Monday, September 22, 2008

How To Be A User

To IT administrators, you are a user.

Not like a "taker", although you may be that as well, but a user. As in a computer/system user. Someone serviced by your IT provider is often referred to as a user.

I've spent a lot of this blog recording how to be a better IT admin. This list is for the other side.

How to be a (good) user.

At its core, this is a guide to work with your IT staff - not how to use your systems. Some of these listed items might appear to be common sense, and some might not. but after doing this work for over 10 years, I've seen users fail to do all of these things, sometimes with disastrous results. Without further ado, here is the list.

  • Communicate with your IT staff through the correct methods. Frequently users will "arm grab" IT staff when they walk by, dropping their issues on them verbally. This is a HUGE issue for most people who give support. When this happens to me, I always insist on getting an e-mail detailing the issue. I simply can not remember every problem reported to me. I need to have a paper trail. Plus it is ANNOYING. It makes me want to avoid you. It makes me think that your problem can't be important, because it was not important enough for you to write an email. It also usually results in me having an incorrect picture of your issue. If your organization has a help desk, ticketing system, or any other specified issue reporting system - USE IT. As an IT professional, I (should) let you know the best way to work with me. As a user, you should try to follow that suggestion.

  • Report issues appropriately. If you can't print a report that is not due for 3 weeks, don't call my home at 11:30PM to report it. While you may think IT staff like to take calls all day and night, but trust me, you are wrong. Most IT staff are "on call" 24/7. But this is for EMERGENCIES - so just because you know that I will take your call 6:00AM Sunday morning, doesn't mean that I will be happy about it, or that it will get you a faster response. Plus I will generally just ask you to send it to me in an e-mail anyway. Also - don't overstate the importance of an issue, just to try to get a faster response. While I may not remember everyone of your issues (see above) I will remember that you are "the boy who cried wolf"

  • Report issues in the first place. If you are having an issue, you need to report it to your IT staff. Letting it fester for two months, and then blowing up it when you have finally gotten fed up is no way to get results. If you report a problem, and I do nothing for two months, you would be pretty upset right? Well if you have a problem, and never tell me, until it becomes a "drop-everything-and-fix-it-now" emergency, how should I feel?

  • Provide detail.
    "I can't print."
    "When I try to print out of pagemaker to the HP 5SI I get an error -see the attached screen shot. This worked yesterday, but after the updates performed last night it does not work now. Also, I have rebooted."
    Now, which of those descriptions is better?

    that reminds me...

  • Reboot. Especially if you run Windows. Are you having an new issue? Did you restart the machine? What do I almost always ask first thing?

  • Screen Shots. Screen shots of errors are really great, because they show me exactly what the message is. Please note, in windows, the ALT key plus the PrtScrn key take a screen grab of the active window - I generally don't need to see your full screen, and in some instances it can be a real pain in the ass to resize the image you create.

  • Don't break company policy, and don't tell me when you do. While I personally wouldn't care if surf porn during your lunch hour, you should realize that part of my job is to enforce the company's acceptable use policy. So if you planning to be doing things with your equipment that break that policy, or are, god forbid, illegal - DON'T DO THOSE THINGS. And don't be a dumbass and tell me about it if you are stupid enough to do it anyway. Pull your head out.

    which leads to...

  • Don't complain that your equipment doesn't work right when you try to break company policy. I'm sure it sucks for you that you can't play Bioshock on your desktop, but since loading that software, and playing on your workstation would violate company policy, don't bother bitching to me about it, mmm-k? If Hulu runs like shit on your work desktop, why should I care? You shouldn't even know that - think, for god's sake.

  • Remember - the company owns that equipment. Along the same lines as the two previous items. Don't let you kids take your laptop away for the weekend. Don't even let them use it when it is in your house. That equipment belongs to the company. So you probably shouldn't fill the hard disk with your entire photo collection, and then bitch about losing it when the hard disk dies. Get your own computer for your personal shit - I have dozens of company computers at my disposal - and you know what? I still have purchased a few for my personal use. AND I keep my personal shit off of my work machines - because if you get canned or decide to leave, you may not get all that stuff back.

  • Express your need, and ask for a solution. Don't come to me requesting a bigger hard drive. Don't come to me requesting an installation of Sharepoint. Don't come to me requesting an Iphone. Those are solutions to various problems or wants. You should come to your IT staff with a clear need, and let us help find the right solution.

  • Don't ask me about your home shit. For some sick reason, I love this stuff. I must, otherwise I would not be in this field. But that does not mean I want to fix your home computer. I have no desire - even if you offer to pay me. Here is the issue. I touch your computer one time - JUST ONE TIME - and I'm suddenly your fucking personal IT department. Or at least that is what you think. Personally I won't do it - even for money. So don't ask. Do I ask you, Mr. accountant, to do my taxes? Mr. Janitor, could you come clean up my house? You may ask me where you should go to get help - and I will say call the geeksquad (or some other service I just heard advertising on the radio). Trust me, I already have to do this for my entire extended family, and my dead-beat friends. Plus, as you may have noticed, I tend to work a lot, and a lot of off hours. My schedule is already full, thanks.

  • Don't guess at the terminology. I have heard this more times than I can count
    "my hard drive won't turn on."

    What the fuck is that?

    Oh, your computer won't turn on. OK - please to be understanding - the hard drive is a component of your computer - not the tower. I would guess that about a fourth of the time I spend on issues with users is spent trying to pin down what is really going on. Using imprecise or just flat out wrong terminology just mucks the whole process up. Stick to what you know. Don't try to sound smart. Be as descriptive as possible with terms that you truly understand. We will figure it out. Also - pretend I have no idea what your workflow is, because generally I don't. So be sure to mention, what application/database/website you were using, because how else would I know?
I'll be adding more as they come to mind. so this is just to get you started.

Thanks for listening, and now you have the tools to be a great user!

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