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Making the Most of IT support?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the using-what-you've-got dept.

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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107 comments

Isn't it obvious? (4, Insightful)

deanj (519759) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

Red Alastor (742410) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315121)

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.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (4, Insightful)

Amouth (879122) | more than 8 years ago | (#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

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316518)

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.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (2, Insightful)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315176)

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 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, punctuating her words with snapping fingers and pointing sharp manicured fingernails at my jugular, "MAKE! IT! WORK!" So I asked, "Do you have the password?" The fury of a Power Secretary who doesn't have everything already planned out cannot be understated.

When the exec entered his password, everything worked fine. That didn't matter at all.

Let's just say I wasn't working there two weeks later. 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. I wasn't surprised when our department was declared "overstaffed" and I was pink-slipped regardless of seniority and prior performance awards.

Still hurts after 15 years.

Bob-

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315622)

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.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315669)

"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 http://www.userfriendly.org/ [userfriendly.org] ? 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!

Bob-

Sentence does not parse (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315753)

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.
mean?

Re:Sentence does not parse (1)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315775)

"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.
  mean?"


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 time to find other work carrying letters of reference from my supervisor and coworkers. (more evidence that the layoff had nothing to do with actual work performance other than with this one Power Secretary)

As silly as it might seem, if they had been honest and just fired me because I pissed off Ms. Whatshername, it wouldn't still hurt. But no, they had to lie.

Bob-

Re:Sentence does not parse (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316708)

Two words: out her.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (2, Insightful)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316082)

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 jumped straight to telling her you can't do the job. By the time you asked if she had the password, that opinion had already been formed and she was pissed - and some people when they're pissed off won't back down whatever you do.

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.

I will say, however, that the bitch-queen type (and yes, they're almost exclusively women; I'll leave the pondering of why that is to other posts on other forums*) you're talking about is very hard to read, and even harder to deal with. It's the one time I change from my usual laid-back, "yep, no worries mate" style to the ultra-professional.

(* Well, maybe not. My personal theory is men are task-oriented, and women are goal-oriented. Men see you doing a task, and understand. Women see you doing a task, and only see what the end result should be. 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 ...)

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316549)

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?

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

Bob_Robertson (454888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316903)

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 well regulated militia" do you not understand?"

The part about how my being prevented from owning and carrying the weapon will somehow make me better able to respond when called upon.

What part of "the Right of the People" do you not understand? Unless, of course, I didn't read the innuendo of your .sig correctly.

Bob-

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

pwnawannab (972367) | more than 8 years ago | (#15321534)

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 is a way to approach these people. But mostof the techies would not be techies if they snapped into help desk mode after few grooling hours of working on the connectivity. My take - just an unfortunate situation, time to move on after 15 years. Or find the bitch-queen and send her a a link to your post - Iam sure that mostof the us on your side.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (4, Funny)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315432)

Manager: Do you expect them to treat you with respect?
IT Guy: No, I expect them to DIE!

Re:Isn't it obvious? (2, Informative)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315730)

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 should be noting it and passing the details up the tree.

For smaller companies that have less staff this may be harder, but the issues *should* be less as the people working there *should* be able to see the goings on much easier.

But at the end of the day it all comes down to how you manage your users. If you've got a hot headed un-happy IT dept. hating person, do a couple of little things here and there, even if he's angry, speak nicely etc etc, if he abuses you hang up, call his manager for some advice. There are ways of handling difficult people. And if you get the more vocal people onside, others tend to follow.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15322668)

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 was the CFO and brother to the owner of the small company I work at. i recieved an unsigned check the next pay but my complaints made it to the owner and everythign was resolved.

This guy honestly though the computers should be tossed out and everythign should go back to ledger and reciept tape because thats how they did it for years. He thinks computers are a waist of money, time, and electricity. His issues usualy came from not knowing how to do somethign more then somethign being broke and I think that aggrivated the whole i'm pissed at IT attitude.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315780)

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 do about that...
Me: I've been in IT my entire career, there's no flux capacitors
IT: Yup, those flux capacitors, always acting up
Me: I used to do your job a long time ago
IT: Well, it could also be your registry. Heh, Windows.
Me: So ... can you look into it?
IT: Well I'm not going to have any time today (goes back to napping).

So, treat people with respect, stop acting like the uber-computer-god that you are not, and maybe people will reciprocate.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316104)

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 instant answer on very limited information you will probably get a selection of guesses in reply, some of which may be wildly wrong but may have happened in similar situations in the past and be considered interesting enough to relate by the IT guy who appears to be full of it. The sensible thing is to get more information when possible and then draw conclusions instead of appearing to be full of it.
Me: I used to do your job a long time ago
There's the problem - the inexperienced guy or someone you consider of a much lower skill level is the one you have to go to for advice which they cannot supply. Where do people go in your organisation that are good at the care, feeding and implementation of systems? Is there a system in place for the junior person you are talking about to get advice from someone more skilled in the role that has been promoted in the organisation? Is there a job queing system or do people just randomly hassle the IT personel as they walk past - or both?

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

Ravenscall (12240) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316660)

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 experience behind it, and think that they are the 3l337 haxx0r. They treat the users like they are an inconvenience, and spew bullshit, or worse, accurate techno jargon that the user does not understand, and ultimately, the issue does not get fixed. I hate these people, as they my MY life hell, because they set the expectation in the users that they will be belittled and blown off, adding to thier frustration level when they call me.

