rather than personal motivation. Remember that the entire reason you're writing these reports is to convince your management team that CAD management is worthwhile it from a business perspective. So, what better way to convince them you have business in mind than by writing from a business perspective?

Follow Up

If you are persuasive enough, you'll likely receive follow-up questions from your management team. Take the time to note these questions and reply to them promptly. You can also add a question-and-answer section to your documents for subsequent distribution. My experience shows that questions from management are good because they mean that management is listening. So be happy when you receive questions, and tackle them with positive zeal!

Summing Up

This concludes the CAD Manager's Career Questions series. I hope you've found some valuable new tactics for improving communications with your management that you can apply in your day-to-day work. Feel free to send me any additional items on this or other topics you may wish to share at

The next two issues of the CAD Manager's Newsletter will launch the third semi-annual CAD management survey, along with a CAD operator survey for reporting later in the year.