Tech Manager—Risky Things

Continuing with Secrets that Tech Mangers keep, we come to the ones that put you or your firm at risk. These are the concerns you carry that might keep you awake at night. They pop into your head from time to time or they nag at you from the back of your mind. They are the little ticklers that don’t let you rest. They fall under your area of oversight, but not always under your control.

Critical Files are in the Wrong Location

You have standards and guidelines in place, and you remind staff to use them all the time, but they just keep putting things in the wrong place. They download files from the internet and use them from the download folder on local. They open files from their email client and try to work with them by double clicking and expect to hit save and have them go to the right place automatically. They work directly from external USB sticks. They store things on external drives. They link/reference files or models from other projects. Things quickly get tied up in digital knots that you must untangle.

What to do about it – Education and vigilance is the best approach to this issue. Make sure that everyone knows where things go. Make it easier to put things in the right place by automation, menus, and features that get it right. Scan the project files to find out of place entities. Pay attention to Unresolved References in Revit and fix them. Tell others how you troubleshoot issues when you get a chance and have them do it also. Look for non-standard naming as a clue to bad habits. Don’t let them linger. I always seem to get bit by the things I do not fix right away.

Things Should be Automated that are Not

Folks are defining processes on the fly. Even when you have them written down and refined. They forget or just don’t care, and they make up a way to get things done that does not work the same way as the last time they did it. I am not talking about constant improvement or refining steps that are not working at peak performance. They are a good thing. I am discussing the things that people do that get you into trouble. They may work, but they are not consistent. Inconsistent methods cause chaos. No one knows what to expect from one project to the next.

What to do about it – The best way to comply with guidelines and standard is through automation. By taking control of the protocols, procedures and steps in any process, you enable repeatable actions. You make it easier to get it right. You should be outlining the means and methods that are used by your staff. Procedures do not stifle creativity, they actually free up staff to be more creative by taking care of the details. Brush up your scripting skills, your coding prowess or your menu customization and get things in line.

Shadow Tech Management

Everyone working in tech knows that there is tech support going on that you know nothing about. When people have a tech issue or problem, they do not always come to you. They ask the person next to them. Then the person down the hall. They just want an answer and to get back to being productive. They will take an answer from anyone that offers it. When multiple people start asking an advanced user, they sometimes work apart from you rather than alongside you. Then they veer off the beaten path and start autonomous processes that are not in line with the firms or your protocols. They have followers and they feel like they are helping.

What to do about it – Realize that people helping people is a good thing. Don’t fight it, embrace it. You want staff to help other staff, as long as they are helping in the right way. You should encourage those who are more mature in the tech tools to help the newcomers. Keep your ears and eyes open for parallel tech support efforts by non-tech staff.

Keep expanding your inclusion of staff who like to help others. Empower them. Make sure they know what they should and should not be doing. Let them know that they should keep you informed of issues and what they do to help. Keep them in the loop and keep an eye on them. Take corrective action if they seem to be taking liberties or stepping across boundaries. Some of the best support people started out by helping the staff they work around. You want to build into that, as long as they are team players. When they start going off the rails, gently address it with them.

Delayed Software Upgrades

You risk falling behind if upgrades are delayed too long. Some staff want to jump on the newest release the minute it rolls out. Others never want to move. The concerns come when there is a delay in an upgrade so long that you are no longer compatible with other firms or your clients. File and model exchange and coordination become troublesome. New features pile up making it harder to train when you finally transition due to the number of items that have training needs. Support from the vendor may be curtailed from their end and every time you need their help, they say, “You need to upgrade to the latest release.”

What to do about it – If you are the one delaying, then you need to remember that the company and your staff look to you to lead. You need to prep and deploy. Most of the time it is not the Tech Manager who drag their heels. If it is for financial reasons, then plan a budget for next year and keep pressing for the funds. Make small enhancements in the old tools to keep the desire there. If it is upper management, then talk about the new tools and lay out the improvements that would come so they know things would get better. Don’t nag, but consistently mention the need to upgrade. Let them know that the risk of delays is greater than the cost of the change.

There are risky things going on, but you don’t have to be the only one worrying. These are secrets you don’t want to keep. These should be addressed and discussed in a wider forum. Bringing in others can improve many of these. Now that I am at the end of my “Secrets” series, I ended up with fifteen. I probably have more, but these will suffice. How many more secrets do you keep?

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