Five Reasons for IT to Leave the Bat Cave

City, personnel, IBM room
Photo by Adolph B. Rice Studio                         Library of Virginia

Maybe it’s because I started out in IT working in a hospital, but I always have valued the process I call “doing the rounds.” This practice involves me several times a day just going for a wander around the office, talking to staff at their desks and seeing what’s going down. Here are five reasons why your IT department should do this too:

1. Enable you to catch issues before they become support cases (and those that never will)

So often people don’t call IT when they have a problem, and continue to struggle with problems.  By walking past when this happens, you can uncover these issues and solve them on the spot.

2. Enable very cost effective IT micro training

You’d be surprised how many times I’ve spotted someone either struggling with a software or doing something in a very inefficient way.  With 1-2 minutes of training you can save a person hours in their day.

3. Discover the unofficial IT systems people are using to get work done

Occasionally you will spot a random piece of software being used which shows a need IT hasn’t addressed.  Some practical examples of this are SMS tools, file sharing or photo sharing sites. Whilst there is nothing wrong with people using non-corporate versions of these tools, sometimes an organisation has access to cheaper or better versions through bulk purchase.

4. Develop a greater understanding of the organisation and its mission

Knowing what’s going on in your organisation can really help you to find ways IT can come to the table.  Understanding the “how” and “why” of an organisation helps motivate your back-end IT staff, who sometimes feel quite removed from your organisation’s mission. It also helps to support the passion needed to encourage suppliers to buy the vision of your organisation, for deeper discounts.  The “what” enables you to find ways to improve the organisation by pairing it with appropriate IT systems.

5. Enable the development of relationships where IT is seen as a trusted advisor

Through having strong relationships with people within the organisation, IT can work collaboratively and proactively to help staff incorporate appropriate technology into their projects. The banter and work-related conversations that come with wandering around the office act as glue for these relationships.

These are five reasons why I think it’s important for IT to get out and about, based on my experiences. How do your experiences compare?

Four ways to enable admin staff to power your NFP

At my workplace we recently implemented a new constituent relationship management (CRM) system to help us service our beneficiaries more effectively.  In the process we ended up centralising branch-based admins into a national team.  It’s early days, but a few months in and we have had some really positive results.

This is what we did:

  1. Built a small virtual team with a shared national vision (my workplace has offices around Australia, and the team is spread around the nation)
  2. Enabled the team to communicate frequently (weekly formal meetings and more frequent chats)
  3. Provided appropriate training
  4. Empowered the team to make real changes to the system

The result? A team that has turned into a powerhouse and is make our organisation much more efficient and effective!  This small team of four have started to take ownership of the CRM system (instead of IT) and are embedding process-change deep into the organisation. They are improving reports, editing complicated merge documents, and generating new ways to automate processes.  Their learnings are also shared through the entire organisation much more effectively than any IT-led change-project I have seen.

How are your administration staff helping to improve your organisation?

Why we don’t call the help desk


Thanks to the IT crowd, the phrase “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” has become (in)famous.  From one perspective it is a very good piece of advice.  Seriously the amount of problems this, combined with “Are you sure you have plugged your computer in” and “try unpluging and plugging it in again” can solve is amazing.  It’s no wonder they form IT support’s trinity of quick troubleshooting methods.  Unfortunately though the way IT professionals go about taking these basic steps with people is fundamentally flawed.

There is often an arrogance associated with the way support desks deals with these calls.  It will often assumes people are idiots and takes no regard for the fundamentally different life experiences of individuals.  It ignores that the person in question may be anywhere from a digital novice through to a season pro.

More importantly however it also ignores the emotional headspace that people are in by the time they bite the bullet and call IT support.   Often people are upset, or in the very least frustrated.

But why do people take so long to call support?

I think it maybe because we are conditioned to dislike calling IT Help Desks through past negative experiences.  Examples of some of the negative experiences you may have on an IT call include:

  • the time you have to spend on hold
  • the attitude of the help desk staff
  • the inadequate description of the cause of the problem and its solution
  • the feeling of lost control when you let the IT person control your screen and access everything on your compute
  • the general loss of time while you wait for IT to fix your computer
  • feeling like an idiot
  • not getting your problem solved

These factors and many more have led to the learnt behaviour of avoiding calling IT unless you really have to – by which time the problem is usually urgent, and may have gotten a lot worse.

When was the last time you called IT support?  What was your interaction like?