Thursday, January 07, 2010

Local IT Best Practices Rep

One constantly reads about the woes of corporate IT departments. How they don't have a "seat at the table", how the business doesn't value their services, how they can't get in alignment with the business. Well, I have one teeny, tiny little idea for how they can get a little more love.

Departments within an organization should all have a local IT Best Practices Rep. This person would not be an employee of the IT department. They would be a business user within the department. They would spend 80-90% of their time doing the normal work of their department. However, they would spend 10-20% of their time being the on-site representative of the IT department.

The general responsibilities of this role would be:
  1. Serve as best-practices evangelist/consultant to the department
  2. Serve as advocate for users, if necessary, when they are dealing with the Help Desk
  3. Gently educate users regarding the facts-of-life of corporate IT
It always amazes me how un-informed the average knowledge worker is, regarding simple tricks of the trade. These are generic, personal-productivity techniques that apply to any knowledge worker in any industry. Some of the things I have in mind:
  • Keyboard shortcuts. How painful is it to watch someone who isn't adept with the keyboard. I am thinking of things like HOME (beginning of line), CTRL-ARROW (next word), SHIFT-CLICK (multi-select), and even ALT-TAB. It's amazing how many people don't know CTRL-F for Find On Page.
  • Archiving mail. This is partly the fault of corporate IT, for their stupid mail archival policies. But I have even seen people who print all their emails, so they retain a copy when the mandatory corporate archiving timeline hits.
  • Save to Shared Drive, using Offline Files. WAY too many people save to their hard drive. Sometimes, out of habit--they don't even know there is a shared drive. For others, the motivation is to have access to their files when offline. Fortunately, modern versions of Windows handle this really well, with the Offline Files feature. It works beautifully. You save to your synchronized folders on the network drive. If you are not connected, Windows automagically hands you the synchronized, offline copy of the file. When you re-connect, it all re-synchs, automatically. It even works when you lose your connection mid-edit. I don't think 10% of knowledge workers know about this feature.
  • Indexing. I have been indexing for years. I think that having indexing software, like X1 or even Windows Desktop Search, will make any knowledge worker at least 5% more productive. I am not kidding. I have seen people spend 30 minutes looking for an email that I can find in 30 seconds, using search. Again, I don't think 10% of knowledge workers use this, and the IT department does nothing to educate them.
  • Corporate Help Desks often do a poor job of servicing users. Sometimes this is because users do a poor job of explaining their problems. The Best Practices Rep could both help the user describe the problem, and could also be a point of contact for the Help Desk. For instance, when the user swears their machine was on AC power, and not low on battery, when it suddenly shut down, the Help Desk will still tend to suspect the user is wrong (often, but not always, for good reason). The BPR can provide the Help Desk with a calibration of how savvy and reliable the user in question really is.
  • There are a lot of things about IT that users don't understand. For instance, they may see the internal chargeback of $200/month for their laptop and think "that's crazy, I can buy a really good laptop for less than $1000!" What they don't understand is that $200 per month is an accounting number, burdened with all kinds of overhead.
  • Security vigilance. Without becoming the local gestapo, they can remind people of the importance of locking their keyboard, not emailing sensitive information, etc.
I see this as a multi-benefit strategy:
  • The IT department benefits by having both better PR and better rapport with end users
  • The IT department also has some "reserve" troops to help do its work
  • The business departments get better service from IT
  • The BPR gets good technical experience
I think a key point here is that Human Resources are, well, human. Humans crave contact, relationship and the personal touch. So many things about the way business are run nowadays take this away. This approach is a way to give people the human-ness they want, in a flexible way that should deliver on the business objectives as well.

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