Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Respecting Your Users

I spent years in phone support. I was a frontline tech, a manager and, at times, a trainer. I always liked the job but I was one of the few. Most techs hate it and would rather do anything than take calls. I think there are a couple of reasons.

Would You Like a Hot Apple Pie With That Password Reset?

The first thing people hate about working phone support is they are on the phone. That sounds silly but working a phone room feels like a low lever job. You have to wear a headset which always looks funny. Management counts the number of calls you take and coaches you on how to take more and worst of all they monitor you. Even when the pay is good those three things together make employees feel like they are just one step above wearing a hairnet. Heck Some hairnets look better than the headsets.

The big thing techs always complain about though is the callers themselves. Techs go on and on about how stupid the users are and how much they hate them. I never could figure out those techs. I mean the only reason we had jobs was we knew more about computer systems than the callers. Did they really want the callers to be able to figure these problems out on their own?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

For the most part I always liked my users and liking the people I supported sure made the job a lot better. Once I was in management and training I did my best to change tech attitudes about users. This was my philosophy. What job would you rather have, one where you take care of a bunch of whiney idiots who can’t take care of themselves or a job where you solve technical problems for intelligent professionals. I always worked with smart professionals and I was always happy in my work. The difference is really in the tech’s attitude and respect, not the users’ education.

For more tips on how to manage check out The IT Project Manager’s Toolkit (below). It’s an invaluable asset for working with people.

The Worst Boss I ever Had

The Reason Skip (not his real name) was the worst boss I ever had was that he had no idea what my job was. At the time I managed a team of web designers. It was not a secret that Skip got his job as my boss because he had more time to spend on meetings and oversight. He had no clue what we really did. He had no skills in the area, knew nothing about programming and had no experience managing a team of designers. The result was most of the time I was on my own.

You Can’t Fight for What You Don’t Understand.

Being on your own sounds great but every time I put in the request for new software or upgraded hardware Skip couldn’t explain to his boss why it was needed and I wasn’t allowed to speak to his boss about it. This meant I had to write reports on the use and need of the for every order. Even with the report it would take several months to get a request approved.

The truth is I liked Skip. He was a great guy, constantly wanted to take us out to eat, to ball games etc. He was just a terrible boss.

We all Need Help From Time to Time

I know many people complain about bosses who yell, cuss, back stab etc, but nothing is worse than having a boss who really is clueless in your area of expertise. We all need support, on occasion and a boss like Skip cannot help you or support you in any way other than saying “great job” even if you are failing miserably.  I like hearing great job but I like not failing even more.

For tips on true leadership check out the IT Project Manager’s Toolkit. It makes the job of leadership a lot easier.

Measuring the Cost of Downtime

Have you ever tried to get an infrastructure project funded only to discover that it is like “pulling teeth” to get your senior manager’s approval?

If so, it is probably because your senior manager is having major difficulty understanding what you are talking about. All he hears is that you are asking for lots of money, and that’s not something he lets go of without understanding the value of what he will receive from the investment.

Senior executives normally do not understand technology, and they don’t want to.

Well, if that’s the case, how do you get a technology project funded that’s critical for the stability and support of your infrastructure? You know how important it is but you aren’t getting the message across to your boss, the CEO.

Something that will help is to discuss the project in terms of business value, , , and certainly not in technical terms.

Discuss “WHY”, not “WHAT”!

“WHY” deals with benefits, i.e., business value. “WHAT” deals with technology.

Unfortunately as former technical people, IT managers tend to discuss the “What” and not the “WHY”. It’s a guaranteed way to put your CEO to sleep or give him a major headache.

Business value includes one or more of five very specific things:
– Increase revenue
– Decrease cost
– Improve productivity
– Differentiate the company
– Improve client satisfaction

When you change your presentation to highlight the business value your company will receive by making the infrastructure investment, your senior manager hears and understands you, and when this happens, he makes a decision that usually goes your way if there is sufficient value for the investment.

A tool that can help significantly is to paint a picture of the ‘cost of downtime’ that your project recommendation will help eliminate.

Calculating “cost of downtime” is straightforward, but first you need to visualize what we are talking about. Below is a simple infrastructure scenario:

cost of downtime template

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this example, we literally “paint a downtime picture” to show the following:
– Corporate HQ Office is home of the Data Center where there are three servers.
– There are five remote offices (Atlanta, Denver, New York, etc.)
– In each office we list the number of Users (500 at HQ, 100 in Atlanta, etc.)
– We estimate the average salary of a company employee is $20/hour.
– The green filled circles are routers.
– Three Downtime scenarios are highlighted:
o If the Atlanta office router goes down or they lose connectivity, the productivity loss at 100% is $2,000/hour.
o If the HQ router goes down (green filled circle on the Corporate HQ box), all remote offices lose connectivity and 100% productivity         impact will be $20,000/hour.
o If the E-mail server crashes it affects productivity of all 1,500 workers. At 10% productivity factor, the impact is $3,000/hour.

