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Making the Most of IT support? 107

wetfeetl33t asks: "On Slashdot, we've seen quite a few stories about employees who are unhappy with their company's IT department, or are seeking advice on how they can whip their company's IT department into shape. So, enough of the complaints about the supposed stupidity of technicians, the incompetence of sysadmins, or the excessive network down time. A better question is: how can users work peacefully and effectively with their IT department and make the interaction between the IT people and other employees as productive as possible?"
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Making the Most of IT support?

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  • Isn't it obvious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deanj ( 519759 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @11:42PM (#15315066)
    Isn't it obvious?

    Treat the people with some respect. Not only is it the right thing to do, but they'll probably fall over from you even doing it. Most IT people I know get treated like crap, and they don't deserve that.

    Nobody does.
    • There was a story at some point on Slashdot saying that most people are totally carefree with their computers and even do stuff they know is stupid because they know IT will always fix their mess.

      If people stopped doing that IT people would have more time to take care of the overall system.

    • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Thursday May 11, 2006 @11:58PM (#15315145)
      no shit.. some times i hate it.. i don't have the issue with down time.. i just get thrown a projet an a resonable deadline (if it was the only thing i was going to do from now till then).. and i constantly get interupted by "my computer crashed" you go in and they yanked the mouse cord out of the back and wonder why it isn't working.

      most people are fine and i am luck to have a direct manager that understands and will shift work so that i don't go crazy.. but 12-15 hours days for me is not uncommon.. hell it is midnight and i just got home a alittile while ago.

      best thing i can say is that if you want to have a good an fair IT department (even if it is just you) have some type of job queueing in place and use it.. it will make your life so much better
      • Can tell you are one of the IT hardcore - goes home after starting at a computer for 15 hours, and logs onto slashdot. At this moment I am not regreting putting broadband on at home.
    • I recall delivering mainframe connectivity (coax!) to a new executive's PC. The PC was password protected, so I could not verify that the new graphing service was in fact working, since I was not provisioned with anything but a dumb terminal to test the link with and this was maybe the second such PC installed. In other words, the link was up but the gnarly new "service" that was all the rage with the executives could not be confirmed.

      When the "enter password" prompt came up, I looked at the secretary and s
      • I know what you mean. Some of these executive admins can be the nicest people in the world but a few are dragons no matter what you do right. I been dragon smoked a few times while working on the Help Desk for a large corporation.
        • "working on the Help Desk..."

          Owwww, Ouch! I know what you mean, since during part of my "network engineer" stint at said company I filled in on the computer department help desk. Ever read [] ? Mike the network engineer and Greg the helpdesk guy. Been there, done that!

          Imagine being on the help desk at NASA, and getting a call from the Executive Office of the President because they aren't getting their email. That was an interesting time!

      • What does:
        The company somehow discovered that I had more pressing work to sit on my butt in another building doing nothing until it was time for the next round of layoffs.
        • "What does:
          The company somehow discovered that I had more pressing work to sit on my butt in another building doing nothing until it was time for the next round of layoffs.

          It means that I was quickly transferred away from the main corporate office to a satellite office, where there was effectively nothing for me to do, until they could invent an excuse to fire me since they had no cause.

          That's what happens when a Power Secretary takes a disliking to you. At least I got some severance t
      • by NoMaster ( 142776 )

        When the "enter password" prompt came up, I looked at the secretary and said in all honesty, "That's all I can do, please let me know if it's not working for him."

        This "Power Secretary" became furious ...

        Well, as a person who has had absolutely NO customer service training of any kind yet deals daily with potentially-irate customers, I'm going to say this :

        If that's anything close to what you actually said, you handled that very very badly.

        From her point of view, you wandered in, fiddled a bit, then jumpe

        • Throw in some ultra-aggression born from having to compete in a male world, and if you can't reach the goal they expect, well ...

          But if she's a power secretary and not the CEO, then she's not really competing in "a man's world", is she? She's competeting in what is traditionally a woman's world.

          There's really no call for such bitch-queen behaviour anymore - if they really want power, why don't they get it for themselves instead of riding on somebody's coattails?
        • Oh there's no question I could have handled it better, and if I'd had any idea how she would react to, "That's as far as I can go, I don't have the password" I certainly would have (in my opinion) gone on the offensive and asked her for the password.

