The Problems with IT Support

It goes without question that the biggest headache most knowledge workers deal with is the IT department.   Getting basic stuff done, like setting permissions so you can access a file you need or getting your computer fixed, seem to take forever.   I’ve worked in both large and small environments, and in almost every case, working with the IT staff has been a pain in the butt.

Why is this?   It’s because it all starts at the help desk.

The only number most companies give for getting IT support is the help desk phone number, so everyone knows it.   The folks on the IT end of the phone are either entry-level IT pros, old timers who haven’t skilled themselves out of the department, or, worst case, a call center person reading a script to simply fill in a form with your issue.

In only the most common cases (password resets and “reboot your computer”) does the first-level support person fix the issue without further research.  That is, Googling while you are either waiting on the phone or waiting for a callback.   If it’s beyond that, you can bet that the ticket is moving up to an administrator or engineer for further examination.

In the ITIL model, which basically all service desk groups follow, the only person allowed to talk to the end user is the service desk person.    That means that the engineer who works on your ticket isn’t usually allowed to contact you back.   You have to wait for the engineer to get back to the service desk person, who then contacts you.   It’s a back and forth routine that is inefficient and doesn’t work for anyone, other than keeping the engineer from having to actually speak to the end user.  Heaven forbid!

If all of that isn’t enough, you get larger companies having a “service catalog” and a “support form”, which are actually different things.   If you call the help desk to do something like, “I need to borrow a projector,” you get yelled at for not using the service catalog.   In other words, the ITIL process itself makes it such that the end user has a prescribed “right” way to contact IT.

What’s the solution?   Have all the engineers, administrators, and everyone else rotate through help desk duty one week a month.   This puts higher-end knowledge right there and keeps from passing the tickets around, plus forces everyone to remember that the end users really are the important thing.  And when the engineers go back to their “regular” work, they know what the hell has been going on and can look for long-term solutions for the problems.   I can tell you that engineers and admins aren’t digging through support ticket reports to find stuff to work on, as they have enough to do already.  If it directly affects them, though, they’ll definitely try to fix it.

How about when end users call, instead of routing them to the “right” form, filling it out for them and getting it done?  It is not the responsibility of the end user community to contact you the way you want to be contacted.  If you get contacted, respond and do your job.   I understand that there are some forms of communication that work better than others (I don’t like outages to be posted on Yammer at 3am on a Sunday morning, either), and you cannot be responsible 24/7/365 for responding to everything, but the help desk number is already well-known.   Use it.

During business hours, how about having all IT folks available for support?   This doesn’t mean that they are all going to fix the problems, but a warm body answering the phone is definitely better than a scripted call center employee.   At least the IT folks would have a chance of knowing how to route things appropriately, too.

Finally, and this is just a pet peeve of mine, when the user asks for help and doesn’t provide you all the troubleshooting information you think you need to come up with an answer, contact them to get it.   Don’t send them an email with 75 things that they need to provide…you need to call them and walk them through it, or even connect remotely and get the information yourself.   If they knew how to obtain all the troubleshooting information, chances are good that they could read it themselves and fix their own problem.   It is our job to get the information and get things moving.

Just my 2 cents.   Or 3.   Or however much.


Written on February 16, 2016