Mobile phone call center operators also do this (1)

carlos92 (682924) | more than 8 years ago | (#15318915)

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.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

lt.com.riker (946759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15319787)

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, or be willing to ask someone with more knowledge for help; be honest about what the problem was (even if it was something they did ((you can often lighten it as a joke kinda thing, then say that you do something simmilar often))); and I try to explain things clear and without technobabble, but I dont think I actually am able to do that. Something I also do is to try to explain how they can avoid the problem next time. And if i can't fix it, I try to come up with a work around at least.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 8 years ago | (#15319301)

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 their explaination had some basis in reality, there was no attempt to fix it.

Now, I'm a technical person. You're a technical person. If you can't level with me, you are a lost cause for J. Random Luser. Nobody is convinced by this stuff.

There's the problem - the inexperienced guy or someone you consider of a much lower skill level is the one you have to go to for advice which they cannot supply

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.

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 8 years ago | (#15321487)

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 from one task to another (implied by the answer above because otherwise there would be no excuse for that answer).

Re:Isn't it obvious? (1)

JamesM77 (179929) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316532)

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.

Light vs Dark side of IT (1)

lt.com.riker (946759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15319914)

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.

SLA? (1)

biocute (936687) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315097)

We just had a discussion on over-demanding end-user [slashdot.org] , 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?

Re:SLA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15316190)

The sales audit SLA will be 0700, unless it's a friday, in which case it's 2330.

The Global Pricer SLA is 0500 except on the last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday where it's 0400, and the first Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, where it's 1330. The third Saturday of the month is the IPL, where there will be no Global Pricer schedule, and no SLA. The third Thursday of the month the SLA is 0600. The second Thursday and Friday of the month has a tentative SLA of 330 and 430.

The other system SLA's have been clearly defined.

Hopefully this clears any questions you have.

Great question (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 8 years ago | (#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...

Re:Great question (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15315759)

I've found that people put up with an amazing amount of computer trouble if you simply ignore their support requests.

Three-tier system works best (0)

Dark Coder (66759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315161)

By having a core administrator team that comprises of the IT as we know... the 2nd tier would compose of subject experts (i.e., Hacker, Whiz, Nerds, people that matters).

With that two-tiered system, the problem can be had by people going to their local expert firstly before going on to the IT.

This works best in medium-sized company where managements treats IT like crap or in large-sized but progressively-managed company where hiearchy is not rigidly enforced, particularly within IT.

We all know who the 3rd tiers are: Lusers, wannabes, clueless, frustrated or uneducated.

Nick Burns, your company's computer guy! (1)

ImaNihilist (889325) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315186)

He'll fix your computer and then he's gonna make fun of you!

Re:Nick Burns, your company's computer guy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15316633)

My favorite part of the Nick Burns SNL skits is that Jimmy Fallon was actually a computer science major in college. He dropped out before his senior year because the classes got too hard and he wanted to pursue comedy instead. After having suffered through that Taxi movie he made with Queen Latifah, I'm wishing he had stayed in school.

Computers aren't coffee makers (5, Insightful)

Joiseybill (788712) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Computers aren't coffee makers (1, Insightful)

TheJediGeek (903350) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315306)

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 on to do everything 5 minutes ago?

I think part of the reason is our own fault. Well, it's a combination of our fault and other's stupidity. When the idiot from accounting can't figure out why no sound is coming out and you go down and turn on the speakers, it leaves the impression that we can ALWAYS fix problems that fast.
This gives people the impression that all we do is walk in and flip a switch to fix problems. As a result, the unwashed masses think that we really don't do anything around the office. They begin to resent us in a subtle or subconscious way. So, when something really goes wrong, they think we should get it done NOW since we're not really doing anything anyway.

Sometimes we make our jobs look too easy to people who don't have a clue. When the morons have a ridiculously easy thing to fix, "How do I start this function?" The window on the screen says "To start function click HERE!" we fix it within about 5 seconds and that leaves the impression that everything is that easy.
This also leaves the impression that we're just slackers getting paid to do nothing.

So, I'd say the root of the problem is how clueless the unwashed masses are. That is what really leads to us making everything look easy and makes us look like slackers so that others resent us in some way.

Re:Computers aren't coffee makers (2, Insightful)

easter1916 (452058) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315571)

Your contempt for your customers is astonishing. I hope I never work with you.

Re:Computers aren't coffee makers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15319711)

Your contempt for your customers is astonishing. I hope I never work with you.

Dont think of it as contempt. We realise that not everyone is as gifted at "getting it" as we are. Without stupid people we'd be out of a job.

Think of it as the sad somber truth. There are customers/clients/bosses out there who use the IT staff as their personal assistants to do anything that has anything to do with electronics and expect the world to just fall into place.

Computer.. Mishaps [rinkworks.com]

Re:Computers aren't coffee makers (1)

Tsunayoshi (789351) | more than 8 years ago | (#15320452)

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. (he didn't, which was a factor in why we hired him).

Re:Computers aren't coffee makers (1)

Silicon Jedi (878120) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316693)

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.

Story: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15315745)

We had someone at work who was shitting and pissing on the toliet seat. Yes, he was a disgusting pigdog, and yes pretty much everyone knew who he was.

Employees complained. The Janitors complained. Building Management complained. This went on for more than a year.

Finally said employee was fired, but not directly for shitting all over the place.

Now, if it takes a year to fire a "valuable" but insane fecal freak, don't expect anyone to care about your IT Janitorial duties.