Using these assumptions you can quantify the ‘cost of downtime’ for any component in your company, even a zone printer or a single PC.

Once you and your client can visualize the downtime scenario we created above, you can list key components in a downtime chart and refer to it when trying to justify an infrastructure project.

Download Mike’s Cost of Downtime Template Here for Free!

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Pat Vickers, Expert in Help Desk Management

Snooping is Creepy, Especially When the Government is Doing it

As an IT manager, making sure employees don’t abuse their access rights and snoop in HR files is always a concern. I think most of my employees had too much integrity and too much of a life to consider it but not all. The fact is, almost everyone in IT knows people who read files they had no right to. The ones I knew were as greasy and creepy as you might imagine.

The Spies Who Love Too Much

It was those creepy guys I thought of when I read that NSA employees were caught accessing the files of love interests. Yep. Twelve NSA employees were caught going through the files of wives and girlfriends, ex-wives and ex-girlfriends and, of course, women they wish were girlfriends.

The Government says, even though they are storing all of our emails and calls, they can’t actually read them or listen to them without a warrant, but that’s not really true. They’re not supposed to read or listen to them without a warrant but they can do it anytime they want and there are 12 creeps, in addition to Edward Snowden, who prove that.

What’s Good for Google is Good for America

I know what people say. Google, Facebook and Verizon already have that information and use it daily, so what difference does it make. There is a difference, a big one. To Paraphrase Stephen Colbert, Google cannot draft me and send me to war. Facebook cannot arrest me and try me for crimes. Verizon cannot send me to prison for life and none of them can strap me to a chair and pump a syringe full of deadly poison in my arm, all of which the US government can do. The reason for the fourth amendment is to protect individuals from an all powerful government. Allowing Google to show me diet ads should be a forfeiture of that protection.

But I should have nothing to worry about if I don’t do anything wrong, right? I mean, our court system would not let the government convict me without evidence. If you really believe that look up the case against the late Alaska Senator, Ted Stevens. You know the guy. “The Internet is a series of tubes.” He was convicted of corruption, in 2008. Less than a year later it was discovered federal prosecutors deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence that proved his innocence. This is a very powerful wealthy guy, a really high official and a member of the party in power at the time. Yet he was tried and convicted of a crime they knew he didn’t commit.

In the end, corruption was defeated , sort of. The exculpatory evidence was discovered. Senator Stevens did not go to jail. He just lost his senate seat and spent hundreds of thousands on his defense. More to the point, the two federal prosecutors who withheld the evidence were punished. One got a 15 day suspension and the other got 40 days, proving the system works and we can trust the government.

The fact is we are not supposed to trust our government. Our forefathers didn’t. They knew to err is human but it takes a government to really screw you over. That’s why they put checks and balances in place and gave us a bill of rights. Trusting the NSA not to violate our fourth amendment rights because they promise not to look at the files they have complete access to is like not having passwords on the HR system and just trusting the employees not to read each others files. Maybe you can trust them all but do you want to bet your job on it, let alone your life.

Are your data and systems secure?  Do you have the proper documentation?  Maybe you should check out our IT Security Manual Template.

 

The Best Boss I Ever Had

I’ve heard that some of the most popular blogs on Toolkit Café have been about best bosses and worst bosses so I thought I would take this week to talk about The best boss I ever had.

Better Bosses Make Better Employees

The best Boss I ever had forced me to be better than I thought I was, to think for myself, and think through problems. If I made mistakes, I had to helped troubleshoot them until the issue was resolved. Fortunately most of the people we supported were patient and didn’t mind if I had to redo a network setup or if I crashed their laptop by installing the wrong drivers.

My boss literally felt that everyone had the capacity to succeed in life and everyone had opportunity if they wanted it. I think the fact that he was gay at a time and place where that wasn’t always accepted influenced those beliefs. He never let what others think get in his way. He had several degrees, stature and respect in his position.

All Good Things Must End

Later in life this boss left IT to get a law degree  but not before teaching me that the best bosses anyone can ever have are the ones who will work with you when needed, get  hands dirty with you, if that’s what it takes to get the job done, and help you achieve your goals…not just theirs. That was my boss.

Being a great boss is tough but worth it. To make it easier check out Mike Sisco’s IT Manager Toolkit. It provides everything you need to for the day in day out grind of managing leaving you more time to work with  your employees.