IT Policies

Never judge people until you have walked a mile in their shoes

I believe that it is important to gain experience in a variety of departments. Maybe we should try out a few other jobs to help us do our own.

People who work the help desk can often benefit from a visit to other departments, to build relationships with other teams, to gain an understanding of how their support efforts impact other teams, and to improve personal skills. How would it be if the reverse were to be tried?

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Part of the skill training for a good help desk is gaining a good working knowledge of other disciplines within the IT department, and I have always believed that the best way to achieve this is to allow help desk analysts to experience other departments. I also believe that people from other departments benefit from seeing how frontline support works.

Many people will be horrified at the suggestion that they spend some time on the help desk, but if you haven’t done it there is a lot you can learn, especially about the art of dealing with people and understanding the systems from their point of view, rather than the one shown by the noncustomer facing teams.

There is an old saying that goes something like “Never judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.” In this instance you must work alongside other departments, and I don’t just mean other parts of the IT department but all other parts of the organization you work for, so that you can gain a real understanding of what those departments are using your system for. You will be able to show better working methods to those departments, and you will also be able to improve the way you provide support.

Think how your software developers could enhance their offering if they spent more time with the end users?

How would it be if the network administrator got to see the kind of query that the help desk deals with on a daily, if not hourly, basis?

Similarly, if the help desk learned a bit about other parts of the department, wouldn’t it be a good thing, helping us with the way that we handle calls, allowing us to know a little more about their needs, and enabling us to ask more intelligent questions when assembling information to pass on to the other teams.

The help desk is all about handling problems.

What do you think? Would you be happy to sit in on the help desk or leave the desk and meet up with other teams? Please let me know what you think.

15 comments
azra.rizal
azra.rizal

In my early days, my first job was the Help Desk Analyst. I love my jobs to bits because I would walk around the company, all 30 floor. As a techie, at times, you would look down and loathe at the users who keep on forgetting their password, or complained that something is wrong with their workstation only to find that they have unplugged the mouse and the keyboard. Through my 1:1 with them, I can see that, they're human, they may be expert in their field, HR or Finance for instance, but IT is alien to them. Turn the table around, Finance and HR is also alien to IT. I'd be happy to do the rounds, get 1:1 with my users instead of doing it remotely.

enquiries
enquiries

i actually did a lot of their jobs first, before I.T. I was the administrator in an office, a job which requiried basic accounting, phones, document creation, and so forth. During that time i was studying for the computer gig. I view the time spent on the other side as invaluable.

Mick_obrien685
Mick_obrien685

yes. I've done "helpdesk" in many varieties since 1976 and I can assure you that this skill is very poorly treated (and paid). "Old hat stuff" Companies will spend Billions to present themselves in the avertising world but do not realise that a kind, calm, word at the right time from the helpdesk will last far longer than the transient TV ad's. EVERYONE in a company should do a little regular helpdesk time, even if it's just to learn some new rude words!

ginmemphis
ginmemphis

Since I have other work besides tech support, visiting other areas helps me to understand what their needs really are. Non-tech people often can't tell me if a need is urgent or not. One user never wants to "bother" me, then I find her twiddling her thumbs for hours; another says it's urgent when he can't view a family photo on the web. The more I know about users, jobs and schedules the better I can judge how critically I am needed, or whether they can even follow directions by phone.

moleman
moleman

Being from a military background, regardless of what job you ultimately end up doing, it all starts with BASIC TRAINING. All of the high tech war toys are excellent tools, however, often the battle comes down to the grunt and their rifle. We are not all race car drivers, but isn't nice to know, or at least hope, that the other person driving their car down the same road that you are on knows at least the basics of operating the car. In football, games are won or lost if the ball is dropped, by there being someone else there to pick it up and continue the game. Cross training is essential and I highly support it. Knowing what the other person goes through builds a stronger understanding and a much better team.

