This platform is a project I’ve had in my head for a very long time, but the time never seemed right. For a while, it will probably be a bit of a work in progress as I decide on my message, my voice, and the topics on which I’d like to focus. With that being said, I do have a couple of core ideas based on my particular background and experience that have motivated me to write about IT. Continue reading “Welcome.”
What follows builds on what I discussed in my latest post, but the current dialogue will extend to a broader topic. It’s not so much the second part in a two-part series, but the other part of the conversation that needs to be addressed not just in professional IT, but also in life.
Last week, I talked about seeing the forest instead of only the trees to highlight shifting our focus toward the more long-term strategic view rather than the immediate and responsive view of what’s before us in which too many of us spend our lives entrenched. With the bird’s eye view, we don’t just notice the forest along with the trees, we notice everything. In that sense, what we’re discussing here is a kind of omnipotence most us can never expect to experience in totality solely by ourselves. The bird’s eye view refers to a kind of strategic master plan most often woven together by the collaborative analysis and planning efforts of people who have allowed themselves to notice and document the forest around them. That’s the thing, really: each of us to really know with certainty only one part of the forest when we’re discussing a large organization. The narratives we share are profoundly influential for others to gain from our knowledge just as that which is shared by others is important to our more complete understanding.
Perhaps except in the most hierarchical settings, we only ever get to the bird’s eye view through working alongside others and appreciating the insights each person has to share. It’s not easy and we certainly can’t retreat to focusing on the trees again while others worry about the forest, but it’s really a collaborative effort shared by many individuals doing their absolute best to see as complete a picture they can to be weaved into a shared narrative that will really allow us to understand what we have before this. Such strategic planning does not happen overnight or even quickly at all, but any organization ever practicing this kind of effort is very much on the right track.
How the actual strategic planning will manifest itself through this process can take on many different forms. For example, the bird’s eye view can be as straightforward (even if not necessarily simplistic) as a shared narrative from users, support staff, and administration to determine how or it can be as complex as data mining your own organization for the metrics and other empirical data that paints a more complete picture of the issues being experienced. In that sense, the bird’s eye view, when fully committed to or adopted can take us to the next level in terms of management beyond anything for which we could have previously hoped. This is not to say that this type of analysis is more important than other types of strategic planning, but it can often be very helpful to step outside the perspectives by which we generally restrict our view to consider other factors and data not otherwise on our radar. When done well, this kind of planning can be truly transformative.
A very dear friend of me is fond of referring to a saying that has many iterations, but goes something like this: ”You’d notice the forest if you weren’t so busy looking at the trees.” I think this friend first provided this advice to me while I was conducting graduate research when the primary intention was encouraging me to take a step back and consider the “big picture” of what was occurring. Too often, whether in academia or in a professional setting, we all may at least occasionally feel a tendency to focus on the specific details that are most immediately soliciting our attention rather than the systemic causes and the greater circumstances in which those details exist. This has real implications for technical support and managing IT departments. Continue reading “Looking Beyond the Trees”
Something that’s been on my mind a lot lately is what I would like to refer to as my professional legacy. The subject to which I am referring includes the clues, procedures, and documentation we leave so that others or that we, ourselves, may pick up again at the same place at which we last left. In the current era of technical support, most of these records are digital, but organization and layout is still just as important as if they were paper. The footprints in the sand we leave for others to pick up where we left off are the most important way in which we can ensure that processes continue smoothly in our absence. Adopting that perspective at all times and thoroughly documenting all of our processes as we go along also helps us transcend the reliance on our own memories which are, at least occasionally, fallible. Documenting what we do as we proceed through our routines, perhaps more importantly, is also important to ensure that we are able to work collaboratively as a team and step in when needed to cover for each other or provide a solution to a problem that may not have occurred to our team members. Doing so will allow us to maximize the full potential of our team and utilize the diversity of idea, background, and population that makes it great. Continue reading “Leaving Behind Footprints”
Perhaps the most often overlooked requirement of IT support is the ability to adapt. On some level, adaptation is required for any kind of IT support and environment with a diverse group of users who bring eclectic backgrounds and preferences. Everyone who was done IT support for while, particularly in an environment where the general public can seek support, has seen that situation where we’re asked to support devices we have never seen before. The effective way to respond in most environments is not to adhere to some arbitrary sense of scope support and decline supporting the device, but instead to look it up if needed and attempt troubleshooting the best we can through trial and error. That level of adaptation is required in any kind of IT support, but most environments also depend on IT support professionals to adapt in more ways and it is through our ability to adapt to new situations, practices, and procedures that we grow as an organization and become more effective at the support we provide. With all of that being said, adaptation is a skill we need to refine just like any other. We are not all born ready to adapt, but we can become effective adapters through perseverance, openness, and practice.
When providing training for IT support positions, so many specific technical tasks, procedures, and concepts are required that often the most important aspect of what we do gets overlooked: supporting the users. While resolving issues in a timely manner is important, what would be most important in most situations would be the intangible skills of evoking empathy, providing emotional support, and active listening. These types of skills are often described as “customer service,” but I believe it goes beyond the mantra of keeping the customer happy. When the supported user is experiencing emotional distress because of a technical issue, we must respond effectively to not only resolve the issue, but support the user. What we are talking about, when done effectively, really requires going beyond our roles as they are often presented as impersonal troubleshooters focused precisely on resolving particular issues in a narrow point of support. What we must to do is dig deep to support that person as a person, much like we would for one of our friends or, perhaps more accurately, a therapist would support a client. Continue reading “Remembering “the Human Element””
It’s not easy to admit defeat, probably in any context. As IT professionals, we can be so focused on the resolution that we may lose sight of the ways we can improve the user experience through openness and transparency. This is a story about something that happened in my personal life outside the workplace where I realized I failed to set appropriate expectations and ensure exceptional user experience through the kind of open education, transparent documentation, active listening, and compassionate oversight I’ve come to appreciate in my professional life. I’m sharing this experience so we can learn how to appropriately respond to the expectations we are bound by when we step up and take responsibility — even when the capacity of that support would be informal and outside the realm of our professional lives. Continue reading “Learning from our Experiences”