Re:Story: (1)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 8 years ago | (#15317254)

Place I used to work, the software architect refused to lift the toilet lid. Peed all over the seat. Wouldn't flush either. It was weird. Like a small, spoiled child.

Plan ahead (4, Insightful)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315234)

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.

Let's be absolutely clear about this (1, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315305)

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 satisfied with the performance of the backbone, then any upgrades or new system implementations are PURELY egotistical masturbation. What that means, in concrete terms, is that your IT plan which intends to migrate everyone over from the Windows 2003 Active Server server to the Debian Sarge LAMP server that you host in your mom's basement must take a backseat to user requests to reboot their computer.

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. 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.

The only time IT's tasks should take priority over normal user tasks is in the event of a backbone failure. If the network goes down or some servers go offline or any other bona fide emergencies that must be taken care of immediately, then IT should be able to prioritize the restoration of the backbone over any other request. Once the system is stabilized, then user requests must again take priority over the IT plan.

Discuss.

Re:Let's be absolutely clear about this (1)

TheJediGeek (903350) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315370)

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 upgrade or modification planning that happens to prevent a major failure.

This is a great illustration of how most management doesn't have a CLUE about what the IT staff does. If an IT staff were to actually work the way you seem to think they should, at least someone would be out of a job. Most decent IT geeks have to get things done by working around managers like that.

Re:Let's be absolutely clear about this (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315382)

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

Such as?

Re:Let's be absolutely clear about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15315648)

Well, it's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type situation. What I think he's getting to is that most of us do it, just under cover, and hope that nothing goes wrong and that we don't get caught, so that we're not docked for not doing it.

Situation:
  • There's a needless redundancy, a sort of "double listing." You have to keep both listings current and accurate, but they're in remote places.
  • Your boss doesn't want to hear about it. If you tell your boss about it, he'll look at you like: "Why are you telling me this trivial nonsense? Just take care of it."
  • But if you just take care of it, and he catches you, he'll tell you: "What are you working on this nonsense consolidation business for? I told you to do X. Why isn't X done yet? That's what I really want from you. That's what makes money. That's what pays your bills."
  • And if you don't take care of it, and there's ever a problem because you didn't have the resources to keep both listings current and accurate, then your boss will say: "Stupid employees! Argh! Employees are horrible! Can't do anything right! Who's idea was it to have two lists in the first place?"


Employers always assume that employees are abstracting away from their reporting various things that need to get done, but aren't worth reporting. It's not actually a clean line, it's more of a broad gray mystery zone, like the Bermuda triangle. And the negotiation of what that zone covers is in many cases forbidden, because communication takes time, and time is money.

Bosses frequently act haughty, and like they can do no wrong. Their brains regularly interpret things in such a way that anything that is an expense can do no right, especially if that expense has an intellect of it's own.

Bosses justify haughtiness on something or other about the value of their time, prerequesite thick skins, and what not.

What they forget is that kindness, manners, and virtue are a flat tax that applies equally to all people, regardless of rank, merit, priviledge, or status as an employer.

I have now explained for you the mystery of secret projects.

Re:Let's be absolutely clear about this (2, Interesting)

ximenes (10) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315714)

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 have to take application installation requests from the 15 people you mentioned that to, etc., etc.

Now on the other hand, make friends with your systems administrator and ask for the same thing in a non-official manner. More than likely you will get what you asked for as a personal favor, because in this case it really wasn't much work to do.

This type of thing comes up CONSTANTLY in the IT field. As in about every five minutes. It applies equally well to much larger scale issues as well. Lets say you need some network ports from the central IT division in this one room. Oh well thats going to be $25,000. Or we could use these unused ports in the room next door by routing long (optical cables, no worry about exceeding the length limit) cables around in a crazy fashion, total price $300. This is a violation of the central IT division's terms, but it not only saved that $24,700 it also made the task possible at all -- if left at $25k it would have been a complete failure.

There is a definite need to circumvent the power structure and bend the rules in most corporate environments if you are focused on getting the results you need. Some people would just shrug and say thats the way it goes; other people come up with ways around it to get what they need. The real point is that there are a lot of worthless rules that clog up people's work, and a lot of inflexible bureaucratic people (particularly in the upper echelons of most IT divisions) who you have to bypass to get any work done. The downfall is that if you're bending rules, you may come to one that really shouldn't have been bent for real.

Re:Let's be absolutely clear about this (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315636)

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 no ambitions to improve themselves at all, and if I were employed by such a company, I would certainly be trying to find work elsewhere.

That "egotistical masturbation", as you call it, is there so that when some PHB walks in without any prior warning and says "we've just bought a company that will increase our employee count by 30% and our workload by 50%, you've got $RIDICULOUSLY_SHORT_TIMEFRAME to integrate them with us", you don't spend $RIDICULOUSLY_SHORT_TIMEFRAME working 80-hour weeks with no overtime pay.

What that means, in concrete terms, is that your IT plan which intends to migrate everyone over from the Windows 2003 Active Server server to the Debian Sarge LAMP server that you host in your mom's basement must take a backseat to user requests to reboot their computer.

If the guys working on future planning are the same guys who have to reboot end user workstations, then your company probably has bigger problems to worry about, or is too small to be of consequence.

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.

While this is true in a strictly economical sense, if a company's IT department is not continuously working on ways to use technology to improve efficiency, then your IT department is not doing the job it should be. That's what all that "mental masturbation" is supposed to be doing - coming up with better ways to use technology to lower costs and/or increase productivity.

Once the system is stabilized, then user requests must again take priority over the IT plan.