          Indeed there are substantial differences between male/female. Some of the loudest yelling at me has been to question my process over and over when the outcome was not what the woman wanted, when I'd already agreed that what I did had not worked.

          "What part of "a
        • There's a way to approach these people. Their job is to solve problems, and don't like people who won't support them in their job. Put it back on them - if they can supply the password, you can complete your job; if they can't, then they see for themselves that the onus is on them to come up with a suitable solution.

          See the difference? It's "I can't do this" vs "I can do this, but I need something from you - have you got it?". The latter projects a professional attitude; the former doesn't.

          Of course there

    • by Propaganda13 ( 312548 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @01:03AM (#15315432)
      Manager: Do you expect them to treat you with respect?
      IT Guy: No, I expect them to DIE!
    • Re:Isn't it obvious? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Techman83 ( 949264 )
      I get a lot of simple requests and if I have time I like to help out, yes it creates more work for me, but it also creates a positive atmosphere around the company. When I'm to busy to help with a small problem, I get them to email it to me and reply when I get time.

      It all comes down to your support levels, a sys-admin shouldn't be handling 1st level support calls, he/she needs to be doing what they do best. Likewise a 1st level support person shouldn't be trying to debug a large network issue, they shou
      • I had one of these IT hating people bug me once. I told him that my boss said I was to get this item here taken care of before helping with anything else. I explained usualy i would be able to assist but not this time.

        After about the third (and third different issue) time i did this, he replied that he was my boss' boss and I had to stop everything and fix it right. I replied untill you sign my check, i'm not sure i can go around my instructions. It turned out that this guy actualt did sign the checks, he w
    • Most IT people I know get treated like crap, and they don't deserve that.

      Most IT people are full of shit and do deserve it.

      Seriously, when confronted with some problem that they don't know the solution for, the first instinct of the vast majority of "Computer Guys" is to start lying their asses off by spewing psuedo-technical bullshit. They do this even when they know you know they're full of it

      Typical conversation with IT:

      Me: Problem
      IT: Must be the poliarity on the flux capacitors, don't know what we can d
      • Seriously, when confronted with some problem that they don't know the solution for, the first instinct of the vast majority of "Computer Guys" is to start lying their asses off by spewing psuedo-technical bullshit.

        If they are a real engineer or have a lot of experience in problem solving it may be real technical bullshit on the way to finding a solution that is more plausible - even if it appears to be way outside of the feild (eg. apparent software errors due to overheating hardware). If you expect an ins

        • I see the op's point though. How hard is it to say "Hmm, interesting, I am not quite sure what is going on there, I will look into it".

          I do this at my support job, and the users love me. Even if thier machine is hosed and needs replaces and the new one will take three days to arrive, they are happy because I put effort into it, did my best to fix it, and kept them apprised of the situation in terms they could understand.

          Too many IT people got called up by New Horizons, got a paper MCSE with no real experie
          • Sometimes you ask them a simple question like "do you know when the network problem with new mobile phone will be solved?" and they give you completely inane answers like "it's gonna take several days, a technician must climb the tower to fix the antenna". No kidding.
          • I have to say that I totally agree with you here. I say this all the time, in fact i say exactly: "Hmm, interesting, I am not quite sure what is going on there, I will look into it." Or I say that I'll ask around and see what I can find out. My users love me too, I get all kinds of e-mails to my bosses saying how great I am to have around.

            Your list should also probibly have 'was honest and truthful to them'. You cover that anyway, but it's good to say. Tell them when you dont know, but you can find out
        • I love how I complain about bullshitting IT guys, and I get a bunch of bullshitting in reply. :)

          Maybe a more realworld example is in order:

          Me: Sometimes it takes about 10 minutes to logon to my machine. Could there be a ActiveDirectory issue?
          Good IT answer 1: Hmm, I'll look at the Domain Controller tonight
          Good IT answer 2: Let me check Technet and do some research
          Good IT answer 3: I'll call the AD expert
          Actual IT answer: It's probably because you installed Yahoo (runs off)

          See the problem here? And even if t
          • I'm not going them for advice. I'm trying to get them to do their jobs. Getting the right IT person involved isn't my issue.

