Be Good — Build Confidence
Whether you have authority or not, users always know whether you’re good with CAD/BIM tools. If you’re good at using these tools, users will trust you and ask you for help to solve their problems. Establishing this technical credibility will give you a de facto authority with users since they know how good you are. And, when senior management sees that you are widely respected by users in a variety of departments, they’ll start to realize your value.
But, since your senior management team isn’t giving you enough power or budget to really be a manager today, you’ll need to create a base of users that can help you gain authority over time. Does this process take longer? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.
So, how do you undertake this process? Let's take a look at some of the strategies I’ve used both personally and with client organizations.
Align with Users and Win
If management won’t give you the authority you need, then make sure users know this and align your thinking with theirs. Examples might include:
Users need updated workstations. While your direct response is that you don’t have the authority to dictate what IT purchases, you should encourage users to communicate with their management to build support for new workstations. Then, let your boss know that you’re encouraging these communications for the betterment of the business.
Different departments use different CAD methods making it impossible to implement standards. When speaking to each department, let them know you understand the problem, but don’t have the authority to dictate standards to other department managers. Then, ask the users who have the complaints to request that their bosses coordinate with other department managers to resolve the situation. And, again, and let your boss know you’ve done so.
You probably sense a pattern developing here, right? The goal is to understand the problem, understand the users’ frustrations, and then enlist those users to voice their concerns to management since you don’t have the authority to fix the problems directly. If user complaints do elicit action from various management team members, then you can fix the problem without ever having to be the bad guy.
Build a Bigger Base
Wouldn’t it be great if you could share tips, ideas, and time-saving work methods with other users in your company? Further, wouldn’t it be great if you could do so in an unofficial way without time pressures? Creating in-house user groups is a handy way of achieving these goals.
Start your user group meetings as a potluck lunch break once a month and ask members to share their best tips and tricks. Don’t feel a sense of pressure to do anything but organize the meeting and encourage people to come share their knowledge. Even if nothing much comes from your user group, you will have still brought users closer together, expanded your user base, and will most likely have done at least some good in the process.
Note: When your management team sees you take on leadership initiatives, they’re more likely to deem you worthy of managerial authority.
Make Troubleshooting Work for You
From time-to-time, software problems will arise that require expert troubleshooting. Chances are you find yourself in the middle of these experiences daily, but are you turning the experience to your advantage by building respect with your users? If not, you should be.