That is entirely dependent on the "user requests". Although, again, in any remotely sanely run IT department, these two tasks should never conflict.

Mm.. Juicy discussion (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315739)

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 Megacorp500. If you treat them badly or overload them with work, they will quit (or grin and bear it), and losing 50-100% of your entire IT staff is much worse than losing 5-10% of the staff.

What it requires is some way to minimize the impact of a minimal IT department, I think. Easily-configured networks, plug and play servers, and automatic failure detection and prevention software are all necessary. To some extent these exist, but not to the extent that IT staff can be replaced by them wholesale.

Re:Mm.. Juicy discussion (2, Insightful)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315836)

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 of breakdown a typical small IT department has - the "IT Manager" doing the "planning" and the PFYs doing the "rebooting").

In a single-man IT shop, then obviously it isn't going to work, but such small shops are inconsequential.

And I should clarify here that by "inconsequential" I mean in the context of the discussion, not the economy. Such small businesses, pretty much inherently, have very little compartmentalisation and specialisation. Everyone does everything and everyone bothers anyone whenever they need something done.

What I'm getting at is that an overworked IT staffer in MicroBiz is no more replaceable than one in Megacorp500.

I would have to disagree. In all likelihood, the IT staff in MicroBiz has substantial localised knowledge - often the only repository of it - that probably couldn't even be duplicated again, let alone documented efficiently. The IT staffer in MegaCorp is far more likely to be repalceable drone. This is not to say people whose experience is integral to the functioning of the company don't exist in big business, it's just that there's far fewer of them, and general policies and procedures in place to avoid such situations in the first place. Business continuity is critical when your income is being measured in the hundreds of millions range. It's usually an afterthought (as in, "after the bus hit him, we really thought we were boned") when you're in the hundreds of thousands range.

If you treat them badly or overload them with work, they will quit (or grin and bear it), and losing 50-100% of your entire IT staff is much worse than losing 5-10% of the staff.

Unfortunately, IT staff in larger corporations are not integral to their workplaces, even most who think they are. Particularly in big corporations, replacing large chunks of your IT department is (comparitively) not a huge problem. This is one of the reasons staff turnover and promotion-by-new-job tends to be very prevalent in the industry.

The vast majority of IT staff are - realistically - about as valuable and difficult to replace as a secretary. They have cookie-cutter skills that can (and often are, these days) learnt in multi-month "boot camps". They're not like Engineers, Accountants or Lawyers who take *years* to be educated to the point of even basic usefulness, and as long again to really become productive and valuable to the company.

What it requires is some way to minimize the impact of a minimal IT department, I think. Easily-configured networks, plug and play servers, and automatic failure detection and prevention software are all necessary. To some extent these exist, but not to the extent that IT staff can be replaced by them wholesale.

Much as it's going to cost people jobs, I have to agree. A *massive* proportion of the typical IT workers job is made up of ridiculously trivial troubleshooting that most of them can do in their sleep. These sort of trivial tasks simply shouldn't require people to do - and one day they won't.

OTOH, high-level support, developers, system and network admins and the like are going to be in demand for a lot longer yet. It's the low-end desktop and network support - the 'rebooters' - who are going to suffer.

Re:Let's be absolutely clear about this (2, Insightful)

natmsincome.com (528791) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315690)

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 then what is the point of the sales manager???? Some other examples:

* Training the training officer on how to use word.
* Video editing for the company day.
* Creating power point slides for presentations.

So when someone else is hired to do something but isn't capable of doing that because they aren't computer literate I consider that me taking time out of 'my work' (keeping the backend working smoothly) and helping you with 'your work' (what you a payed to do). Now when the company gets angry at me because the backend stops working because I've been helping everyone else to do the jobs they are paid to do I get grumpy and stop helping people with 'their work' because now the company has told me not to help any more because then bad things happen.

So the timeline is something like this:

1. My Work - New employee.
2. My work + your work - You discovered I was competent. Company agrees.
3. Less of my work and more of your work - You found it was easier for me to solve the problem than figure it out yourself. Company agrees.
4. My work isn't getting done so something minor goes wrong. I'm told to do my job and policies are put in place to make sure it doesn't happen again but I still have to help you when you need it.
5. My work isn't getting done and now I have lots of documentation to fill in as well as helping you. I can know choose two of the following documentation, my work and your work.
5.i. I choose not to do your work. You yell and I get told to do it.
5.ii. I choose not to document. I get yelled at and told that I have to follow policy.
5.iii. I choose not to do my work. The company is happy, your happy BUT
6. Something big fails. The company gets really made I explain why it happened and they tell me to "do my work"
7. You ask me to do something BUT the company has told me that I'm not allowed to without documentation so I tell you that you need documentation for me to help you and you complain.
8. Present.

It's still the company's PC (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316040)

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 deadlines. All that casual chat by people wandering over adds to the length of the working day of the sysadmin and makes it obvious to the nearby boss that work has halted - so yes, we can look grumpy. It's hard to be polite when in the middle of a few priority tasks someone does something very silly and non-work related and renders their computer inoperable for the purposes they have been given it for - but that's part of the job and another unpaid hour or two onto the length of the day. The good thing is it can be multitasked - so I can still write a long whining post to Slashdot while running a couple of tape jobs on a Friday night two hours after everyone else has gone.

Re:Let's be absolutely clear about this (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316575)

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.

That makes no sense. You just stated that IT produces nothing that makes money. It seems like your example employee should be MORE productive and generate MORE profit for the company at times when he is unable to use the "products" of the IT department.

