TechMentor Keynote Lays Out IT Best Practices

IT support teams can take a lesson from consumer grumblings about the commercial airline industry, says one keynote speaker at TechMentor Las Vegas.

IT support teams can take a lesson from consumer grumblings about the commercial airline industry, according to Tuesday's keynote talk at TechMentor, an 1105 Media educational and professional event being held this week in Las Vegas. The speakers, authors Greg Shields and Don Jones of Concentrated Technologies, found lots to compare, especially with apparent declining service levels in both fields.

The keynote's humorous conclusion was summed up in its title, "Don't be an Airline: How To Succeed at Your IT Job Without Being Hated."

The crowd of IT pros could relate to the metaphor. A show of hands indicated that most had got to Las Vegas by plane. When asked if their airline experience was "good," few raised their hands.

The airlines, faced with rising fuel costs, have resorted to making people pay extra for services that used to be part of the overall fare. Jones noted a principle there for IT support: be careful of taking things away from people. That principle also applies to taking things off the desktop. Locking down apps may satisfy IT, but that's the wrong approach. Look to meet user needs first. IT's needs should come second.

"If you have to take something away, find an upside," Jones said. He suggested at least providing users with a forum to complain about it.

The "nickel and diming" of the airlines, while deplorable, does have an IT equivalent, Shields said. "Has anyone worked with a consultant?" Shields rhetorically asked.

Jones noted that the IT help desk "gets beat on the head all day." Sometimes, though, they can be their own worst enemies. For instance, it's bad policy for IT to be inconsistent on the rules. Being too accommodating can be a bad idea in the long run. For instance, providing home drives to users, while nice, can lead to potential new maintenance tasks to fulfill down the road.

Plan ahead to anticipate shortages of resources. Develop proposals for those who fund your projects, anticipating future needs, Shields explained. Don't be like an airline that runs out of jet fuel. Hedge your bets to make sure you've planned for contingencies at the help desk, Jones added.

Shields advised against lying when there's a lack of information about the problem. "Don't give out any information you don't have," he said. "All you're doing is postponing and nurturing a grudge."

Jones noted that the failings of IT often are a matter of perspective. Bad service just engenders bad feelings -- it's the same with IT as it is with airline services.

"We hate how the airlines treat us, and then we go home and do the same things," Jones told the IT tech crowd. "Don't forget how you feel when you're the customer."

Shields noted that IT is stuck between the CEOs and the end users. Nonetheless, IT needs to stay focused on its principal objective, which is to further the goals of the business.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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