Update Your CAD Management Plan

10 Jul, 2012 By: Robert Green

Is your office in the midst of a summertime slowdown? Don't twiddle your thumbs — use that downtime to evaluate tasks, problems, and your methods of coping with them.

Well, unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, it's summer again. Lots of people are on vacation, and the frenetic pace of the office tends to slow down as a result. Why not take advantage of this time to assess and adjust your CAD management plan?

In this installment of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll give you a checklist for exactly what to do during the summer slowdown. Here goes.

Review Your Circumstances and Your Plan

First things first: What is your CAD management master plan? Is it written down? If not, do you have a master plan floating around in your brain? Or are you living the worst-case scenario: You lack a plan altogether, and simply scurry from one daily disaster to the next?

Be honest in your responses to these questions so you know where to start revising — or creating — your CAD management plan. If you don’t have any plan at all, you’ve clearly got a lot of work to do. Conversely, if you have a plan that's well laid out, you can still benefit from a thorough review of how you're working.

No matter what kind of plan you have currently, the goal is to think through what you’re doing, determine what you’re doing wrong, and find more effective ways to accomplish your tasks. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Actually doing it, however, requires some action steps on your part, which we’ll explore next.

Take Notes

To understand what you're doing currently and identify weak points in your processes, write down the typical activities that CAD management entails for you, including the following:

  • Tasks that vex you daily, weekly, monthly, yearly
  • Personnel problems (standards violators, etc.)
  • User productivity barriers
  • Hardware/software/IT problems
  • Budget problems (inability to fund improvements, etc.).

As you write down these items, a clear picture of where you are wasting your time will start to emerge. What do I mean by that? Consider the following examples, based on the list above.

Tasks: These are the day-to-day chores that you must perform to be an effective CAD manager: reconfiguring plotters, ordering supplies, dealing with file translations and submittals, writing project summaries, reviewing employees, etc. How much time are you spending on these tasks? How good are you at accomplishing them, and how could you get better?

Personnel: Reconfiguring models and drawings because others haven’t followed standard procedures wastes everybody’s time, not just yours. How much time could you free up if you didn’t have to deal with this type of issue?

User productivity: How are your users affected when they receive no training, have no clue about new project standards, and are shuttled between projects without a clear understanding of changing CAD procedures? And how much time do you spend cleaning up these problems?

Hardware/software/IT: Resetting user profiles, updating drivers, creating new user accounts, dealing with permissions issues, etc. are all things that eat up your time — and keep users waiting as well. Whether you are the IT department, or you just help out, how much time are you spending on IT-related issues? How much of that is due to outdated hardware or IT systems? These issues probably occupy more of your time than you would think.

Budget: Are you spending hours each month trying to keep a six-year-old computer running, when a new computer would work perfectly and cost only $1,000? Are you still struggling to keep that old plotter plugging along? Are your networks slow? How much of this is because you can’t secure the budget needed to fix the problems?


Now that you know what you’re dealing with, it is time to consider how you could do the following:

  • Perform existing tasks more effectively
  • Make personnel problems go away
  • Increase user productivity
  • Mitigate IT-related problems
  • Budget to get problems fixed.

Form a plan of attack for these problem points, and your CAD management plan will emerge like magic. Now you’ll know what you need to do to make your job — and life for those around you — less stressful and more productive. To put this plan into action, you'll need to get it onto paper.

Write It Down

At some point you’ll be making a case for budget money, new equipment, training classes, or changes in standards processes that will require management’s support. You can’t get your CAD management plan approved until it is written down in a way that makes sense to a non–CAD manager. Remember that these managers speak spreadsheet, not CAD, so present your plan in a format they can understand:

  • Create your plan in spreadsheet form
  • Include cost numbers where you can
  • State savings where you can
  • Use fewer words and more numbers
  • Stick with standard business language; avoid techno-babble.

Don’t have a clue about how your management would like to see a planning spreadsheet presented? Ask them for an example you can use as a template!

Savings Rule

As you create your planning spreadsheet, always remember that your goal is to make CAD management a cost savings tool for your company. By making users more efficient and eliminating problems, you’ll save man-hours, and thereby make the company more competitive.

So if you have to choose between tackling two problem issues in your CAD management plan, you should always choose the problem that will save the most money when fixed. Remember: It isn’t about CAD, it's about money!

A Clear Picture Emerges

The best thing using the steps I’ve outlined to build your action plan is that they force you to identify what you’re actually working on, where you’re wasting time, and what you can do to become more efficient as a CAD manager. No matter how much you think you know about your job, you’ll always be well served by this process.

Does this process take time? Yes, it does. Do you have much time to spare? Of course not. However, part of the reason you don’t have time to spare is because you’re not working on the tasks that could optimize your time! And the only way to know what they are is to go through the thinking, planning, and writing required to build a comprehensive CAD management plan.

Should you spend the time needed to create your plan? You can’t afford not to.

Summing Up

Now’s the time to start updating (or creating) your CAD management plan. Spend a few minutes thinking about it and taking notes whenever you have downtime at work, the airport, in the carpool line picking up your kids, or even during commercial breaks while watching The Big Bang Theory. When you do so, you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll discover about what you need to be working on.

Until next time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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