6 things your IT vendor wishes you knew (to do)

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07Oct2010

6 things your IT vendor wishes you knew (to do)

  • By Andrew Garrett
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We deal with a lot of IT vendors, on behalf of our mutual clients. As a result, we’ve gained a fairly good feel for what they wish you knew, or knew how to do. The things that would make you a good IT customer, making dealing with you (more of) a pleasure. The things you can do to help them help you when you need it.

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Most external IT companies are reluctant to try and educate their clients in how to be good IT clients – and, to be fair, most IT customers seem actively dis-interested in learning. But there are a few things they wish you knew, or knew to do, that would make you a much easier customer to help.

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Of course, if you have internal IT folk, then they probably wish the same things as well.

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1. Report accurate symptoms, not guessed diagnoses. Don’t ring your helpdesk and say “The network’s down” or “the server’s crashed”. You’re probably wrong – it isn’t and it hasn’t. Instead, report your symptom: “I was trying to save a word document into a file share and I got a message that said ‘permission denied'”. The less digging they have to do into what the *actual* problem is, the quicker it can be solved – and that’s in everyone’s best interests.

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2. Even if you don’t understand them, error messages mean something. “I got an error” is one of the most annoying things you can hear on the other end of the phone. The actual error message is a message about the error. You may not understand it, and that’s fine. But trust that your IT support folks do, and make their job a little easier. In in doubt, write it down – it’ll take you 30 seconds, and it means they can solve your problem just that much faster.

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3. Try and use the right terminology. “I what’sit on the thingy and it went all “ARGH” and now I can’t fandangle the widget. Can you help?” I know IT can be confusing, with all the words used in uncommon ways, and the three letter acronyms (TLAs) – but the same thing applies to every specialist field. Try and learn a few of the simpler terms, it will make your error reports a lot more understandable – and what can be understood faster, can be fixed faster.

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4. If they’re invisible, they’re still working. Systems administration is one of those thankless tasks, rather like being an office cleaner. You don’t notice the cleaners when they do their job perfectly and unobtrusively – it’s only when they mess up, or you have to ask for something unusual that they get noticed. The ‘care and feeding’ of servers (aka Systems Administration) is similar – most of the work should happen invisibly to the end users, but the servers keep running and doing their jobs. Unfortunately, computers haven’t yet advanced to the point where that’s 100% automated – so when your systems people are busy, and you don’t know what they’re working on? That’s probably it.

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5. Help them understand your business goals. While they’ll never know your business like you do, the more they know, the more they can help. If they know what’s important to you, they can try to make sure that it’s prioritised appropriately.

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6. Prioritise Clearly. If there are two things that need dealing with, indicate which is a higher priority for the business. For example, if the email server and the VPN are having problems at the same time, and it’s within business hours, normally, the email problem would be the highest priority. If the folks in charge of the fixing don’t know that the CEO is trying to copy the presentation she’s delivering in 2 hours in singapore over the VPN, then they can’t know to fix that first. Tell them.

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