To Prioritize Your Workload Effectively, Analyze Change and Need, Part 227 Aug, 2019 By: Robert Green
CAD Manager Column: Now that you’ve gotten a better grasp on your tasks thanks to the radar chart, it’s time to implement strategies that will help you schedule and control your workload.
In the previous edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, we began examining our workload from a standpoint of the change required for each category of activity we undertake, and balancing that degree of change with how often the change is required.
By creating your own radar chart (as I’ve done below), you’ll come to understand what you do, how often you do it, and how complex it all is. Fantastic, because that’s the entire point of the exercise! (If you didn’t have a chance to review that installment and create your own radar chart, you may want to do so now.)
A Need vs. Change radar chart for CAD management tasks.
In this edition, we’ll draw conclusions from our radar chart and set out some action items/strategies you can use to better manage your workload. Here goes.
Summing Your Numbers
By summing your change and need values for each work category (as I’ve done below), you can see for yourself which tasks you should emphasize the most. For me — and many other CAD managers — the core categories of software updates, training, standardizing, and software support nearly always occupy the top slots.
Software Updates 130
Software Support 130
Hardware Support 70
Project Management 80
A Need vs. Change bar chart for CAD management tasks.
Of course, your mileage may vary, but I bet you have mostly the same problems I do. So, let’s dig into each of these four main categories and develop some action items for managing them.
The only good news about software updates is that they don’t happen very often. The bad news is that when they do occur, they create a host of problems, including the following:
- New software means you’ll have IT issues. Building deployment kits, pushing installers across networks, machine configurations and permissions settings are the areas where problems are typically encountered.
- New software means you’ll need to update standards. Updating key files, creating new work folders, and modifying work procedures are typical.
- New software means training. When there’s only a minor update, training may not be too bad. Training can be a huge problem, however, if a design paradigm–changing tool is being implemented.
- New software means a period of intense support. No matter how minor the update is, users will have questions — and that means you’ll see a spike in demand for your time.
Wow, that’s a lot of problems to contend with! To tackle them, try a multifaceted strategy:
- Strategy 1: Do not underestimate the problems associated with software updates.
- Strategy 2: Do not get pressured into performing a software update unless you’ve had ample time to understand all the problems you may have to deal with.
- Strategy 3: Communication with all parties involved – particularly upper management – is crucial, and should begin the moment you know a software update is coming.
Action Item: Begin forging a plan of attack, which we’ll discuss further in the upcoming sections.
Proper communication of IT concerns related to a software update must begin long before the update happens. I’ve found that answering the following diagnostic questions helps me prepare for interaction with IT:
Will new directories, deployment kits, or network scripts be required to deploy the software?
Will new user accounts or permissions be required to run the software?
Will data storage requirements increase with the new software?
Action Item: Once you have answers to these questions, send all the information to your IT team and request an organizational meeting to plan for the update and get the process started right.
Some software updates may simply use your existing standards documents and files; others might require large-scale changes. You won’t know what you’re up against until you simulate work processes and see how everything works. Your standards action items now become:
- Action Item 1: Configure the new software as best you can, and see how existing standards work or don’t work.
- Action Item 2: Adjust standards as required, and loop back to the first action item.
- Action Item 3: Keep looping through the first and second action items until you have working software.
- Action Item 4: Update standards documents as required for software rollout.
Now that you’ve identified all the IT issues, run through actual software usage, and modified your standards, you understand what should be covered in your training. I can’t state strongly enough that training must be customized in order to be effective. I find the following strategies and action items very helpful in planning for training:
- Strategy 1: Training should teach the actual workflow required, including all standards.
- Strategy 2: Training should omit any information that isn’t applicable to doing actual project work.
- Strategy 3: Training should be only as long as necessary to teach the topics at hand — no less and no more.
Action Item: Prepare a training topic/lesson plan and get approval for the amount of time you’ll need to conduct the training.
No matter how well you update standards and train, the reality is that support requirements are always higher after a software update. Acknowledging this reality will not only keep you sane, but will allow you to plan for it. I find the following action items to be critical:
Action Item 1: Schedule increased support time and get your management team to approve it. Action Item 2: Plan for any help you might need from other power users and departments, then get their management teams to approve it. Action Item 3: Inform everyone about the new software deployment and increased support demands — the goal is to not surprise anyone.
The Unified Task Theory
When I first became a CAD manager, I thought that my job was composed of many dissimilar tasks. My thinking, for example, was that I had standards problems, training problems, support problems, IT problems, and software update problems. It was only after a while that I came to understand all these problems are predictably linked. For example, standards and training should always be linked so that you train the standards rather than abstract theories.
I’ve come to believe that by having skill sets for the main issues of standards, training, and IT, I can navigate my way through anything. As a bonus, if I use my radar chart forecasting method, I can usually predict what my workload will be like based on how my organization is changing.
I hope this two-part examination of workload management has given you some new insights into how to plan your schedule. If nothing else, you should know which problems are coming at you, and in what order — so you won’t be surprised.