            Unfortunately it is when the support system is broken and you want the problem fixed. The tricky thing is to express the problem to the person in such a way that they will escalate it to someone that has a clue on how to fix the problem. It also may be worth trying the old fashioned approach of having something in writing or email instead of grabbing the ear of the IT guy as he runs

    • Most IT people I know who get "treated like crap" are the ones who actually are incompetent and/or treat the users like crap. With the exception of a few real jerks I've never in the 11 years I've been in IT had a real problem with a lack of respect, nor have most of the people I've worked with who didn't deserve it.
      • I have always believed that there are two types of TechGuys, the good ones and the evil ones. The good ones listen curdiously to a user's problems, offer solutions, and know when to say they need to ask for more help. Evil techs assume they know things, offer explinations for problems but no solutions, and try to shrug off problems until people give up asking for help.

        Which, granted I've done my fair share of, but it's still not something I do on a regular basis and I realize that it is a bad thing.
  • We just had a discussion on over-demanding end-user [], is this end-user now asking slashdot how to deal with SpaceNeeded?

    Honestly, while it's easy to say each side should try to understand and respect each other's work and schedule, there is always going to be inter-departmental conflicts.

    So maybe a well-drafted SLA?
  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Thursday May 11, 2006 @11:57PM (#15315139)
    I find that bombarding IT with little requests like help with my desktop background, system volume, printers, plugging peripherals like my iPod into the desktop, and a bunch of other things that I could presumably do myself really helps keep those IT monkeys busy running up and down the stairs from their dungeon to my ivory tower.

    The networks seem to be okay, and I have all my files, so it's not like they have anything better to do. Maybe they'd rather be surfing Slashdot. I don't know. But I'd rather they lost some weight and became more pleasing to look at. All the running around is helping their looks.

    Maybe we should also install a shower...
  • He'll fix your computer and then he's gonna make fun of you!
  • by Joiseybill ( 788712 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @12:13AM (#15315203)
    When Joe Cubicle calls the building manager about his heat or AC problems, he has (or soon learns) a reasonable expectation of what he can ask for, and what will get done for him.

    When Fred Copyguy calls the Xero/Canon tech because he jammed the double-sided collated stapler function again, his company is paying for either a hefty contract or a site visit. If Fred does this too often, he is dealt with.

    When Phil McCracken gets sued for sexual harassment, he makes an appointment to see counsel, and waits while the case is dragged through depositions and hearings.

    Unfortunately, when these same nitwits call IT because they installed the latest Free Poker game /Napster /Skype / weatherbug/ etc.. and the company VPN connection won't work - they expect instant gratification.

    Corporate-think needs to perceive the computing infrasructure,including the personnel, as an expensive, specialized tool. If you want me to replace this [machine, router, 1st-level support tech] like a $10 pencil sharpener, then always keep a dozen spares around and ready, or give me an expense account so I can just run down to CompUSA and buy 6 or 8 on any given day. OTOH, if you want me to save that $80,000+ in dusty equipment and redundant training then treat the entire system with the respect and care just like you do the building / campus / Corporate Counsel office.
    • I was thinking about this kind of thing earlier today after reading that article about unionizing IT geeks.
      There's a few issues to consider.
      First, I agree that generally the IT guys are treated like crap. We really are expected to just wave our hand over the monitor and everything magically works. However, this is NOT expected of most other types of equipment. If you call in a copier tech to fix your copier, most people will let them do their job and not harass them. Why then are the IT guys picked
      • Your contempt for your customers is astonishing. I hope I never work with you.
        • Nope, he is absolutely correct. We hired one of our computer operaters (they configure and run the various simulation software, Systems builds the servers/client/networks/accounts) into the Systems group to replace a guy who left. After about 2 months he made the following comments:

          1- That we do a hell of a lot more things than he thought we did (as in, do more than just support the simulation operators).

          2- That he sincerely hoped he didn't treat us the way he has noticed everyone else seems to treat us.
      • Dear lord, you have to have the worst social skills in the world with these people!

