Happy New Year! I declare 2001 the Year of Tech Support and Training. It’s not that I think network and software engineers don’t deserve their own year. It’s that I think that the state of our end users is so bad, we need to dedicate an entire year to helping them catch up.

To that end, I came up with several IT New Year’s resolutions for myself. If you haven’t done so already, I challenge you to make your own resolutions for how you’re going to improve support in your organization.

I will be more tolerant of ignorance
One of the most important rules in face-to-face tech support or training is: “Never let ’em see you roll your eyes.” End users can sense a condescending thought, so resolve to treat your end users and your students with genuine respect.

I recently had a rude reminder of that rule. I stopped to help a coworker with an Excel problem. It turns out the formulas in a few of the cells had been overwritten. In pointing out the literal values compared to the formulas, it struck me that this person didn’t understand the difference, and I guffawed.

I didn’t mean to do it, and I tried to stifle it, but it came out. Why? Based on the person’s job title alone, I assumed a better understanding of a column of Sum functions. It wasn’t a relationship-killer—my apology was accepted—but it wasn’t my proudest moment in ad hoc tech support.

So this year, I resolve to be more patient, more tolerant, and more understanding of my end users when I provide internal training and support for events like these:

  • Migration from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook
  • Upgrading the network to Windows 2000
  • Moving users from Office 97 to Office 2000
  • Using a new timesheet application
  • Mastering a new SQL interface

I will make time for training and documentation
Okay, this one’s a gimme for me. My job is to provide training and create and maintain technical documentation.

But if you’re in charge of “everything IT” in your organization, it’s easy to let training and documentation slide down on your priority list. So I urge you to resolve, with me, to do one of the following each and every week of the year:

  • Teach a class. Give your salespeople lessons in IT jargon. Have an open session for questions and answers about your network. Teach a “power tips for Word” class.
  • Update the intranet. Even if your intranet is just some HTML files on a network drive, update something or publish something new on that intranet every week. Publish your phone list, company seating charts, and technical tips.
  • Introduce yourself to new users. Whatever your job title, from help desk analyst to CIO, take time to talk to your end users occasionally. Introduce yourself to a new coworker (or visit someone you haven’t seen in a while). Ask for feedback about the “system.” New people frequently see things the rest of us have overlooked. Don’t be a stranger to your users.

I will learn something new
This IT resolution is the hardest one to keep. Our industry changes so rapidly, we are forced to learn new things just to do our jobs competently or to earn a certification in order to get a job.

This year, I’m resolving to add something entirely new to my skill set. To this end, I will take a free class online, buy and read a book or two, and maybe take an IT class at a local technical school or university. First up on my list: I’m going to learn how to use PhotoShop.

One of the best things about being in IT is that your peers constantly challenge you to keep up with them, in terms of technical knowledge and ability to execute. How have you resolved to improve the quality of IT support that you provide? Please post a comment below or drop me a note.
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