CAD Manager's Newsletter #90 (August 7, 2003)

6 Aug, 2003 By: Robert Green

In the last issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter ("CAD for Non-Traditional CAD Users--Part 1," I discussed ways of dealing with the first two challenges I listed that are often associated with casual CAD users (managers, senior engineers) in a more proactive way for the CAD manager: maintaining authority over a person who is not a direct report (and possibly a senior manager), and helping this person understand the necessity of adhering to company standards (filing practices, font usage, dimstyles, and so on).

In Part 2, I'd like to discuss the last two major problems I've come across. Let's address the casual users who have a hard time taking direction because they are senior-level personnel and, who, due to lack of use, have a harder time retaining any skills.

Authority Issues

One of the key ways you can deal with senior-level personnel who will not give you authority over them in the CAD arena is to simply accept that this attitude does, and will continue to, exist. There's no way senior engineers or managers are ever going to quake in their boots because a CAD manager is mad at them, right? So don't focus on the fact that you don't have authority to discipline these casual users. Rather, choose to focus on the fact that you have information these people need to do their job and forge a working relationship with them based on mutual benefits.

I've observed that senior managers and engineers often know they're not up to speed on CAD software, and they'll be the first one to admit it. Try to remember that they may actually be self conscious about how little they do know and can even be hesitant to ask for help, simply because they don't want you to know their weaknesses. You're actually in a position of power because of your knowledge, and knowing this can help you deal more affectively with managerial and senior users. Try to use the following strategies with them:

Strategy 1: Tact. Be tactful in approaching these users and ask them to tell you what sort of help they need. Take care to keep all details private and don't run around broadcasting the users' weaknesses.

Strategy 2: Stay Focused and Polite. Provide targeted assistance so long as they agree to respect your time and expertise. If they are considerate of you, then continue to be considerate of them.

Strategy 3: Quid Pro Quo. As you diagnose and address these users' problems, don't hesitate to ask them for help in doing your job. You may be surprised how much senior-level users can help you with enforcement of standards or vendor management. After all, you're helping them, so they should be willing to help you, right?

I've found over the years that many of the problems with casual CAD users is getting them to admit what they don't know and learn what they need to know. These strategies should make this problem much easier to deal with.

Retaining Skills

I'll assume that you've cultivated a working relationship with your casual CAD users and that you've got them fired up and ready to increase their CAD skill set. But the real problem becomes information retention. These are, after all, users who work intermittently and will therefore need to be reminded how to perform certain tasks. Start by giving them easy-to-read documentation (perhaps even a standards manual) that covers basic CAD tasks. Of course, you'll have to prepare some of this documentation, but to me this is a small price to pay, as you will not have to answer the same questions over and over.

You can also use this documentation for vendors or temporary workers to help enforce standards. Management should also support you in developing and maintaining such documentation, because as casual users, they will see firsthand the benefits of producing documentation for basic CAD tasks.

Finally, I've come to view teaching CAD to upper-level engineers and managers as my opportunity to educate them on how complex CAD can be and how it must be managed and controlled in order for it to work well. So, rather than thinking of casual CAD users as causing extra and unwanted work, think of them as an opportunity to directly educate your company's management about what CAD management can really do for them!

Summing Up

In the next issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter I'll complete my coverage of the casual CAD users by giving some additional hints for dealing with common problems and share some reader feedback. Until then!

CAD Manager's Survey 2003

The time is now here to deploy the CAD Manager's Survey for 2003. This survey is for anyone who performs CAD management tasks, whether full time or part time, whether you have a management title or not. The purpose of the survey is to find emerging trends and data based on averages from the broad scope of people who perform CAD management duties.

To take the survey you'll need to refer to my Web site at The survey should take no more than five minutes of your time, and you have my personal assurance that your information will be kept confidential.

In the next few issues of the CAD Manager's Newsletter I'll keep you posted on how many people have taken the survey and share some key data, such as salary averages, with you as the trends emerge. In later issues of the newsletter, I'll present detailed findings and analysis of the survey results.

Relevant Link

CAD Manager Survey 2003: