Nurturing the IT/user relationship

Working for training and development firm KD Bancroft has given Karen Lewis a chance to observe both sides of the technology...

Working for training and development firm KD Bancroft has given Karen Lewis a chance to observe both sides of the technology divide, writes Karl Cushing.

Karen Lewis, training and development specialist, KD Bancroft

"Users do not get on with techies and techies do not get on with users," she says.

Lewis cites one systems manager (or "systems mangler" as some users call them) as saying that users should have to pass a test before they are let loose on a PC. After all, they would not be allowed to drive a car without a licence.

For their part, users seem to think that most techies are Star Trek fans who possess amazing technical prowess but are annoyingly bereft of people skills, she says.

The situation is generally worse in larger companies, says Lewis. Small companies of 20 to 30 people have better relationships between users and techies because everyone knows each other.

Having talked to both camps, Lewis is aware of the depth of feeling between them and the scale of the task of bringing them closer together. "It is a big bridge to build and it will take a lot of time," she admits.

"Techies want challenges. They get very bored dealing with password problems. They want to solve a big problem that they can really get their teeth into."

However, there is no proactive approach to sorting out these niggly, recurring problems, she says, so the problem remains. If the techies were to spend a few more minutes on the phone explaining to the user why the problem has occurred and giving a few tips to avoid it happening again, many small, recurring problems could be eradicated. This would help not only the techies but also the users - after all, they don't want to keep calling the IT support desk either.

But it is not just the techies who are to blame. "There is also a responsibility to the user," says Lewis, "and they are not getting the basic training."

Users can also inherit bad habits in training like shutting down a computer or turning printers on and off if there is a problem, she says.

"The interaction between user and techie normally ends up with an unsatisfactory situation where neither party is happy," says Lewis.

But this need not be the case. "Many of the desperately needed skills already exist within IT teams," she says.

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Lewis' top tips

  • Offer incentives for techies to share their knowledge

  • Invest in good basic training for apprentice techies

  • Be proactive in eliminating recurring technical problems

  • Make sure that 100% of your training is relevant

  • Remember there is no single solution for all IT teams - mixing and matching techniques is essential.

  • Read more on Data centre hardware