art
art

Empathy is good, and you really should sit back an consider that your job and expertise is not theirs. Further, remember that if they knew what you know about IT, they wouldn't need you and you wouldn't have a job. That said, this is how I see it. I had a request from a user to help her edit a PDF. But it wasn't a real PDF (with text, etc.) but a jpeg page shot encapsulate. I was trying to explain the difference to her (a staff psychologist) when she turned to me and asked if I could tell her the 5 signs of schizophrenia. At first I felt apologetic, and then I regained my senses. She worked with a computer all day. I never worked with schizophrenics. She had I need to understand the tools she used every day. I had no need to understand the intricacies of mental health. And that's the difference. While we can't expect our users to know everything we know about computers, it is reasonable to expect them to have a basic understanding of the tool they use every day. We do not have a converse need to have more than a basic understanding of the things they do. Only enough to understand how they impact on their computer needs.

AndrewB_NZ
AndrewB_NZ

Where I work, the first week or so of your employment is spent in an induction. On your first day you do the rounds and meet everyone for a couple of seconds, get your desk etc. Then you move on through each department and sit with various people throughout the week, some just for a couple of minutes, others for an hour or so while they tell and show you what they do and how it fits into the big picture. It's a lot of information to take in, but it is spread over a week(+) and gives you a good grounding in what everyone does and also another chance at learning their names! :)

JamesRL
JamesRL

....at a previous employer, we made this part of training for people doing PC Tech jobs, and datacenter jobs. What they learned is what level of information the customer provided, what stress the help desk was under and how cases initated. Everyone thought it worthwhile. James

shanse3
shanse3

...Then when you do judge them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes. -Jack Handey

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

"...and other duties as assigned." As an Air Force radio technician, I worked on computers, printers, faxes, voice & data circuits and equipment, cabling, antennas, and even televisions & monitors [u]in addition to[/u] the radios. There's a reason IT people with military experience are generally more adaptable. We've already done it all!

Mick_obrien685
Mick_obrien685

You left the story open-ended, no resolution, and in an helpdesk environment, that is bad. Or prehaps it was the "other guy" we should be talking too?

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

To me it is not really about empathy. I worked on a help desk on my first job, because that is where I needed to start to get my foot in. It wasn't about knowledge to do the more in depth jobs, but level of experience, that decided whether you were hired for help desk or other positions. And I know this happens more than just at my old job. If they would have given me the opportunity to sit in with one of the server techs or the network techs, I would have been able to learn even more and see how that particular organization ran its day to day IT needs. But because everyone (there) looked down on the help desk as the ones who couldn't cut it, and we were rarely given the opportunity to move up the IT dept. I was lucky to land the job I have and am glad my boss gives me the room to learn more about the systems as well as my other responsibilities.

Oldmanmike
Oldmanmike

I've found that some of my biggest contributions to organizations I've worked for have come from sitting down with users in different departments and watching how they do their work. Without sounding like only IT knows the secrets, it's surprising how many people outside of IT take advantage of the technical tools that are available in a normal enterprise. By taking a day to tag along with other groups, you not only get the opportunity to see what others have to deal with, you also have the chance to help them do their job better. At a minimum you will build a better rapport with others in your office.

Tink!
Tink!

Love it. :D Seriously though, this article has a good point. You really can't fully judge a person/department until you've experienced what they go through. Where I used to work they had EVERYONE start at reception for your first week. No matter what position you were hired for, you started sat at Reception for your first few days just so you could get an introduction to the office and who was who. Plus, when the Receptionist was out, they put it upon everyone else to take turns covering, so this was a way to train everyone for that part. However, looking back, I realized that soon after I started working there, that policy stopped altogether, and I became the sole back-up receptionist and trainer for a while. Maybe I was too good? LOL.

art
art

Are you asking me? Well there was no result. I am her co-worker, not her supervisor. She remains blissfully ignorant of even the most basic things of her computer. When I encounter users who are proud of their ignorance, I use the automobile analogy. Drivers don't need to know the intricacies of their transmissions, but they need to be able to refuel, to check the oil level and tire pressure.

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