Spring into Standards, Part 2: Building Consensus

10 Apr, 2018 By: Robert Green

Making a plan for CAD standards isn't enough — you'll also need to bring everyone on board if the standards are to be successful.

In the first installment of my Spring into Standards series, we talked about starting the process of revamping your CAD standards in the modern age. Hopefully you were able to answer the diagnostic questions provided, and start formulating a plan for your new standards environment. (If not, then you may want to do so now to have proper context for this installment.)

In this installment, we’ll focus on the next aspect of CAD standards — and arguably the most important — which is building consensus among users, IT personnel, and management teams alike. After all, users must live with the standards, the IT department has to help administer the standards, and management must empower you to enforce the standards in the first place. Here goes.

Who’s Affected — and Why?

Let’s briefly review the diagnostic questions we outlined in the last installment, and the various standards-related issues that they highlight:

  1. Which software products are affected?
  2. What file formats will you need to deliver?
  3. How will you standardize the software itself?
  4. What best practices should be included?
  5. Where will all your information be stored?
  6. Who will have access to everything, and from which devices? 
  7. How will you communicate/train it all?

Next, let’s categorize the people involved with formulating standards for each issue into four logical groups:

  • Users
  • Project managers
  • IT personnel
  • Senior management

Once you understand which groups are impacted by each issue, you can lay out a plan for persuading the people in each group by using their native language and addressing their hot-button issues.

Divide and Customize

Each group will have its own concerns, and will therefore perceive the standards problem differently. In fact, the CAD manager may be the only person in the entire organization who sees CAD standards as a single problem, albeit a complex, multifaceted one! By acknowledging that each group expects different things from standards, you can go into each discussion in the right frame of mind.

First, let’s take a stab at dividing the list of issues based on which groups they affect:

  • Users: Issues 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • Project managers: Issues 2, 4, 7
  • IT personnel: Issues 5, 6
  • Senior management: Issues 5, 6, 7

Here’s my reasoning for the division of issues:

  • Users care mostly about the issues that will impact their day-to-day use of the software, so upgrades/changes, alternate file formats/versions, standards, and procedures are what they’ll be most interested in discussing.
  • Project managers are mainly concerned with CAD/building information modeling (BIM) deliverables and the format/version for those deliverables, but they can also be educated about the value of better procedures and short, frequent bursts of training, which make users more efficient.
  • IT personnel don’t really care how the CAD file gets created, but they do care a lot about where those files are stored and who has access to them. Since they typically don’t know all the bells and whistles on each new CAD software update, it will your responsibility to tell them what you need to have a workable, yet secure CAD environment.
  • Senior managers don’t want to be bothered with day-to-day CAD operations, but they’ve become very concerned about network storage and security, so you’ll often discuss the same issues with them that you will with IT. Understand that while IT professionals will see these issues as being technical, senior managers will view them more as a risk management issue. Senior managers also share a common interest with CAD managers: They want to be sure that training is focused, so it doesn’t take up too many labor hours.

Set Up the Meetings

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s time to create a series of meetings — three, to be precise — so you can give all the affected groups the message about the importance of standards. Whether you conduct these as lunch meetings or as official training sessions is up to you, but the audience and content of each meeting should be well defined. Before starting these meetings, make sure your manager knows what you’re up to and will back you up.

Here’s the chronological order, as well as key points to use during your standards meetings:

The user meeting. Tell users that there will be an ongoing push to revamp CAD standards, in order to solve problems and make CAD software easier and more consistent to use. Stress that your entire goal is to take the drudgery out of the way by standardizing components/families/blocks, automating redundant tasks such as plotting and PDF capture, and organizing how everything is stored and accessed. Your message in this meeting must be, “Let me help you get your job done faster!” As you give some examples of the issues you’ll be attacking, pay attention to which users respond most positively, because later on, you can enlist them to help.

Bonus point: You may want to invite any interested project managers to the user meeting.

The project manager (PM) meeting. If possible, get all the PMs together for a single meeting to build a sense of “we’re all in this together.” Since PMs are notoriously focused on the issues of their own projects, they typically don’t see how other departments work to the degree that you do. Stress that the company must take a fresh look at CAD operations and that you’ll want them to be involved in the key areas of CAD/BIM deliverable formats, creating better project procedures, and user training. Your message in this meeting must be, “If we can more clearly define all these issues, we can have better project kickoffs, smoother execution, and deliver error-free final products to our customers.” You can also stress that better standards mean less rework, which makes their projects more profitable.

Bonus point: If you have some key CAD “power users” that interact with the PMs frequently, you may want to invite them.

The IT and senior management meeting. Make this a single meeting, but divide it into two parts. The first part will be a technical discussion with IT staff that focuses on storage and access management standards. The idea is to figure out what is doable and what’s not, with the goal of making it easy for users to access their CAD files — but only under security that will meet senior management’s concerns. For the second part of the meeting, ask senior management representatives to be present, and restate your IT plan in the plain language of securing the company’s files and what it will cost to do so. Your message in this meeting should be, “I know I’m not in charge of IT, security policy, or budgets, but I do need to make sure that our IT and security policies will work for our CAD users.” You will find yourself being more of a facilitator in this meeting, but that’s OK — at least you’ll have the right people in the room to make decisions.

Bonus point: If there is a PM who understands these issues and can help persuade senior management, you may want to invite them to the latter part of the meeting.

Summing Up

Clearly, you’ve got work to do to figure out your new standards plan and begin the necessary meetings to start building consensus, but I promise you you’ll spend less time using this approach — simply because you’ll arrive at agreement faster this way. It’s my hope that by exploring the questions laid out in the first Spring into Standards installment, you can identify the issues you need to address, and you can then use the second installment to start convincing people that your plan makes sense.

The next installment in the series will deal with leveraging your newly built standards consensus to start making real changes in your CAD ecosystem. Until then.

Editor's note: Don't miss Part 3 of the Spring into Standards series.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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