        Clueless users? If you fix the problem, as long as your body language and tone of voice are non-threatening, they will realize how dumb it was and not get defensive, and just thank you. If they think you are annoyed, or condescending... that is when they get defensive.
  • Plan ahead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stefanlasiewski ( 63134 ) * <> on Friday May 12, 2006 @12:19AM (#15315234) Homepage Journal
    Plan ahead. Respect the time of your coworkers. When you suddenly come to your sysadmins with set of tasks which "needs to get done today", remember that your sysadmins need to push out other projects to work on your project.

    The stereotype of a "Grumpy Sysadmin" probably comes from the fact that one minute we're deeply involved with a technical project performing mental gymnastics and the next minute someone is standing at our desk, demanding attention. Now. It is very difficult to return back to that project or remember where we were.

    System Administraton is different then other jobs in the business. We typically deal with a very high level of interruption & multitasking-- and probably more then anyone else in the company. It's not unusual for me to have 12 hour workdays where absolutely NONE of the tasks were on my todo list when I walked in that morning-- a day and a half FULL of interruptions.
    • I just want to get this out in the open for discussion because I think your mindset towards 'your work' vs 'their work' is prevalent amongst IT community.

      Your job is to make sure the backbone systems of the company are running well enough. This absolutely necessary, and anyone who would argue otherwise is seeking to eliminate your job. Stated another way, your job is to make sure everyone else can do their job effectively.

      That said, it also means that if something is working well enough and the users are
      • It's not even close to that simple.

        First, the whole if the backbone is functioning thing... It's NOT a binary thing. There are cases often where most things are working but others may not be. It's not an all or nothing thing.
        Also, to say that if the system is functioning that any upgrades or other tinkering is just "egotistical masturbation" is retarded. If you don't want your IT staff to do any upgrading or preventative tasks until something fais, then you're a complete moron. There's a lot of up

        • Most decent IT geeks have to get things done by working around managers like that.

          Such as?
          • There is a truism involved in all IT affairs: if you ask someone you'll be told "no".

            Try it. Ask through the proper channels if you can have Firefox on your PC at work (for instance). You will be told "no, that would be too much extra work for our technicians; we need to have everything be the same on all the machines." They said this because if they tell you yes this one time, it will "set a precedent" that could cause the whole house of cards to come tumbling down. They install Firefox for you, now they h
      • That said, it also means that if something is working well enough and the users are satisfied with the performance of the backbone, then any upgrades or new system implementations are PURELY egotistical masturbation.

        Only if you assume the company is completely and utterly static, with no plans for this to change.

        Most companies I know of (and have worked for) are interested in expansion and growth - at the very least in profits and productivity, if not size and marketshare. I've never seen any that have n

        • Thanks for the post, it's exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for.

          I take your point that IT departments ought to be split between user support and infrastructure support. However, I take exception with the idea that any company with only a couple IT staff is "too small to be of consequence". With the vast majority of companies being too small to be of consequence, doesn't that make them consequential?

          What I'm getting at is that an overworked IT staffer in MicroBiz is no more replaceable than one in Meg
          • I take your point that IT departments ought to be split between user support and infrastructure support. However, I take exception with the idea that any company with only a couple IT staff is "too small to be of consequence". With the vast majority of companies being too small to be of consequence, doesn't that make them consequential?

            If you have *two* IT staff, then you have sufficient for one to be doing basic user support and another to be working along more strategic lines (and, IME, this is the kind

      • Here is the problem from my perspective. Lots of IT people have the mindset of 'your work' vs 'their work' because often it's the difference between what they've been hired to do and what a user wants them to do.

        They are hired to keep everything up and running, implement new systems and plan ahead. Often because they are competent they also get to do other things like format and excel spreadsheet. Which then turns into "create a summary page, automate the process and draw conclusions". If I'm doing that the
      • I think your mindset towards 'your work' vs 'their work' is prevalent amongst IT community.

        It also comes down to work for the company and work for individuals private hobbies. People do not need to call me while I am driving to try to talk me into acquiring a pirate copy of WinXP and should not be offended if I breifly say no and hang up on them. It's interesting to hear about the latest tech gadget/camera whatever for a hobby and answer questions about related technology but not on work time with deadlin

      • It boils down to the fact that IT is a loss for the company. It is a net loser which produces nothing that makes money.

        Lucky for you that your company is able to implement such a simple solution: Turn off all the computers and get rid of IT! The expenses disappear and profits go up.

        If someone else in the company can't use their computer because of some IT-administrative issue (lost password, etc) then the company is losing money because they can't make any money with the computer in an unusable state.

      • Most companies see IT as a "cost centre" even though, as you said, they need the IT to do their jobs.
        So you collectively bust your arses to create a fully redundant, fault tolerant system which has near 100% uptime (ok it's hypothetical) then management look at IT and ask, why are we paying all this money for all these IT guys when the systems just work anyway?
        The bigest problem with our role (I count myself among the accursed sysadmins) is that if we do a good job, nobody notices, so they think we are an u
      • It boils down to the fact that IT is a loss for the company. It is a net loser which produces nothing that makes money.

        I disagree. IT produces the things that allow the company to say "99.9% uptime" "data retention for 1 year" "Serve webpages faster then our competitors", "protect the business from crackers, speed up the development process while maintaining uptime, data integrity, speed & security-- these things are core to the business, and make the difference between success and losing all of your cl
  • Now ready to take the 12 hour Microsoft interview, I'll share the 15 minute Cisco interview. No design or questions, create the site diagramed in 30 mins. Much advice appreciated to help me on microsoft's interviewing techniques.
  • by ximenes ( 10 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @12:51AM (#15315379)
    As a professional systems administrator for nearly ten years, I have certainly been in my fair share of crappy IT environments. I think the issues can usually be fixed by adhering to two principles:

    1. You get what you pay for

    This is a far-reaching statement. The first aspect is salary. Companies (well, universities) are always trying to get by with meager salaries that are NOT competitive at all (let alone poor to non-existent raises, benefits, etc.). In my opinion, it is better to pay one really competitive salary than two or three shitty ones. That one person is going to be so much more valuable than three scrubs; more experience, better attitude, maybe actually be happy with their job and stay for a while. Sure, you can get good people for cheap on occasion, but they are going to be miserable because they know how badly you're screwing them. That demotivates otherwise good employees, leading to decline in work performance as well as leaving for greener pastures.

    In a field like systems administration, there is a really big emphasis on personal initiative. You have to proactively go looking for problems before they become problems, come up with bizarre-ass ways to fix things immediately or within the confines of your budget (usually small or zero), man-power, etc. If you're seriously unhappy with your job, it drains your initiative. I have personally experienced this. I want to do a good job, and I take pride in my work, but since I know that I'm being treated like shit (in ways other than pay too), I have a harder time caring as much as I would like to about my work. Thats just the way people operate; if you want the best out of your employees, you have to recognize that.

    Stemming from this: you need to fire worthless people. The inability or unwillingness to fire worthless employees is one of the biggest problems for employers that I see. If a sysadmin is always causing more work just by his attitude and ineptitude, then they need to get the boot. If you don't do that, all of his co-workers who aren't fuckups are going to see that you don't care about the quality of their work. Another demotivator.

    Also pertaining to this: you are paying these people to administer your computers. NOT to move furniture. NOT to hang pictures on the walls. NOT to do anything with anything that doesn't plug into the wall and beep when it turns on. Its one thing to do a favor for someone, its another to turn into a moving man when you ought to be doing a highly skilled job for your salary.

    Aside from salaries, you need to pay for equipment. IT costs money, computers cost money, software costs money. Just because computers are $800 instead of $5000 now doesn't mean that they're free. IT departments need budgets, they need control over those budgets, and they need to be set at reasonable levels. There is a lot of waste here, from sending people to training seminars and paying for support contracts that you don't really need (or use). That isn't what we need. We need money for hardware. If you have to cobble things together, or use a production server to test out things, you're going to run into trouble sooner or later. A lot of the time out-dated, overly heterogenous or inadequate hardware is one of the biggest contributors to an overburdened IT staff. Getting rid of all those 400MHz PCs running Windows ME (when the rest of the place is using XP) is a huge help, more than worth that $800 you need to shell out.

    Number two is: Let the experts handle it.

    I have worked in a few places where computer decisions were made by someone with no technical knowledge, often based on the latest buzzwords or something someone told them or who knows what. Professors who need 24" LCDs because it will make their computers faster (false), people who think they need a LaserJet 1300 because its a higher number than 1200 (the difference is so minimal as to be a complete waste of time and money). On a larger scale, the complete decision making process of the computer infrastructure may be entirely out of th
    • ...because I already replied elsewhere in this thread and can't.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Stemming from this: you need to fire worthless people. The inability or unwillingness to fire worthless employees is one of the biggest problems for employers that I see. If a sysadmin is always causing more work just by his attitude and ineptitude, then they need to get the boot. If you don't do that, all of his co-workers who aren't fuckups are going to see that you don't care about the quality of their work. Another demotivator.

      (I normally don't post as AC, but after reading this, you'll understand)

      We h

      • That is hysterical, and also very familiar. I had someone in mind when I wrote that about firing people, and it seems like there is more than one of him in the world. Same deal with the certifications, being paid more, and every he touches turning to shit.

        One thing you've illustrated is that having a degree and certifications does not make you qualified. Particularly certifications in my book; I have never personally met someone who had any and was actually worth something. To me its actually a bad thing wh
    • On a larger scale, the complete decision making process of the computer infrastructure may be entirely out of the hands of the people who are actually knowledgable about it (and who will actually be doing the work!).

      I will forever keep and cherish the emails that were posted to our in-house mailing list for techs a while back. The list is for people who actually do the work of making all our tools function. The people who actually spend billions on those tools aren't even aware it exists and would be

    • Your write-up is nothing short of amazing, but common-sense all the same.

      Thank you.
    • I agree but I'd add that the problems you mention are really all just aspects of the same problem, or at least seem to go together. If someone knows they are paying you a high salary they are far more likely to take your advice seriously and far less likely to waste your time on things they could do for themselves.
      • That is true. All of the issues are inter-related. Although I have found that having a "high" salary (higher than other non-technical staff members but still not competitive for the computer field) does not fix the issues that I raised. I have been involved with so many furniture moves that I should start my own moving company.

        Basically it all boils down to managing your people correctly, something which is sorely lacking in a lot of fields but is particularly problematic in IT. Many people who are worth so
  • The Blame Game (Score:1, Insightful)

    by labal ( 804733 )
    Most of the time problems I have with IT Support usually revolves around the blame game. No one ever wants to admit that they're the creator of the problem. If people, both IT Staff and Users would stop taking things so damn personally, and just find the problem and solve it. "No you did this", "No I didn't" crap, be professional adults, work together and fix the problem.
    • I agree that laying blame is worthless when the issue is still going on. Afterwards, however, it can be useful to realize what caused things in order to avoid it in the future (or build a case for someone's incompetence perhaps).
    • that's easy to say when it's your fault :)
    • Re:The Blame Game (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lukas84 ( 912874 )
      It is usually much easier to debug a problem if you at least have direction in which you can search.

      I usually work for smaller shops with a Windows SBS Server and 10-20 Computers.

      Users usually feel intimitated if you ask them what they did, before it stopped working. You need to tell them that you're not blaming them in any way, and just want to find out what might have caused the problem, and that nobody will ever hear what they tell you. You need to sound calm and professional when you talk to a customer.
      • I'll throw a caveat on there... never get mad at the person where they can see/sense it... Vent it out later...

        Personally... I've found having a somewhat irreverant attitude when asking them helps as well... I'm pretty sure that whenever anyone at my workplace calls me, they know the first question asked will be, "Alright, what did you break this time?" said with a smile... The few who seemed upset by this, started laughing as well once I explained that no one ever calls us just to say hello, or ask how w

  • One way I see is to have several teams in IT support. Each team is headed by a top-notch professional. The team would be able to handle most of the requests. In case they are not able to handle a particular case, their leader would help the team, and the team would learn/grow.

    All support requests, support time, delays, reasons, problems etc are logged. This would be useful in individual and team evaluations. In case of crisis - worm attack, largescale HW/SW movement, members would be exchanged among teams.

  • e-je-ka-shun - n. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by carpeweb ( 949895 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @02:07AM (#15315666) Journal
    There's just no substitute, on both "sides".

