If you’re in a small company with a handful of technical people working in a non-technology based industry, it can be difficult to get your point across and see eye to eye with IT and tech support. It’s not that we speak a different language, or that we aren’t human, it’s just that we see the world differently than most. That’s what makes us good at what we do.
Larger organizations have the benefit of communicating through business analysts instead of directly to tech people. Business analysts are like translators that shield business people from IT people, and more importantly, shield IT people from business people. If you find yourself working directly with IT people, here are some tips to help you work together towards amazing results.
1. Take time to explain yourself thoroughly
Often times you have highly skilled IT people working in different industries such as insurance, law offices, accounting firms etc. Programmers don’t need to know what the general ledger is nor does tech support know how excess liability is calculated. It is important to realize that your IT person may not understand exactly what you’re trying to do, or why you’re trying to do it. Take the time to explain the business reason for what you’re doing and why. Stay away from jargon and slow down. A good approach is to get whoever you’re talking to, to repeat the issue back to you to ensure you’re on the same page.
2. Provide a wish list, separating needs and wants
Sometimes it’s important to do some blue sky thinking and wish big. You don’t know what you don’t know. Something that might seem impossible to you might only take 10 clicks and a couple keystrokes. Feel free to lay it all out there and see what comes back. Highlight the mandatory requirements so it’s clear what needs to be done, but feel free to include the nice to haves because a few extra minutes of work might save you countless hours in the future.
3. Provide an excruciating amount of detail
You wouldn’t believe how frequently tickets come with details like “my computer won’t work” or “something is wrong with Outlook”. This doesn’t tell anyone anything. When troubleshooting a problem, it is important to have all of the facts. If you’re asking tech support for assistance, include key details such as:
- Date and time of occurrence
- Exactly what steps led to the problem
- A screenshot or copy and paste any errors or messages that pop up
- What steps, if any, you have taken to try to resolve the issue yourself
Don’t assume the person on the other side knows anything about you. Some people manage hundreds or thousands of workstations, printers, servers, users, offices etc. The more detail you can provide up front means the less back and forth there is – which neither party likes.
4. We don’t make the rules, we just enforce them
Upset about password complexity requirements? Angry about having to reset your password every 3 months? Frustrated that Facebook is blocked during business hours? Chances are, so is the person you’re talking to. IT departments and IT staff don’t typically create the rules, but it is their job to enforce them. If you’re upset about company policy around technology, it’s best to take it up with your manager.
5. Don’t be dramatic
Nothing drives IT people crazier than an email subject line of “HELP!!” or telling us how huge of a problem it is. Any email received by tech support is asking for help, you don’t need to include it in all caps with exclamation points. Tickets aren’t prioritized by the number of caps included in your subject line. Prioritization happens around severity and impact. How many dollars per hour are we losing? How many people can’t currently do their job? These are important factors that assist with getting your ticket to the top. Please do highlight if your team of 8 cannot process payments and twiddling their thumbs, just do it without the caps.
6. Answer questions directly and don’t take offense
IT people are logical beings. They know that human error typically counts for about one third of IT incidents (Source) . That being said, you’ll have to excuse any questions suggesting you have done something wrong. Statistically speaking, that’s probably the most likely outcome. Realize that it’s not about who is to blame, it’s about resolving an issue. Don’t take it personally.
7. Be honest
As a follow up to #6, don’t try to get away with things. Log files don’t lie, and chances are if you are providing half truths about what happened you will end up wasting tech support’s time. And that’s a precious thing. Just be honest if you did something out of the ordinary or that might have caused a disruption. The sooner IT knows that someone has fallen for a phishing attempt, opened an infected file, or unplugged a server, the sooner they can solve the problem and minimize the impacts.
8. Don’t ask if it’s possible.
Yes it’s possible. Techies live in a world of infinite possibilities. The question is, “how much money do you want to spend”, “how much time do you want to invest”, and “how good do you want the end result to be?”.
9. Complaining about passwords.
I manage IT for a 25 person operation and have to keep track of literally hundreds of randomly generated passwords that have to meet higher complexity requirements than any of our users. You won’t get a lot of sympathy for your password woes from the IT department.
10. Don’t tell someone how to do their job
Don’t call tech support and tell them how to fix the problem. If you knew how to fix the problem yourself, you wouldn’t be calling tech support in the first place. Getting into an argument about how to solve a problem or what you think caused the problem in the first place will just agitate your IT person. Leave the tech work to them.