Monday, October 10, 2005

IT ‘Tude

Ron over at the Prism Legal blog has something to say about law firm IT staffs: Strategic Legal Technology :: IT ‘Tude (Guilty until Proven Innocent)
I visit many law firms as a consultant, conference attendee, or friend. Two incidents are small but telling. At one firm, three visitors, all using different brand PCs, could not use the wifi signal. An IT support person said (nicely) that our machines must be at fault (in so many words). And the likelihood of that is? He later sheepishly informed us a router re-boot had fixed the previously denied problem.

At another firm, I could not send e-mail messages. I suggested to a tech that perhaps the firm’s firewall was the issue. Oh, no, that cannot be I was told (nicely), it must be your machine (in so many words). Later that day, a network engineer told me that indeed the firewall blocks outgoing SMTP mail.

I am dismayed that first-line IT staff blames users. Even if the user makes a mistake, blame is not appropriate. Lawyers are decision makers and if they get bad or condescending tech help, they are less likely to support strategic technology investments. Large firms CIOs who want to achieve bigger goals should make sure they have the basics covered.

Sadly these things do happen. You can get bad IT advice the same way you get bad medical advice or bad legal advice. IT people make mistakes.

We are often under serious time pressures when confronted with a problem.

Sadly a lot of times the users are the one making mistakes. About half of support calls are user issues. Either they don’t understand how to correctly configure some setting, are using the software improperly, or expect a program to do something it wasn’t designed to do in the first place.

Also IT staff sometimes have to research a question to which the user wants a snap answer. First-line IT staff with little experience often times give incorrect snap answers instead of saying, “I don’t know. I ‘ll have to look into that.

Software isn’t magic, and we are not wizards.

Sometimes a problem might look like one problem then require a completely different solution. There is a lot of deductive reasoning that goes into troubleshooting.

On the flip side of the coin, IT staff need to learn users are customers and require good customer service. A wrong answer is worst than no answer.

If it wasn’t for users, there would be no need for IT staff.

There are two hard and fast rules for good IT staff support:
•    Treat users with respect. Don’t expect them to know everything you know.
•    Be proactive. If you have a few minutes go visit users and ask them what kinds of problems they are having. Don’t wait for them to always call you.

Update: Here is another one:
•   Time is money, especially in a defense firm. Fix critical problems quickly, but don’t impede an attorney’s or paralegals ability to bill. Make non-critical repairs when the computer is not in use.


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