    In my experiences, users who don't know crap about IT consistently generate the kinds of user problems noted here, and IT people who don't bother to learn anything about the concerns of their users (and who tend to be like Nick Barnes) create the rest of the problems.

    It takes time and effort to understand the other guy, and lots of people are unwilling to do it. Senior management has to set the example, which they often don't (though they like to give it lip service).
  • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @02:15AM (#15315689)
    This is probably the best thing you can do. Work with them in creating an overall document which will be your Service Level Agreement (SLA). In this document have specific tasks listed and general guidelines, things like the following:

    • Systems/Services will have a criticality assigned to them
      • business critical (BC)
      • department critical (DC)
      • service critical (SC)
      • non-critical (NC)
    • The level of criticality will determine levels of response time/support expected for that system or service
      • (BC) Reporting person is contacted by IT professional within 10-15 minutes with an assesment made to determine the nature of the problem and contact appropriate person(s) including possible management to get IT personnel immediately working on the problem
      • (DC) Reporting person is contacted by IT professional within 10-15 minutes with an assesment made to determine the nature of problem and management contacted to determine if action is immediately required (if after normal hours of operation) or if it can wait until normal business hours and worked on by appropriate IT professionals, BC events take precidence
      • (SC) Reporting person is contacted within 10-15 minutes (normal hours) or next morning by an IT professional with an assesment made to determine the nature of the problem and the appropriate IT professions start working to fix the problem BC, and DC events take precidence
    • Processes are created for tasks
      • Process for adding accounts
      • Process for installing software
      • Process for purchasing equipment
      • Process for installing equipment
      • Process for moving user desktop equipment
      • Process for recovery requests
      • Process for foo bar
    • Expected levels of uptime are agreeded upon
    • Budget requirements are tracked (i.e. tasks themselves are tracked so that time spent installing xyz piece of software on y number of systems can be used to show that X number dollars were needed for that task)
    These are just some suggestions. This helps both the IT department as well as the user community because actions are tasked and tracked and accounted for. Budgets are also kept track of so that the money spent can be tracked (like when a Department Head starts yelling that the IT department is costing too much overhead the IT department can show that they spent $500k in time/manpower/infrastructure moving that Department Head's engineers to the shiny new building because he/she wanted the big office on the 4th floor).
    • This isn't necessarily a bad idea. When I worked for the Fortune 100 company's IT department, we had a pretty clear cut idea of when things were to be done, and how to log them into the ticket tracking system. We didn't have a formal SLA, but we had a pretty good grasp on what would be in it if we did.

      I will say that from experience, when I worked at a small shop with no set goals, plans, or procedures, I got a lot less work done because I had to constantly define the problem and the level of severity from

      • Yes, the flip side of that coin can happen. That is one of the reasons why it is also important to do anual/bi-anual reviews of the agreement and have both the IT staff themselves as well as the end users themselves involved in the process, not just the management. Not everything needs to have a specific process in place, but the more common items should most definitely have a process flow created. This can really be the only way to show both the importance of the IT department as well as show the quality w
    • What kind of tools you're using to implement these policies? We have/provide our own at but it is interesting what people in IT usually use. Any good free tools? Is Cerberus good? Thanks
  • a lot of onions and carrots and the next time the support guy shows up cook and eat him. Frankly, from my experience, I can't think of any other use for them.

  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Friday May 12, 2006 @08:40AM (#15316568) Homepage Journal
    The latest has been issues with the server room overheating. This should never happen, but me bringing up the need for a dedicated room has been blown off, as have my complaints about the heat, until machines started to fail. I guess the worst part is being second-guessed in every aspect of my job. My company even brought in another expert sysadmin, who essentially has been telling them everything I have been telling them from day one (no, not every monkey and his cousin should have the root passwords; no, wireless is really insecure; no, not everyone should be able to install every damn application themselves on their workstations that they are supposed to be doing WORK on). As an example, recently I spent hours fixing problems caused by an iTunes install by an inexperienced user; no offense, but letting people make work for me isn't a good thing, especially after I warned management this would happen. Today I get to look forward to repairing a machine (whose disk failed because, guess what, the heat I have been yelling about for ages caused it to burn out) with a slew of people looking over my shoulder second guessing everything I am doing.