Re:Let's be absolutely clear about this (1)

RexxFiend (261662) | more than 8 years ago | (#15319557)

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 unnecessary expense.

ungrateful bastards.

To address your point about upgrading the systems tho, we also have to anticipate and plan for demand and make sure that the systems aren't going to fall over when they inevitably get overused. Which means we have to ask for money to buy new stuff while the old stuff is still working fine; yay, we're a cost centre again!

The 15 Minute Cisco Interview (1)

c0d3r (156687) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315301)

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.
c0d3r

Heh. (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315316)

They only give you 15 minutes to implement the design in 30 minutes?

I guess they're looking for over-clocked engineers.

Re:Heh. (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315635)

I can't help but wonder if the only way to pass that interview is to point that out...

Re:Heh. (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315639)

No, they're looking for Star Trek engineers [wikipedia.org] who can quote one time estimate while delivering the results at one-half of their estimate (i.e., 30 minutes / 2 = 15 minutes). Miracle workers divide their original time estimates by four (i.e., 30 minutes / 4 = 7.5 minutes). :P

Follow two principles (5, Insightful)

ximenes (10) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 the hands of the people who are actually knowledgable about it (and who will actually be doing the work!).

Systems administration is a skilled profession. You are paying people to do it. You need to allow them the freedom to operate. This is not to say that sysadmins should not be accountable to their users, because they absolutely should be. User satisfaction should be the ultimate goal of every sysadmin. And if you have an IT group that understands that, there should be no problem with handing over the reigns to them. Give them control over their budget, over the decision making process for new purchases, installations, and upgrades. If they are worth anything (see #1), this should allow them to do their jobs better and get more satisfaction out of it to boot. If they aren't worth anything, you should fire them.

I cannot emphasize enough that the computer staff should be completely in charge of the areas that they are going to be responsible for. It is not fair to give an employee all of the bad parts of responsibility - getting called at 4am, spending the night at work desperately trying to fix something that exploded, taking the blame - without the good parts as well - input on how things should be, taking the praise.

Along with this, showing some respect to any of your employees is always a good thing. Particularly IT employees I feel are shafted in this regard sometimes, treated as computer monkeys or worse (moving monkeys). Some of them are worthless, as with any profession. Many are not, and are actually pretty intelligent people (imagine that). If you aren't getting decent results out of your IT staff, consider if you are treating the people in the same way as the equipment: banging on them until you get a result.

Re:Follow two principles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15315634)

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.

I work for a small non-profit which is very successful. When I first started about 6 months ago, I was hired on as a part time student assistant at $10/hr. My boss is the head IT person (there's only 2 of us who do server, workstation, and network administration) who knows his shit, so I handle a lot of the stuff that he can't take care of. This mainly consists of end-user support, but also occasional server stuff. After about 3 months they asked me to start working full time even though I am still going to school full time (which hasn't caused any conflicts whatsoever). Even after giving me a "promotion", if you can call it that, I still am being paid $10/hour. 3 months after getting "promoted", I am finally able to get a review (which I had to bug about getting for over a month), and should find out in the next week or two how much my wage raise will be. Just seems like I am getting paid shit for what I do, and like you said, I feel like I'm being screwed. I think they are fortunate that I am not one of those employees who does a shitty job based on the amount of money they are getting paid. I always try to fix things ASAP when the problem is brought to my attention. If I am given 5 things to do, I get them finished probably faster than most can.

If I'm still working at the same place when I get my degree in 6 months, I will be curious to see if they can step up to the plate. Of course a lot of that is dependant on how much they grow, and whether they want to pay a decent amount to an IT employee who isn't at the top of the ladder. I guess that will be a good indicator of how respectable of a company they are.

Re:Follow two principles (1)

ximenes (10) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315671)

I had a similar experience to this at one of my prior jobs. I was hired part-time for not-so-great pay, but I was doing other things as well so I didn't really mind. Then all of a sudden my supervisor retired (he wasn't even that old!), and I was promoted to his position.

Oh, except that the pay stayed the same.

I came in every day and worked my ass off, and nothing came of it after three months. So I started looking for another job, found it, and left them totally in the lurch.

Turns out that next job was also a little problematic when it came to money. I was promised a $0.25 per hour raise within the first three months (not too great, but a promise is a promise). They didn't deliver, even though they agreed that my work had been exemplary. So I started looking for another job, and eventually found a better one (although still far from perfect).

It has been my experience that companies think like this: if we are currently paying you next to nothing and you're doing all of your work well, then we will gain nothing from paying you a competitive wage. You must be ignorant of the pay scale of the rest of the world, desperate for work, or not very good at your job. That doesn't mean that someone is sitting in their office thinking this exact thing, but subconsciously that seems to be whats running through the minds of many managers.

There seems to be only two kinds of upward movement possible in IT today: up to a position with more responsibility and the same pay, or out to hopefully greener pastures at another company. No one starts at computer janitor and retires a CIO at the same company.

Re:Follow two principles (1)

ximenes (10) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315763)

I should have also added: I sympathize with your situation, but I doubt that they will step up and do right by you based on what you said.

Companies that have poor IT (and more generally, HR) setups are not going to change. It would be nice if you could make them, but in my experience its about as effective as a girlfriend who thinks she's going to change all of the things she doesn't like about her boyfriend (to coin a stereotype). Superficially you may see things moving in the direction you want, but ultimately things are the way they are. Companies, even non-profits and universities, are designed to make money. They are obviously making money at present, by having less than stellar IT practices and not offering competitive wages. And if they run into trouble with money making, they aren't going to respond by improving their employee relations -- they're going to fire you.

