Seven Things Your IT Department Wants You to Know About Help Desk

Working in the IT department is often thankless. You are like an invisible behind-the-scenes worker who is only noticed when something breaks, and then blamed for it. Here are seven misconceptions about tech support and IT that you should be aware of in order to work better with an IT Pro or Girlfriend.

We recently asked you what you would like others to know about your profession , and many in the IT industry intervened, including sysadmins and technical support professionals. We include many of their answers here, as well as information from other sources. (I used to work as an IT administrator, but now that I’m gone, I can help uncover some secrets.)

1. We are not wizards or mind readers

Lifehacker readers typically work in their families’ tech support. Do you know how annoying it is when a family member unexpectedly asks you about an unclear problem with incomprehensible software or technology and expects the solution to be in your head? This is true, only a hundred times worse for IT professionals ( regardless of whether they help you solve problems with your computer or not ). You now have dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of employees waiting to quickly solve an infinite number of problems.

The point is, just as a lawyer is not familiar with every law or regulation that has ever been passed, but rather uses research and critical thinking skills to shape understanding of a case, IT professionals are trained primarily in problem solving skills. Some of the knowledge is gleaned from the information you provide, knowledge bases, previous experience and, yes, Google.

This means that we really appreciate a little patience on your part, and the more details you provide about the issue, the better. Also, be honest. Commentator Lifehacker echo125488 says :

I work for the support team of a software company. I want people to understand that I am really here to help you, I am not going to blame you for your mistakes, so when I ask you if anything has changed on your system, just admit it. I don’t care why you deleted your database, and I’m not going to turn you over to your boss. Damn it, I don’t even know your boss. Just be honest and state your problem in as much detail as possible. I don’t have psychic abilities, I don’t know how to read minds, and I don’t have a mind reading app.

Complete enough technical support sessions and you will find a universal set of questions and recommendations: Have you tried restarting your computer? Connect and disconnect device? Clear internet cache? Try a different browser and incognito mode? Etc. Write down the steps you took and have your system specifications handy and everything will go smoothly for everyone.

Also, as OrangeGello points out, there is a limit to what an IT department can do:

If corporations like Oracle have never supported their Mac software, don’t ask us how you can run Oracle software on your Mac. Get your PC like a normal person.

Workspaces are now expected to support all types of consumer devices and products — as soon as they are available (now!) —But it is not always easy or possible for IT to make things work for everyone.

2. Please do not ask us to fix your personal computer.

When I worked in IT, I got requests almost every week from a colleague or my bosses to work on their personal technology, and sometimes even to fix laptops or phones of their friends or family members. Sometimes promises of pizza or a small payment were offered, but even then it seemed out of place. It’s like asking someone in the accounting department to pay taxes for you or someone in the HR department to review your resume. If a person has a computer repair side business, by all means, ask. If not, look elsewhere for advice from personal technical support or repair work.

3. There are reasons for adopting slow technologies (sometimes it is not our fault)

IT pros are often ridiculed for legacy practices, such as using Windows XP after its expiration date. (Seriously, it’s time to move on .) Not too long ago, a small business executive told me that his company buys every PDA that can be found on eBay (I think it was a particular Palm Pilot model) because their mission-critical, proprietary the company’s software could only run on this device and on this operating system. They thought it was better to stick with a dying technology than invest in a platform transition.

This is an extreme example, but I don’t think it’s rare. Organizational inertia, as Big Men Content points out, plays a huge role in this issue:

Once the process is up and running, it takes a lot more effort to remove it simply because those who start the current system are prone to keeping it the same.

There is certainly some level of protection for jobs and lawns, but I believe they are being blamed for much more than they are actually responsible for when it comes to introducing new technologies. At the heart of it all, even in IT, there is a strong belief that whatever you change requires more work, not less. Probably because in the past we have done a terrible job of reversing the old way of life.

The “if it’s not broken, don’t fix” mentality is not limited to the IT department, which may not want to replace an entire system or change anything that could ruin the rest of the infrastructure. End users and the people who keep the wallet also don’t like changing or re-learning how to use things. Remember the ribbon resistance in Microsoft Office?

So try not to get angry with your IT department if you can only access your company’s website with Internet Explorer and Java installed. This is not entirely their fault.

4. We must assume that you know nothing about computers.

Sometimes, as a typical end user in need of technical support, I get frustrated by calling support and having excruciating conversations like this:

CS: “So your screen is blank, but there are horizontal lines running through it?” Me: “Yes, I see gray horizontal lines” CS: “Are the lines gray?” Me: “Yes, as I said. They look like thick dashed lines, four of them at the bottom. ”CS:“ Okay, are they dashed or continuous? »Me: Please shoot me.

When it seems like a waste of time, it’s difficult to go through a few hoops and put together a checklist with a tech support specialist. A consistent approach, however, ensures that nothing is ignored – and often technical calls are “recorded for quality purposes,” so support reps have to go through all of these steps, no matter how painful they may be for both the caller and the representative.

Since I’ve been on both sides of this, I think tech support has a place to not treat end users like idiots, although (necessarily) assuming they might be.

5. IT policies are not arbitrary rules

Turn on two-factor authentication . Use a VPN when you travel. Make your password secure . The IT department isn’t trying to torture you. These are best practices that cover both our asses and yours (and for us, they are also PITAs).

In some industries, these are legal requirements to protect everyone from the serious consequences of data breaches and the like. But even when they are not legally required, these policies help protect us all.

6. We know what you are doing (so don’t do personal things on your work computer)

Always assume that you are being watched, even if you are not sure .

7. We’re as disappointed as you are.

Sometimes we have to enforce policies that we disagree with, such as how often passwords should be changed or which programs you should use. The software and hardware we all work with also makes us pull our hair. It’s not that we really hate you , but that IT and other departments tend to have dysfunctional relationships. Big Men on Content says:

You break the rules, but you make IT people accountable for them – […] IT bylaws are responsible for maintaining data integrity, and they do it through a number of means, many of which prevent you from doing what you want. So you naturally bypass these rules (or close your eyes when someone else does), but when a security breach occurs or a system breaks down due to a rule violation, the IT manager often has to pay the responsibility to maintain it. … politically and professionally.

This does not mean that IT is not making mistakes or that the system cannot be improved. While this may seem like a you versus us situation, I think we are all on the same side. We all want things to work … and maybe never had to talk to each other unnecessarily.

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