    But most importantly, it is nice to be able to vent to people who have gone through this (and much much worse) :-) Excuse me now, I gotta drop my personal life to hurry in to work to fix things.....

    Next week we talk about how we can never take a vacation (and yes, I have accumulated so much leave I am maxed out).

    • don't be too upset about the consultant - the fact that they are saying the exact same things as you should feel like vindication.

      many, many, companies are too stupid to believe information that they're not overpaying for. i've been in this situation many times before and it is almost always a good thing to have the consultant come in and confirm every recommendation you've ever made.

      being an enthusiastic supporter of the consultant will help you retain some control over the process (including being part of
    • Seriously: You need to start taking that vacation time. Start slow, announce it well in advance, and get buy-in from people above you that you're going and you can't change the schedule. Do it somewhere you CAN'T be reached reasonably. (Cruises are great for this.) They'll have a greater understanding of what you do and what your worth to the organization is when you return. Then don't fight them when they pull some of your responsibilities and add headcount... go with the flow.
    • If a user installs the wrong application and messes up the PC, re-image it from Ghost/unattend/whatever. Seriously. There should be nothing on a user's PC they cannot regenerate easily, it should be on server shares. Get this documented and approved. Throw in things like the amount of time (with a dollar amount) it takes to fix these problems. Over-estimate and embellish if necessary. Feel free to throw SOX compliance in (that always gets people twitchy) and overall security/virus threat; things which
  • Three things get the users I support in trouble:

    1. We're providing you with a computer to work on. It's not a toy, or your own personal PC. If users didn't go installing every application they felt like [1] probably 25% of support calls would go away. Besides the obvious malware, IE toolbars [2] cause many of our applications to become unstable.

    2. Waiting until the last minute. The IT dept can't resolve all issues immediately -- even if that means a new hire sits without a computer because it never got orde
  • It is far more cost-effective for our customers to:

    1. Keep all CDs and license codes in the same place. The cost of me looking for them gets high very quickly.
    2. If we give you a command line to type in, please type in all the spaces and correct slashes. The amount of people who can't tell the difference between a forward slash and a backslash is staggering.
    3. Keep screenshots of those errors you are receiving. Hit PrtScr, open a new Word document, and hit Ctrl-V to save the evidence.
    4. When we ask question
  • The company I work at is fairly small and the IT department consists of 2 people, myself and my boss. Until recently there were no restrictions on user machines and no organized way for users to request help. We just impletemented an IT service request database where people can input their problems, suggest a date for completion, etc. This is a step in the right direction but the biggest problem we are facing right now is getting people to use the database. They think why should they have to fill out a form
  • One word: ITIL
  • How? (Score:4, Informative)

    by nastyphil ( 111738 ) on Friday May 12, 2006 @12:20PM (#15318512) Homepage
    how can users work peacefully and effectively with their IT department?



  • ... and pay attention.

    I can't tell you how many times I have had to sit through a minute of "Hi, this is Joe Blow, Manager of widget development for the south-western european region. I'm in the middle of a very important project that ... ZZzzzzzzz..." Eventually, he gets to telling me what the problem is.

    Or... "Hi, this is Joe with the Baltimore Warehouse."
    "OK, Joe, what's your last name?"
    "I'm having problems with my microsoft."
    "Joe, what's your last name?"
    "It won't start."
  • I'm a sort of unpaid, semi-official 1st level support guy (like has been referred to in other posts here), called a Computer Liaison Officer (I kid you not).

    There are a few of us around ... the office geeks, if you will ... but official recognition of my role was most welcome when the scheme was started years ago.

    I spend most of my days actually doing basic document checking/data entry/acceptance type work for a governement department (in Australia) but my colleagues know that if they strike a problem, they
  • In one (only one of 15+) high tech firms I have worked for, the IT department billed it's hours to the other departments. This was company-wide interdepartmental policy -- the graphics folks billed their hours to back to Marketing and Sales, the loading dock billed it's hours to the package receivers, etc. This seemed to make all of the managers very cognizant of the fact that they were spending actual company resources when they got IT help, and that "this is costing me money" attitude made the managers

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