The best option is to keep working there -- no sense living on the street just to spite yourself -- while you take as long as you need to find something better. Try and find somewhere that addresses at least one of your major issues (pay for instance) without adding other things that will make you just as miserable. Just remember that every job will suck, its just a question of sucking in ways that you are comfortable with -- and sometimes its a question of just needing things to be fucked up differently from what you've been putting up with. I do understand that there are companies that treat their employees fairly out there somewhere, but beyond that they need to have their IT shit together too. Thats a real diamond in the rough.

Re:Follow two principles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15315806)

I sympathize with your situation, but I doubt that they will step up and do right by you based on what you said.

Thanks.. I definitely agree and am not expecting much from them. Since I am still going to school, they work around my school schedule, and I am not driving (work is close to public transportation), I am going to take advantage of it while I can. I expect that by the time I get my degree, I will be moving on to better things (I already have my sights set on a state job). I know the environment might not be better, but I know the pay is. I can only hope that after I eventually leave, they might realize how underappreciated I was when working there, and maybe it will help the next guy in line who has the same work ethic as myself. I know that is doubtful, but atleast something to consider before leaving.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315655)

...because I already replied elsewhere in this thread and can't.

Re:Follow two principles (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15316114)

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 have one of these at work. To add insult to injury, the man has a higher job title than the rest of us and makes $1000.00 more per month, all because he has a fucking BA and a NT4 MCSE (he was never able to obtain his Win2k MCSE). Due to his obvious deficiencies, he has been relegated to maintaining a list of static IP addresses in an excel sheet, cloning new computers (he fucks this up all the time) and setting up new network printers (another thing he routinely fucks up). He really has it made. If a server's RAID array blows up at 3AM, he's never the one who has to come in to fix it, because he wouldn't know what the fuck to do anyway.

I routinely have to clean up this clowns messes. I would estimate I end up fixing at least one thing per month that he screws up. They are usually not big things, but still, they are time wasters and they reflect badly on our department, because they it usually involved setting up someones new PC incorrectly.

So, you might ask "How dumb could he be?" Let me tell you.

One time, five years ago when I was new, he decided that the network neighborhood was "messy", so he decided to do some "housecleaning". He deleted every computer account in our NT4 domain, except for of course *his* computer and thankfully, the servers. The idiot had an MCSE in NT4 and didn't understand the consequences of his actions. I, the new guy, who only had a high school diploma, has to explain to this ass hat what him deleting all of those accounts meant, and then of course I, the new guy, had to go around and re-add all of the computers to the domain.

The last server he was in charge of was around 4 years ago. It was a SQL7 box. We got an email from NASA's IT dept (seriously) complaining that the box was infected and was hitting their network. I went to check it out, and it turned out it was running SQL7, with no updates applied and a blank SA password.

Another system he was in charge of before that was a web server. He was asked to install FTP on it so the site could be updated. He set it up so that anonymous user had full read/write access to the web root. Talk about "making it easy for the users"!

Oh, and in case you are wondering - no, I am not making any of this up. I'm not even embellishing.

Re:Follow two principles (1)

ximenes (10) | more than 8 years ago | (#15317038)

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 when someone has them; it usually means they're trying to force their way into a job that they aren't right for.

A degree is somewhat more valuable, although plenty of people that I work with don't have one. I know that I never learned anything about systems administration by taking computer science courses. I see it as showing that I was able to make it through a college degree program. It does demonstrate an ability to learn, even though most degrees don't come with much practical knowledge by themselves. Of course there are plenty of people with them that are still worthless, like your pal.

Re:Follow two principles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15323463)

Coupla friends in the parking lot with a baseball bat oughtta fix his little red wagon. :P

BOFH

My example (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316647)

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 very afraid of the technical expertise found there if they were to accidentally wander in.

A while back, some questions about wireless security policy and implementations came up. Some joker, I still don't know who, cc'd one of our executives who will be making the decisions on this issue in the future. I can picture this exec in his expensive suit, trailing an entourage, but that's just a fantasy. I don't know if it's true. What I *do* know is true is that the guy is a Blackberry addict. He answered the mail via his Blackberry. I don't think he could see everyone on his little screen. Literally dozens of people and a couple of lists with hundreds of subscribers were involved in what was a quite interesting blend of nitty-gritty tech and public policy.

Y'know, what? Every single email this guy posted (and he sent one every couple of hours) was along the lines of "Yes, we must be very careful and study this extensively." He had absolutely nothing to add. He was just making sure everyone knew he was around and didn't forget that he was in charge. Worse, he managed to reply specifically to some of the more clueless, technically wrong postings in agreement and it was obvious he was doing so simply because those postings were coming from middle managers who were throwing around the right buzzwords/executive jargon. It was totally freaking hilarious.

Then someone apparently told him he was showing his ignorance to a large group of people who could actually tell he had no idea what he was talking about. The Blackberry emails stopped suddenly.

Sad, really. It was fun while it lasted.

Re:Follow two principles (1)

smithy242 (682463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316849)

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

Thank you.

Re:Follow two principles (1)

nmos (25822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15318996)

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.

Re:Follow two principles (1)

ximenes (10) | more than 8 years ago | (#15320008)

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 something in IT don't want to be promoted above the level where you still do hands-on technical work, and so instead the IT losers wind up in the upper echelons (or people totally without IT experience from outside). They are either incompetent or fail to understand how to be effective managers, and so everything else stems from that in my mind.

