The Part-Time CAD Manager, Part 2

26 Aug, 2008 By: Robert Green

Here are more strategies for coping with full-time CAD management responsibilities and only part-time resources.

The past several years have shown a continuing trend toward CAD management as a part-time position. Even many large companies seem unwilling to fund a full-time CAD manager position.

In this edition I'll pass along some efficiency and coping strategies you can use to maintain your sanity as you manage your CAD environment part time. Here goes.

Make an Action Plan
Note: If you didn't get a chance to read the previous installment of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, please do so now because I will to allude to the planning I asked you to do.

Let's take all the good ideas that you catalogued from your planning conversations with users and management and turn them into a CAD management plan. The plan is simply a sorted list of all the good ideas that you have for making your CAD operations run smoother and better, if you only had the time. Here's how you turn ideas into a plan.

Set rough priorities. This is the order in which you would work on implementing your good CAD ideas if you had adequate time to do so.

Sort for user priority. Now re-sort the order of your ideas so those that create the greatest time savings for users appear first. Remember that saving time for users contributes directly to the company's bottom line, and upper managers like that!

Apply a financial sanity check. Remove from the list the items that you just won't be able to afford in the near term. Just because you'd like to have all new workstations this year doesn't mean it'll happen.

Now you've got the beginnings of a well-considered CAD management action plan. Let's go to the next step.

Work the Plan
Now you need to get started on implementing your action plan as best you can, given your time constraints. And since you're a part-time CAD manager, you likely have tight time constraints that must be worked around.

The real trick is to find additional resources (other people's time) that can be used to help you achieve your goals. Sound impossible? Here are some hints.

Find motivated users. Got a CAD user who wants to learn more about dynamic blocks? Teach that user and have him or her reorganize and clean out the company's detail and block libraries.

Let power users step up. Need to run some training on filing standards? Get your most CAD standards–oriented power user to run a training course. The key here is to find someone who would view this sort of challenge as a good opportunity for advancement.

Ask management to prioritize. Really need to overhaul standards for a big new project but can't get the time approved to do so? Convince your higher-level managers how much they'll save in reduced errors by assigning you some help to get the standards overhauled sooner rather than later.

The common thread in all these hints is that you need to find human resources that can help you and motivate them to do so! This is classic management leverage done CAD management style, and it is the only way you'll ever get more done than you could on your own. So look for leveraging opportunities, ask your boss, and when you get the go-ahead, do it!

Build Support
As you tackle the items on your action plan and strive to optimize your time and resources, you need to make sure that you advocate for CAD management every chance you get. It isn't enough to simply CAD manage; you need for senior managers to understand why CAD management is so valuable. Without this educational component, you'll continue to fight the same battles and you'll never get your bosses to understand you any better. Here are a few of the ways I build support for CAD management:

User advocacy. Any time a CAD user in your company sees the value of what you're doing and sings your praises, ask that person to let your boss know. This may sound self-serving, but the user will only get more great CAD management resources from you if the boss approves, right? So ask!

Invite senior managers to your CAD meetings. And when they attend, make sure you thank them and have all the users give them a nice acknowledgment. Remember that senior managers probably can't hang around for the whole meeting, so set out the agenda first and let them ask any questions first. If you keep them in the loop and inform them of what's happening in a brief and succinct manner, your managers are much more likely to support you.

Time savings advocacy. Any time you can prove time was saved on a project because of some cool CAD management technique or technology you implemented, make sure your management team knows! Again, this may seem like self-promotion, but it is really technology management promotion and only you can make the case.

Set a Company Goal
To draw attention to your CAD management action plan, set some aggressive goals, such as cutting rework 20% via standards adoption or improving user speed 10% via targeted training. I've found that humans rarely achieve anything unless they decide to do so, and goals are simply a formal statement of purpose. By making goals that are efficiency driven (as my above examples), you transform CAD management from a technical endeavor into a business tool that can generate savings and accelerate project schedules. And trust me when I say that those types of goals get management's attention.

Only you, the CAD manager, have the knowledge and skill to set these goals and create an action plan that can make them happen. Yes, it will take some persuasion and passion to get people on board, but isn't that more fun than achieving little and enjoying it less?

Summing Up
I know that being a part-time CAD manager is a busy and stressful existence, and I realize that nothing I write will change that fundamental reality. What I hope I've done is to help you understand the conflicting priorities and get more proactive in managing the burden. Along the way I hope I've motivated you to get creative and motivational so that everyone around the company can see exactly why CAD management is so important.

In the next edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll begin a series on programming topics for CAD managers. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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