Networking

Diary of Edward Chen: Offering support is all in a day's work

Even as an IT manager, users still see you as a solver of problems. In his Thursday diary entry, IT Manager Edward Chen struggles to make it back to his office without being stopped.


By Edward Chen

This week, IT Manager Republic is featuring the daily diary of Edward Chen, an IT manager for a nonprofit public broadcasting station.

9:00 A.M.
I am late, battling a viral infection in my throat. The HVAC for the building is broken, and the stale air in the office does not help.

I take part in a conference call with the director of new media and a customer relationship management (CRM) service provider. We commission them to demonstrate how their system’s outbound e-mail management will work. We’re debating whether or not to use an outside vendor to handle our CRM needs. Traditionally, this would be hosted in-house, but the infrastructure and development costs to do this are high. The attractiveness of this particular CRM vendor is their low cost and capabilities. They reduced their prices in light of our nonprofit status and our position in the community. I hope the test will go smoothly and will convince us they can handle the job.

Did you miss these diary entries?
Diary of Edward Chen: Planning to launch a Web site update
Diary of Edward Chen: Dealing with vendors
Diary of Edward Chen: Living with legal issues


10:00 A.M.
I meet the crew from NEC-BNS and Cisco in the lobby and invite them to our weekly status meeting. We review the details of our PIX 535 and Catalyst 4006 installation as part of the Cisco network infrastructure rebuild. They assign a project manager to our account, and he quickly goes through a list of action items and confirms several milestone dates.

We also set up a knowledge transfer and overview session of the PIX capabilities for later next week. Both NEC-BNS and Cisco are treating us well and dedicating a lot of manpower and time to this project.

My Cisco account manager also brought in a storage specialist to talk about Cisco’s new storage router product and long-term strategy. Cisco acquired a company called NuSpeed and released their storage router product: the Cisco SN5420. It will give us the flexibility to extend our SAN beyond the port count on a traditional SAN switch. Conceptually, it’s a great solution and wows me instantly.

12:30 P.M.
He is unfamiliar with database applications and was looking at ACT or Access to fulfill his needs. I immediately shoot an e-mail back to him advising against both solutions and propose a meeting to further discuss the matter.

1:00 P.M.
I meet with the HR and finance departments to wrap up the implementation of their new HRIS system. The implementation was not pretty. Expectations about the implementation time, effort, responsibilities, and the application’s capabilities were based on misinformation. The vendor also underestimated the complexity of the processes and application requirements.

The project started before I joined the organization. The first thing I did was to remove the IT staff member assigned to managing the implementation. It made little sense for IT to spearhead another department’s project.

I lobbied for the HR department to find their own project manager, and they wisely hired an outside consultant.

2:00 P.M.
I leave with the director of new media to a small café across the street from our building for a weekly status meeting. We normally meet once a week, but lately it’s been once a month. I update him on my Cisco project, and we discuss the tasks on the Web site relaunch.

3:00 P.M.
I quickly meet with my networking staff to discuss the events of the week and any outstanding issues. I instituted “wassup” meetings (after the television commercial) to get quick status updates from the staff. It is a short meeting where we zip through our task lists to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Specific issues are addressed in individual meetings or during the monthly IT department meeting, if it can wait. Immediately after the meeting, the system administrator and I set a time to review the new Project Central server application.

3:30 P.M.
The assistant system administrator has a problem with a Windows 2000 laptop. It was displaying an “NTLDR missing” error. I find out the laptop contains a Japanese version of Windows 2000 Professional because it belongs to a Japanese intern who brought it to work to translate Japanese files into English. Fortunately, we have an established policy of not supporting machines not purchased by the organization. We did her a favor by setting her on the network, but we could not fix her problem.

I give her a couple of suggestions and send her off. I hate to do it, but everyone knows our support limitations. We currently have a ratio of one person handling help desk calls for 300 users, so we have to limit our scope.

I do offer to help fix her machine personally if she can find a Japanese version of Windows 2000 Professional.

4:00 P.M.
I get a call from our tape library technician. She has a problem accessing the television operations scheduling application. I discover that she is on an earlier version of the client software. The system administrator instructed all the users on how to apply the new update, but the librarian may have selected the wrong option. I am stopped in the hallway to repeat the process on another computer with the same problem.

I am stopped again to show someone how to bypass the Windows 95 network login screen so they can work on the local machine. These people are not familiar with PCs, so I patiently walk them through it.

4:30 P.M.
A staff member from our finance department stops me on the way to my office. She has an Excel question and needs to know how to add an entry into a cell’s validation list. I spend a little extra time explaining how it works, and I’m back in my office.

It’s odd that as an IT director, you’re still expected to answer help calls. But it’s the nature of the job. This position requires you to be a patient teacher, an excellent negotiator, and a technology integrator. Hey, the HVAC just kicked in!

6:30 P.M.
I wrap up my day by responding to e-mails and getting some paperwork done. Tomorrow, I will talk to our legal department about the Web agency contract and call my new streaming vendor. I still have not heard from them.

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