The Blame Game (2, Insightful)

labal (804733) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315439)

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.

Re:The Blame Game (1)

ximenes (10) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315508)

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).

Re:The Blame Game (0)

pintomp3 (882811) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315696)

that's easy to say when it's your fault :)

Re:The Blame Game (3, Insightful)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316097)

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.

But for me, this usually works.

"Well, i want to a pornographic website, and there was this dialogue i didn't understand"
"I tried to install this wireless network at my home, and.."

Etc. pp. This usually works very well. Never get mad at someone who made a mistake, suppress your emotions, always stay calm, and tell them that you're there to help them (and get 200 bucks per hour).

Re:The Blame Game (1)

Nephilium (684559) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316695)

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 we're doing, but only when something wasn't working...

Another important thing I've learned is to update people, let them know that you are working on the problem, and if you've got any ideas what may be causing it, to let them know... most cool off quickly once you can show you understand the issue (both severity, and the way to fix it)...

But... these are only my experiences... YMMV...

Nephilium

Distributed responsibility (1)

lon3st4r (973469) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315462)

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.

The people who request tech-support should be made to understand the work requirements of the IT team. Sometimes people get too jumpy about their request and ask others to treat it as one with the highest priority. This may not necessarily be a good thing and I see a lot of conflicts where I work because of the same.

Re:Distributed responsibility (1)

cfsmp3 (774544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15324536)

Yes, that's what you want. Write everything down so people is more worried about covering their asses than doing actual work.

Tell them to THINK (1, Funny)

dascandy (869781) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315577)

A few days ago I received a laptop from the IT department for a business trip the day after. I told them to install some software on it. Net result was that I received a laptop with the software I requested - but without a login, and the software wasn't activated.

If the IT department thinks along with you those things shouldn't happen.

Re:Tell them to THINK (2, Informative)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316798)

A few days ago I received a laptop from the IT department for a business trip the day after. I told them to install some software on it. Net result was that I received a laptop with the software I requested - but without a login, and the software wasn't activated.

If the IT department thinks along with you those things shouldn't happen.

A very big question I would ask in this scenario is this: Who put it off to the last minute, and why? There may be a very good answer to this, but one thing that is generally not understood is that system builds never go smoothly. It is absolutely mandatory that enough lead time be in place that the little problems that will be encountered can be squashed before the deadline.

This entails cooperation on the part of both parties. The user needs to make the request in a timely fashion; the IT guys need to act on it in a timely fashion. The user should perform acceptance testing well before the facility is needed (in this case, a day or two would probably be OK). If something goes wrong in the acceptance testing, then the IT guys need to act on it straight away.

The IT world is frought with problems that refuse to solve under stress. Yes, thinking is a good idea, but it is no substitute for timeliness.

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

carpeweb (949895) | more than 8 years ago | (#15315666)

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).

Get a Service Level Agreement... (2, Informative)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 8 years ago | (#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).

Re:Get a Service Level Agreement... (1)

evilskull (612292) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316657)

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 scratch every time. It didn't help that I somehow managed to pick up every de-motivator in the list you've given while I was there.

But the point I was getting to is the flipside of the coin: sometimes SLA's become over-binding. I worked recently as a state contractor, and the management was strictly suits. No one technical was in charge, so it was buzzwords and misinformed or ill-reasoned logic making the choices. The teir 1/2 support had their time strictly measured and quantified, and using the SLA as justification (and they were perfectly willing to beat you about the head and shoulders with it), they managed to do a pretty good job at pulling the human aspect out of tech support.

Re:Get a Service Level Agreement... (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 8 years ago | (#15317487)

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 work that they do all the time behind the scenes. IT is probably the most under-appreciated responsibility in a company. Most non-technical management has no idea what is occuring, they simply know things work until the are broken. The IT staff gets yelled at when things break and they can't fix it in 5 minutes, and the get questioned as to why they keep the amount of IT staff when things are running smoothly (in other words, when the IT department is doing their job and being proactive about problems, non-technical management think they are wasting money on all the IT professionals they have, not realizing that the reason things ARE running smoothly is due to that group of people).

give me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15315966)

...beer and hookers for $200, Alex...

well, you did ask, and that's my answer

If it externally supplied by IBM... (1)

WebfishUK (249858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316465)

...buy 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.

Re:If it externally supplied by IBM... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15322409)

Sounds like you need to reboot.... NEXT!

Reboot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15316486)

Try rebooting before calling me. That would cut my work in half. Yeesh.

Wow where to begin (2)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316568)

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).

Re:Wow where to begin (1)

firebus (49468) | more than 8 years ago | (#15319412)

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 the team selecting the consultant if you're lucky) and you'll be ready present your world view when then consultant arrives.

Re:Wow where to begin (1)

NateTech (50881) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326014)

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.

Use common sense! (1)

travail_jgd (80602) | more than 8 years ago | (#15316702)

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 ordered, or someone's job is on the line.

3. If it's important, store it on the network drive -- where it gets backed up. IT can't restore data from stolen PCs.

[1] Everyone is admin on their PCs. Yeah, I know.
[2] Non IE browsers don't work for our apps. Again, I know. But it pays the bills. [3]
[3] Yes, the job market here is that bad for people without security clearances.

