Dear Users [and fellow IT guys],
We, the tech people, understand that you just want technology to work so you can get your jobs done. We really, really understand that. When your technology doesn’t work, you turn to us so we’ll make it behave. We like making technology behave – we got into this field on purpose. But when you submit a request, throw us a bone.
All of this applies, too, to informal requests: emails, IMs, conversations, assignments to underlings, and so forth. No, “the database on Server2 is slow” is not a good enough communique for me to actually do something useful. “Slow” is subjective; any operator – whether technical, medical, mechanical, or otherwise – needs objective information to make any kind of positive change.
Let’s look at a few examples of how NOT to submit an IT request / how NOT to ask for improvements to a system.
“I have a question about SQL.”
While we’re pleased that you’vetaken the initiativeto start a dialogue and educate yourself, let me make a few suggestions: If it’s an actual question, just email, or ask. It doesn’t deserve a helpdesk ticket. And, actually ask the question. There’s nothing in “I have a question” that spurs me to respond quickly.
“I need help with my computer,” or, “The system is slow.”
When I take my car to the mechanic, I wouldn’t expect to get good results if I just said, “I need help with my car”, or “It’s slow”. I explain what’s been happening with my car, what symptoms I’ve seen, when it happens, how to make it happen again, and (if necessary) what I’d like done about it. With that starting information, he can look into it, and ask further questions.
“The DMP application doesn’t work.”
Or (a personal favorite): “The internet is broken.”
Again, from this I have no idea whether your application or browser doesn’t start, gives an error, provides bad data, or if it’s even installed on your computer.
Can you get me some information on the business licenses for that software? I’m doing a report for Bob, and I’ve been really busy all week, so sorry I didn’t write before now. Once I get this done then I can move on to a couple of other things I’m going to talk to you about (but don’t worry, I won’t keep you too long, LOL!) before the conference next week. For that I’m probably going a little bit early, so I’ll be out on Tuesday…………………….[etc]
Like you, IT people are very busy. What we need is information, not a letter about your day (we’ll talk about your day later, when we all scrounge the board room meeting leftovers!) The ONLY pertinent part of this request was “some information on the business licenses”, but again, there are no specifics. What information? What licenses?
Not Enough Information, Period
“I’m getting this error on my screen, something about corrupt something or other. It happened while I was on our accounting website, but I’m not sure if it’s something I did or what.”
Back to the car analogy: you are now telling the machanic “My car did something weird yesterday, I was driving it on the freeway and it happened.” Did it stall, slow down, make a noise, smoke, lose a tire, start speaking? Did you swerve or brake suddenly right before it happened? Has it been running with a low oil light for the last 6 months?
You have to tell us more: What was the exact error? Send us a screenshot. Was the error generated from the website, or another application you have open? What steps did you take prior to receiving the error? Did the error prevent you from accomplishing something?
“Please unlock the user name ‘BobS’, he forgot his password.”
This might look solid, but this request is the equivalent of telling a locksmith “can you unlock my car? It’s the grey one in the parking lot.” Is “BobS” the account he uses to log into his computer? Into a server (and if so, which one)? Into an application (which one)? A website (which one)?
“Vendor needs SA access to [servername].”
Similarly, my daughter needs to borrow the keys to your new BMW. I won’t tell you why, or what she’s up to…you just need to trust me and hand over the keys. (Special note: IT guys don’t trust vendors on spec, and for very, very good reason.) Tell us who they are, what they want to do, and why.
Short Lead Time/Inappropriate Prioritization
“I need you to put together a new TPS report, with additional columns Profit, Loss, Negligibility, and Email, grouped by Chapter leader, by 4pm today.”
“I can’t print to the East1 printer. PRIORITY 1!!!!“
The tech people are in charge of making sure the business runs smoothly: computers, software, databases, security, backups, websites, questions, business intelligence…it’s all up to us. Many times, the urgent 3 month project we’re on, or the server outage, or a meeting with vendors or upper management, takes precedence over the request you forgot to submit last week. I’m sorry, but sometimes we can’t drop what we’re doing for you.
As with all things, plan ahead as much as possible, ask nicely when you forget, and don’t fudge a “Priority 1″ request if you can’t (for example) print from your computer. Send the document to your cubemate and ask him to print it for you.
Request for Unsupported Tech
“I need you to jailbreak my iPhone.”
“Could you install the latest version of Photoshop?”
“I can’t watch The Guild from my laptop.”
We have been retained by a company that pays us to do work. Sure, we all slack off and have distractions through the day, but I can’t make it part of my job to support your extracurricular activities. I like you, I really do, but if it’s not supported, not related to work, or illegal, don’t ask me to do it.
When you submit a helpdesk ticket, you increase the odds of getting your request fulfilled quickly and accurately if you do these things:
1. State the request or problem clearly.
2. Include pertinent details: time, server/application/website, history, behavior…everything you’d tell your mechanic.
3. Attach a screenshot when appropriate.
4. Include proper contact information, assignment, categorization.
5. Plan ahead, and assign proper prioritization. Please understand that your last minute report is most likely NOT mission critical. An unresponsive sales website is.
5. Be sure, before you ask, that your request is related to work.
Your IT Guys
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This is a reprint and update from a 2010 post that still makes a lot of sense.