AU Focus: BIM and CAD Management for the New Normal

Adapting to change is part of the job for all of us, but for BIM and CAD managers, it IS the job—not only adapting themselves, but helping their users and company adapt, too.  

Whether you’re talking about upgrading hardware and infrastructure, learning about the latest capabilities for software, understanding the evolution of industry standards and practices, or training and supporting users on their team, transformation is the task for BIM and managers. And since the pandemic, the pace of transformation has gone into warp speed at many companies.  

Top BIM and CAD managers from across industries led classes at AU 2022 to share how they’ve responded and the steps they’re taking to keep their users productive, efficient, and ready for the new world of work we’re in—and the next one, too. 

BIM management for the hybrid workplace 

Top-rated AU speaker Curt Moreno, IT manager at KSA, led a session specifically about how to keep teams productive in the hybrid environments that have become so common, with some team members in the office and others working from home or other locations.  

There are three keys to supporting the hybrid workforce, Moreno says: secure access, asset availability, and communication. He shares his own experience making the transition in early 2020, and also recommends specific solutions.  

Ultimately, he points out, connection and collaboration in hybrid environments depend on more than just the right systems. “Communication is not just a technological issue, it’s a cultural one,” Moreno says. “The fluidity of communication in an organization depends on its culture. Yes, there’s a technological component, but what’s really going to make your work-from-home strategy work is your willingness to make an effort to communicate. Some cultures shepherd and nurture communication while some do not. And even when one person in an organization communicates well, there is no guarantee that the entire organization communicates well.”  

The human side of BIM management 

As a CAD or BIM manager, choosing technology is a big part of the job, but that technology has to work for people—and how you relate to those people matters. In the latest edition of his popular AU panel, Drawing on Experience, Rick Ellis of Cadapult Solutions discusses this with veteran BIM managers Curt Moreno, R.K. McSwain, Kate Morrical Towne, and Mike Thomas. 

“You can't just show up and expect everybody to do things the way you want to,” Moreno says on the panel. “To get what you want, you have to learn how to ask for it.”  

“I learned pretty quickly you can't go in there guns a-blazing,” says Mike Thomas, technical services manager at Prairie Machine. “I learned to be Switzerland, to try to just be neutral. Let people talk, then find the commonalities and work from there. Figure out when to drop the hammer, and when not to drop the hammer.” 

Small things, like bonding over food, can make a difference. “You will never spend $11 better than if you take somebody on your CAD team to lunch,” Moreno says. “I made it a solid policy: we're going to talk about what we're doing, then we're all going to lunch. I wanted them to know my face and know that I knew who they were.”  

“As I've progressed in my career, everything that I've learned about being a decent manager is through research and reading, mainly psychology and marketing,” Moreno says.  

Managing your managers 

The job of the BIM or CAD manager is all about change, but one part of the job that remains constant is the need to work with the bosses, managers, and owners of your company to get buy-in and budget for your plans. That could mean purchasing new hardware, making a move to the cloud, or deploying a new communication system. Those bosses and owners are responsible for the overall success of the company—and the work of the BIM and CAD manager can play an important role in that success. But in many cases, you need to explain the value of the decision or the request in a way they can understand.  

“When I learned what was important to my managers and how to approach them that way, I started getting a lot more traction,” Moreno says.  

“Robert Green talks a lot about ROI,” says R.K. McSwain, CAD manager at LJA, referring to influential CAD manager and author Robert Green, who has spoken at AU many times. “If you can show you're going to get a return on that investment, why should we standardize this, why should we do something a different way, that can help show that you're providing a benefit to the company.”  

“They care because it's going to save us time, it's going to save us money,” says Kate Morrical Towne, digital design manager at Silman. “What is the return on the investment in terms of time and money? Or morale? Sometimes the return on investment might be morale.”  

My Insights: New tools for training and planning 

Understanding each individual user’s unique training needs is an ongoing challenge for the CAD or BIM manager. How can you help them boost their productivity? How can you help each person automate the time-consuming tasks they need to handle? And what about the teams?  

My Insights is a new feature for AutoCAD and Revit that uses machine learning and rules-based engines to transform usage data from both individuals and teams into actionable insights that can help them be more efficient and productive. Chris Lindner, KaDe King, Brian Souder, and Chad Stutz led a roundtable session at AU 2022 to explore the possibilities of My Insights and the handout from the class provides an excellent introduction, explaining the types of insights that managers and users can get, from recommendations for new commands to advice on macros and observations about the model or drawing “health.” As the BIM or CAD manager, you can also use these insights to plan your training efforts for the team.  

Connect with other CAD and BIM managers at AU 

Being a CAD or BIM manager can be an “isolated position,” Rick Ellis points out in his AU panel, for the simple reason that there is often only one at any given company. They spend the majority of their time talking to users and to management, not to others who do what they do. AU is one of the few places where BIM and CAD managers can talk to other BIM and CAD managers. “AU is the world's biggest flash community of CAD nerds,” says Curt Moreno.  

When they do get together, these classes make clear that, for all their differences, one thing that connects all BIM and CAD managers is an interest in improvement. “I've always been convinced that there's a better way to do something, so I go find it,” Kate Morrical Towne says, talking about how she got started in the role. “And then you become known as the person who knows the better way.”  

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