We need those CDs and honest answers (1)

Wiseleo (15092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15317574)

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 questions, we have a reason to ask those questions. We don't need to know your life story, so we will interrupt you with the next question after we get the information required. This may seam rude, but otherwise your bill will have an extra two hours attached to it. We've seen these problems so many times that there is simply no need to waste time listening to every little detail.
5. Learn to report problems. "It doesn't work" doesn't help me. I need detailed steps to reproduce the problem and ideally screen captures of the errors as well. Consider it to be more like a bug report, not a post-it note. "Word will not save documents after they are opened from Outlook and attempts to do so freeze the system" will help me a lot more because I knew that there was a specific bad patch released in the week prior.
6. Stop lying to us. We honestly do not care that you watch porn, we are there to solve your problems. Not disclosing fully your activities has a direct effect on your bill.
7. Be prepared to become a legal customer. If you are missing a license for something and you require us to reinstall that something, you should be prepared to buy the product.

In short, keep your answers informative and succinct and we'll have you back online in no time. We are there to solve problems, not be distracted.

OK, that's for end users.

Now for your datacenter

1. If we tell you something needs a dedicated server, that means you need it. There are incompetent people out there who'll dedicate a server to a 50MB MSDE database, but the majority of us are not that silly.
2. If we tell you that you need to upgrade, it could be because it would lower your immediate support costs and we wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.
3. Spend the money on training your IT staff. Studies show that happy IT people who receive training provide a higher return on your investment.
4. Spend the money to get a good monitoring environment setup. This money will be saved on emergency situations.
5. If you treat your IT department as fire fighters, you won't get much done that is of strategic importance. If your IT people are doing the jobs of developers, you may need to find out what on Earth they are developing. It is likely more cost-effective to get a vendor customization with a proper SDK.
6. If you fail to plan for disasters and skim on disk drives, your recovery bill will be astronomical very quickly.

Just a few tips off top of my head. :-)

Oh let me count the ways.. (1)

archeress2000 (974480) | more than 8 years ago | (#15318177)

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 about their problem when they can just come to my office and tell me about it. We also just recently changed everyone's user accounts to just that, users. All these changes are going to be very beneficial in the long run but it's hard to change people's habits to adapt to these changes. I know alot of big companies probably use the same sort of strategies but I wonder if they are too much for small companies, perhaps at smaller companies a different approach is required?

Addressing the rift between sys admins and users, nothing ticks me off more then when I go to someone's computer to fix a problem and they accuse me of causing it in the first place. I just started back at my job last week , it's a summer thing, and I go to help someone and the first thing he said was "Now I know you were on my computer and this wasn't here before, and I would like it changed back". I was polite and told him I hadn't touched his computer yet and the response was "well someone was on here". I'm not rude to my co-workers, I don't accuse them of doing their jobs wrong or question them, so why can't they show me the same respect? My question is, how do you deal with people like that without being rude or condescending?

Ah the life of a sys admin ;)

Whip them into shape? (1)

drgroove (631550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15318401)

One word: ITIL

Re:Whip them into shape? (1)

Lazbien (788979) | more than 8 years ago | (#15323745)

Hear Hear So long as we avoid COBIT ;-)

How? (4, Informative)

nastyphil (111738) | more than 8 years ago | (#15318512)

how can users work peacefully and effectively with their IT department?

Simple.

STFU.

RTFM.

It's the PHB's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15319350)

Why would anyone in *business* need to even wonder how to 'get the most out of xyz'resource? It is so obviously an elephant in the living room type problem.

The PHB don't give a s***. If they did, they would fix the problem. The fix would likely even many of the things that have looooong be discussed in the forum.

While the managment doesn't care to manage, then processes and relations seek there lowest level of functionality.

I don't care who you are... be ready to work... (1)

knisa (209732) | more than 8 years ago | (#15321689)

... 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."
"WHAT IS YOUR LAST NAME?!?!"
"What?"
"WHAT IS YOUR LAST NAME?"

Or...

"Hi, this is Joe Blow, Manager of widget development, and I'm having problems with Outlook."
"Ok Joe, let's start -"
"Hang on, I need to take this call..."
  - Wait three minutes, hang up, repeat. -

Or...
"Hi, this is Joe Blow, Manager of widget development, and I'm having problems with Outlook."
"Ok Joe, let's start by making sure you're on the network"
"Oh, we can't do that now, I'm getting on a plane and have to hang up."
"Uh... OK, call us back when you're on the network and available to work then."

Don't call unless you're ready to work and paying attention! Otherwise you're going to make critical mistakes and the support people will just get ticked.

Who can help who? (1)

donak (609594) | more than 8 years ago | (#15324388)

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 can come and ask me a question or get me to look at their PC, to make an initial assesment.

If I can't fix it or don't understand it within 2 to 3 minutes, I'll tell them to phone the IT guys on the 4th floor. Often if it's something simple ... it is fixed within that 2 or 3 minute time frame, and we all get back to what we were doing.

It has taken training of all users, by repeated requests of "what was on the screen when it stopped working?" "what was the error message?" etc. but most of them know how valuable information of this sort is now.

I believe that a part of that job is to share as much knowledge as the users are prepared to take on, sometimes not a lot, but any they take on board helps.

I also get listened to, if I think there's something worth whinging about to the IT guys, we have a couple of "email forums" for discussions of tech issues etc. so the communication channels are open and working.

So I guess the key points I'm trying to make are:

1. Resources are not only time/money, people who know enough to share the load are an asset, treat them that way ... if your management can acknowledge the help "power-users" "geeks" and such like people can render at a pinch, it's all good.

2. Communicate! the more people know, the more they can help themselves+each other+you.
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