Serving as a primer for beginner sysadmins and always relevant reminders for seasoned IT professionals, here are five core lessons sysadmins...
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All Problems Lead to IT: Why is it the norm to expect sysadmins to fix everything and 4 methods of handling endless requests?
<p>At one point or another, every sysadmin has painfully gone through this sort of exchange with a fellow employee outside of the immediate IT department.</p>
<p>Q: “Hey you work with computers, right?”</p>
<p>A: “Yes, I do…”</p>
<p>Q: “Do you mind helping me set up my new iPhone”</p>
<p>Sysadmin’s bearing the brunt of tedious, time-sucking tasks that involve anything to do with computers (even electricity at some places) has become an unfortunate standard in most companies. While there has to be some level of compromise when it comes to technically sound IT professionals assisting other departments, overall performance levels drop and job satisfaction decreases when these requests start to pile up<strong>. According to the 2014 State Of DevOps Findings survey, firms with high-performing IT organizations are 2X more likely to exceed profitability, market share, and productivity goals</strong>. Achieving these benchmarks becomes much more of a challenge when sysadmin’s are strapped for time due to a never-ending list of priorities. With this in mind, here are 4 methods for sysadmin’s to implement in order to avoid getting sucked into monotonous tasks which are unrelated to your impactful IT initiatives. </p>
<li><strong><u>Provide Info/Directions in an IT Portal</u></strong>: The most efficient method of making sure your time isn’t wasted by simple, yet time consuming requests is by outlining all pertinent IT information in a portal which all employees have access to. If new hires are introduced to this centralized Q&A/FAQ location from the get-go, the less likely they will come to you with questions later on. Everything from initial PC set-up to accessing e-mail via mobile devices should be covered in the portal, with the more popular technical issues being highlighted in an easy-to-read format. If you provide a comprehensive set of guidelines for your company to follow, the more you can focus on your primary duties as a sysadmin with less chance of being distracted.<br>
<li value="2"><strong><u>Make Your Job Description and High Priority Work Items Well Known</u></strong>: Many non-IT professionals tend to categorize the department in a general grouping of people who are ‘handy with computers’. The specifications of particular job segments for different IT position are not common knowledge to most employees, and that is why they tend to throw their technical issues to the closest IT desk in the office. Therefore, a smart habit to implement is to introduce yourself to new hires and briefly describe to them what your role is within the business. Even if terms such as “DevOps” and “Nagios” are foreign to them, this will help in the efforts of minimalizing future cross-functional confusion. And while the details of most IT projects tend to stay within a small circle, don’t be shy in promoting the large-scale initiatives you are working on. When other employees get a sense of why your contributions are having a valuable impact on the growth (and bottom line) of the business, they will likely be more hesitant to ask you silly questions. <br>
<li value="3"><strong><u>Avoid the Drama: Take on a Conversational Tone With Your Fellow Employees</u></strong>: The tone of your interaction with co-workers is a crucial aspect in ensuring that your sysadmin schedule remains in order. Playing the part of the “nice guy” may make you popular in the sales/marketing departments, but it will land you in trouble when informing the IT director that your latest project is going to miss its deadline. Bending over backwards to troubleshoot every Outlook crash isn’t in your best interest as a sysadmin. On the other side of the coin, coming across as rude by treating every request with an “it’s not in my job description” attitude will shade an unprofessional shadow over your work station. Being careful with your word choice is a key factor in perfecting this balancing act. Scenarios such as an employee coming to you with a slow running Excel application due to their use of it as a database are beyond frustrating. But as much as you may want to respond to misinformed requests with a figure it out yourself ‘Google is your friend’ reply, it will only cause more headaches. In the end, compromising is a better route to take then being a pushover or being viewed as completely useless. As long as you walk the fine line between being firm and being polite, you will be able to build a rapport with non-IT employees, and they will be more open to learning what to expect from you as a sysadmin.<br>
<li value="4"><strong><u>Have Clear Expectations Set With Your Manager</u></strong>: The grind of the 9 to 5 life is much easier to handle when you and your manager are on the same page (Then again, what sysadmin has ever worked 9 to 5). And as a sysadmin who may be experiencing work overload due to an unfair juggling act of responsibilities, the relationship with your supervisor becomes increasingly important. More likely than not, at some point in their career your manager was struggling with this same issue and if you find that other employees aren’t respecting your time, the most efficient solution may come from a higher level response. SLA’s (service-level agreements) are a primary document which can assist in ironing out working relationships not only between managers/employees, but also between departments. By setting these standards in an official format, there is a mutual and measurable understanding amongst the group in regards to what tasks deserve the highest priority.</li>
<p>Ultimately, the last thing an IT manager wants is his team of sysadmin’s spending precious hours fixing printers or listening to other departments complain about a slow internet connection. Sometimes the inevitable politics of most companies (especially larger ones) subject IT departments to comply with nonsensical demands. But if you have a clear line of communication and job expectations set with your manager, the negative impact of this unfortunate reality can be greatly lessened and they will support you when pleas for sysadmin assistance escalate to unreasonable levels. </p>
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