Business Technology

Wednesday 27 August 2014

IT staff to the rescue

Far from being the villains, system administrators are the heroes that cover for our lack of tech knowledge

Adrian Weckler

Published 19/06/2014 | 02:30

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Which of the following lines reflects a view you might have articulated at some point recently?

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(i) "Our IT support staff are doing a great job."

(ii) "Our IT support staff are bloody useless."

In Ireland, IT system administrators – the tech folks you call when your email doesn't work or your screen freezes – are constantly maligned. Much of the abuse is grounded in basic ignorance. It's all IT, we harumph, so why can't these clowns just fix the bloody things and stop interrupting our productive day?

Usually, we're the clowns. Usually, we're the ones who click on some (moronically) stupid link to infect the office's network, resulting in a crackdown on our basic permissions from then on.

Or we're the ones who think it's okay not to know how to use basic business email services, preferring to 'call IT' when we want to retrieve something from an archive.

And we're definitely the ones who loudly proclaim, with no sense of shame whatsoever, that we're "not tech experts" when asked why we don't know what our password for the company's document network is.

Many of us claim, with a straight face, to be part of a flourishing hi-tech economy while refusing to learn the absolute basics of modern tools.

Take day-to-day processes. Which of the following workplace processes do you regard as being the responsibility of 'IT' rather than yourself? (i) PC (ii) IT security (iii) passwords and logins (iv) file backups (v) smartphone operation (vi) email operation.

Would you say that it's all six? Really? And is it the responsibility of your wife or husband to make sure you leave the house each day dressed for work? (After all, you're not "a fashion expert".)

Here are a few other canards that Irish 'business executives' throw at IT system administrators from time to time.

1 "I asked for a new system and I've gotten nothing."

This is clearly because the IT staff are sitting around spending your allocated PC's budget on vintage cognac and Montenegrin bonbons.

It couldn't possible be because they have not been allocated the budget to buy you a new PC. And it definitely has nothing to do with senior directors deciding that the 'prudent' thing to do is to let IT systems "tick over" rather than "throwing" money at frothy things like modern new PCs.

2 "We spent a fortune on that IT contract. And it doesn't do any of this new cloud stuff."

No, because you didn't ask it to. Nor did your submit any type of intelligent query relating to oncoming 'cloud' functionality when the IT contract was at a formative stage.

You see, the flip side to "not being a tech expert" is that you go into IT contracts uninformed and frequently waste a lot of money on things you don't need.

Then you pay double at a later point when you need to 'bolt on' things that you really should have asked for in the first place.

3 "I've called IT but I can't get a response. Where are they?" Just think of IT staff as a lowly functionary placed somewhere between your personal butler and a receptionist.

They're there to serve and please you at the touch of your phone's call button. Because that's what many of us really think about system admin staff, isn't it? As our office hygienists? Gofers who are there to facilitate the real productivity heroes of the office (meaning us)? After all, what they do is simply to keep the machines working while we make the magic, right?

Wrong. Reality check: most Irish 'executives' have far more transferable 'skills' than the technical abilities that typical IT staff possess.

If you think that you are 'the talent' and your IT support guy is 'the help', you're in for a rude awakening at some point very soon.

4 "Sure it's all just IT." Is your home telly's remote control 'IT'? How about your doorbell? Or your pacemaker? Is your lunch money "finance"?

Amazingly, some still regard a Google search or a text message as being 'IT'. This mentality is often the same one that asks for things to be 'printed off' (so that they're "real").

To be fair, some IT departments, especially large corporate ones, do sometimes take on bad habits.

For example, many longtime IT system administrator staff appear to adopt an unduly hostile attitude toward 'cloud' services, probably because they cut out a lot of what they get paid to do. Many others still fervently hang on to BlackBerry and older Windows support in their companies because it's what they are comfortable with. But IT support staff are rarely villains in any piece. If you're looking for the cause of most of your IT problems, look in the mirror.

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