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  • Writer's pictureTim Bourdois, CNE

Getting the most out of IT has little to do with technology…

Updated: Mar 28, 2018

Sounds a bit counter intuitive doesn’t it? It’s true however. I’ve worked with many organizations the world over during my career, and the one thing that’s very consistent is how frustrated many users are with the tools they’ve been given. Let’s think about that statement for a moment… “the tools they’ve been given”. I taught a class on this subject a few years ago and it seems things haven’t changed much since then, so I thought I’d share a little insight with you.

Most people, when they join a company, are oriented on how they’re paid, what workplace policies exist, where the lunchroom and restrooms are, but many are left to fend for themselves when it comes to IT. The good neighbour/coworker policy helps for a time, but all too often, users have to figure it out for themselves. In larger companies, staff are usually provided with a point of contact in the office or department who directs IT issues to a help desk or service provider, or they may have been given direct access to support. In many smaller companies however, end users either call the office manager or in frustration, try to figure it out on their own. When your workstation or applications start to misbehave or crash, who do you turn to when you don’t know what to do? Many people choose to suffer with a problem for fear of looking foolish or incapable rather than speaking up and asking for help. Then there are times when you do speak up and no one listens! The IT support person shows up, does his bit to try and resolve your challenge and moves on to the next issue (they’re super busy people too). Living with a technology challenge is almost worse than the problem itself, yet I see people suffer with them all the time. People then get used to living in fear of “the next time” it might or will happen and then their productivity suffers. It's like walking with a limp.

Whether you’re at a big company with a help desk and an IT department, or if you’re at a small office with no internal support, these simple steps will help you get more out of your technology experience.

EMPOWER YOURSELF! It’s hard to believe, but there are still many people and companies who suffer with little or poor technical support, or they simply don’t know who to turn to. The tools you’ve been supplied with directly impact your productivity. If you don’t know where to turn to when IT issues arise, ask. And for goodness sake, don’t live with a problem. It makes it so much harder to solve when it’s been lingering for days or weeks! In larger companies, this can lead to or indicate a breakdown in workplace culture.

BE AWARE! Let’s face it, we’re all busy people. We have a job to do and our employer expects us to be productive. Whether you have IT staff or they’re contracted service providers, trust me when I tell you that they’re busy too. Knowing what’s happening with your technology is the best way to help yourself and the IT staff supporting you. Be aware of changes or anomalies with your equipment and software. Has there been a recent environmental change or were you prompted to install an update or change your password? Be prepared with this valuable information. Note when a problem starts and how long it’s been happening. Taking the time to record these details (including how often and when the problem occurs) is a big help and a cost saving aid in the diagnostic process. In my experience, it will lead to much faster problem resolution and believe me, your IT staff will thank you for it!

DON’T SUFFER IN SILENCE! Don’t live with a problem! While being aware is helpful, being prepared to ask for help when things aren’t going well is also wise. The longer you wait to deal with a problem, the harder it will likely be to diagnose and resolve. Another thing to consider is that you’re not alone. Maybe someone else in the office is having the same or similar problem too. You may be noticing a problem that’s part of a distributed service like a server or a server hosted application like Email. Speaking up about your challenges may just save the entire office valuable time and money! A quick caveat… while speaking up is a good thing, crying wolf is not so much. We all have a responsibility to make sure we’ve done our part. Check your cables and connections (if you’re comfortable doing so) and just do your best to be sure it’s not something simple. You may find out it’s was a simple problem after all, but doing your part first goes a long way with the people helping you and it also shows you value and respect your company.

YOU’RE NOT DUMB! Not knowing how to deal with technology is not a bad thing. I’m not a Doctor and I don’t pretend to know how to diagnose my medical issues. I don’t feel a bit bad when I ask for advice and my Doctor doesn’t mind answering my questions when I have them. You should be able to ask your IT service provider for helpful guidance from time to time. Your challenges are legitimate no matter how simple they may be. Asking questions about what went wrong once your challenge is solved is a reasonable thing to do. If your IT service provider’s response isn’t helpful or worse, they’re condescending, talk to your office manager or point of contact. No matter what your IT skill level is, you’re deserving of common courtesy and respect!

IF YOU DON’T KNOW, THEN DON’T. Not knowing what to do is not a bad thing, but it can make things much worse if you take matters into your own hands. Do what you know is safe and what you’re comfortable with. If you don’t know what to do, just ask for help and wait. Well-meaning friends and co-workers may provide suggestions but working with technology is a specialized skill that requires insight and experience. If you’re unsure or just don’t’ know, you might just make matters worse by trying to fix it yourself.

DON’T PANIC! If it’s broken and you don’t know how to fix it, speak up and find something productive to do while you wait for assistance. All problems can be solved one way or another but ignoring them is just as bad as being ignored. Again, letting a problem linger can actually make things worse, possibly even for the entire office.

ONE CAVEAT... if you think you’ve done something like opening an email you shouldn’t have and notice funny stuff starting to happen… JUST TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER! DON'T WAIT! Make a good mental note of what you see on your screen, or If you can, quickly take a picture of the screen if your phone is handy (don’t go looking for it) so you can inform the support staff about what was happening. Turning off your computer can save a lot of time, effort, data loss and money for your company.

If your company doesn’t have IT policies or a proactive management plan with their service provider, or if they haven’t guided you when it comes to the technology you’ve been provided with, talk to your manager about it. Hopefully your company has taken the time to create a technology troubleshooting or problem escalation protocol. If your company isn’t working with a service provider or they only provide technical services and can’t help you create a proactive management plan, there are organizations that can. If you’re at a larger company and find that internal IT staff don’t provide integrated, proactive business relative support then your company definitely needs help. The bottom line is, don’t suffer in silence.

Happy users and IT are not a myth!

Happy Computing!


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