IT Pet Peeves (and Solutions)
R. Marc Phillips
From clueless users to missing project requirements to misdirected tech support requests, we’ve all experienced these IT industry pet peeves. And how you manage them (or avoid them) can be the key to advancing your career. Here’s how to deal with some of the worst offenders.
The Requirements Slow-Roll
Peeve: So you’re working on a big project, building a new system for the company or a client, and everything seems like it’s going fine. It looks like you’ll have the usual time crunch before the deadline—maybe a few late nights, but nothing unexpected. No problem, right? But then a request comes through. And another. And could you maybe change the way this works, too? Suddenly, your clearly scoped project is 60 percent bigger than it used to be and your makeable deadline wouldn’t be realistic if you moved it out a week and a half.
Solution: First off, as with all of these peeves, you’ll have to realize that you can’t get rid of this entirely. It’s often impossible to nail down every project requirement in advance because you won’t know verything you need until you start building. Still, here are two ways to deal with the problem:
1. Engage with the process. Get engineers and IT staff involved in the scoping process so they understand the project beyond what’s in the requirements doc. Anticipate problems and propose solutions before you start building. Find the tech savvy member of your client’s team and ask if they can be more involved in the process. Show off intermediate milestones as early as possible.
2. Stick to your guns. With some clients, the above approach won’t work. If you find projects spiraling out of control no matter what you do about it, it’s time to lock down your roadmap. Department heads need to push back and make sure that clients understand that anything left out of the spec won’t get built. That’s not always the most satisfying approach, but it can help keep you sane.
The Perpetual PEBKAC
Peeve: We’ve all dealt with that one user who always seems to have a problem. Their network’s down when nobody else’s is. They can’t check their e-mail. And then there’s the dreaded “Why is everything running so slow?” Problem users can be a real drain on your time and resources, and unfortunately, XKCD’s troubleshooting flowchart won’t work for everyone.
Solution: Delay tactics sometimes work well here, since oftentimes a perceived problem will simply go away when the user reboots or more bandwidth frees up on the company net connection. Here are a few other suggestions: Attempt to pair your problem user up with a more-savvy coworker. Often, they’ll be able to solve a problem that didn’t require IT intervention. Or try giving them a list a of things to try first. Finally, if a user really is taking up too much of your time, the best solution may be to talk to their manager and explain the problem.
Shopping Advice & Home Tech Support
Peeve: Just ‘cause you’re in IT, everyone comes to you when they’re looking to buy their next computer or when their home machine caught a virus. And while sometimes you don’t mind handing out a few tips, having to dispense advice to any random coworker who drops by can be difficult.
Solution: First, recognize that extra curricular advice and support isn’t your job. Try to confine your advice giving to people you know will take it the right way. No problem helping your friend shop for a new netbook, but if the company sales manager needs a new gaming PC, do you really want to be the person she thinks of if the machine you recommend turns out to have problems? If all else fails, you can always claim a personal policy of not providing tech support or buying advice for non-work machines.
The Unsung Heroes
Peeve: It seems like the only time you hear about IT is when something breaks. Nobody’s impressed by the hours you put in to setup secure Wi-Fi access around the building, but let the Internet go down for five minutes because of some work building maintenance is doing, and suddenly people want updates every 30 seconds.
Solution: IT’s a complex discipline, which often makes it tough to explain your successes. If your department isn’t getting the credit it deserves, ask your manager to explain a bit about what you’ve been doing at the next company meeting. Or volunteer to do it yourself.