Heaven Help IT as Workers Take Hardware into Own Hands

Ann All

How do you feel about your company's help desk -- love it or hate it?


If you are like a lot of folks, the honest answer may be "yes" on both counts.


I have an adversarial relationship with my PC and limited tech skills for dealing with any problems that arise. I suspect these qualities make me a pretty "average" user.


I lean toward the "love" side of the equation when it comes to tech support, because the primary go-to guy here is polite and patient to a fault. Yet that hasn't always been my experience. At my last job, the support guy barricaded himself in the server room and refused to come out for days at a stretch -- unless summoned by a member of senior management.


User frustration? I can definitely relate. Yet I am neither competent nor confident -- some might say crazy -- enough to attempt to fix my own PC. I'll try the classic "reboot" option -- because I've found it works much of the time, with no need to trouble my support guy.


According to a recent survey of UK office workers, more than half of them do the same thing. Rebooting I can understand, but 13 percent of respondents say they would plow through a manual and a shocking 9 percent say they'd dismantle their machine -- sans assistance -- and try to fix it. Just 30 percent of respondents say they'd register the problem with the dedicated IT staff.


An executive from Richmond Systems, the company that commissioned the survey, says the results indicate that employees have a lack of confidence in their help desks. This attitude was echoed in a 2005 survey by Forrester Research in which employees ranked the help desk dead last in terms of being necessary to do their jobs. Not only that, but the more employees used the help desk, the least likely they were to be satisfied with it.


My support guy says he "can understand the DIY approach" because "there are a lot of less than good support people out there." But he also says the "end user is more likely to do harm than good." In addition to possibly wreaking havoc on the hardware, overly self-sufficient users could make IT staff less efficient by reducing their visibility into what is really going on at those desktops.


So what's an IT manager to do? Best practices such as ITIL and a methodology called support center practices have helped some companies improve IT/user relations. While such programs are great, there are plenty of less formal but still effective ways of improving communications between users and IT. Some examples from an eWEEK article: putting the two groups in close proximity and organizing job exchanges.

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