For the past few months I have been blogging about technology in the design process: the apps we use, the operating systems employed in our adventures, and the struggles, challenges, and opportunities we encounter to make this process better – for ourselves and for our clients.
As part of this effort I experienced something that hit a nerve – not something that has sent us spinning in a direction that distracts from the overall blog, but something that rang a bell of sorts and caused me to pause, take a breath, and offer a bit of a sidebar regarding IT services.
In full transparency, I want you to know I have one son who holds a degree and is working in IT and another who, as a graphic designer, has had his hand in IT by association – both now for about 10 years.
Observations and conversations with both of them have already prompted some of my posts, but a recent LinkedIn post sent me here. My colleague Angela posted that someone made a jab at her job title in an effort to make her think less of herself, referring to it as a “little Beetle Bailey desk job.” Her response was a great – she sees the value of the IT help she can provide no matter the task – and I joined over two thousand others in commenting on the post while another thirty-four thousand liked it. I wanted to take this opportunity to offer some thoughts on IT services and how to use them.
Allow me to offer the following points to consider:
First, understand this IT thing is a new field and it is changing, morphing, and growing as fast as and as complex as the field of computers you are using. Those of us over forty can probably remember when there was no IT. If you think you have a lot to keep up with, think again. How many of you click “Remind Me Tomorrow” when your devices prompt you to update their systems? IT folks can’t.
My first experience with this notion was in Dallas and our IT guys were in the office and doing it by necessity. Tony, one of my fellow architectural designers in the office, was the first, learning on the fly and doing a bang-up job of it. Explaining, training, fixing, updating – doing whatever was needed. When Tony was no longer able, Eric came along as a dedicated IT resource for us; he ended up working nights so when we arrived in the morning things would be working for us. Eric worked hard and, for the most part, no one saw it. I did as we needed to discuss things as new computers came in (I usually had the beta test machines – lucky me).
Later, in another office, Doug kept the IT wheels turning and still does, I understand – patience of Job, that guy. Seems all offices try to get by with a guy in the office as much as possible.
Locally, in my office, I’m by default that guy. But I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have all the answers.
Call someone! Now.
That person used to be Chris and Jonathan, now it’s Drew and Thomas. Used to be Drew and Ben – one was Apple and the other Windows (remember, we use both OS’s…great resource, those guys.)
You can see things change over time. Go through these changes carefully. Know your network and systems as best you can – we will touch on that shortly. Changes can be very painful – do them carefully and with purpose.
So, who to use? THAT depends upon you, your level of training, your office, and your resources.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, I suggest you find a good – no, a GREAT – IT person and get to know them. Let them get to know you. Insist they get to know you. If they aren’t interested in that, move on to someone else. Interview them. Feel good about them. Get their cell phone number and let them know you may need to use it (don’t abuse it, though). When you call they need to understand it is serious and valid for them to return your calls. The point is, they may not be on the payroll, but they may be your most important expense at times (hopefully for very short periods). You two are going to be working together on some really important stuff – your IT needs.
We have a phrase in the construction industry – I don’t really like it very much – that goes like this, “How much and when?” When you call, you need to be able to clearly represent how much you need done and when you need it completed. Depending upon the timing of your call, your need and the intensity of it, the answers are likely EVERYTHING and NOW! Be careful with this, as they don’t need a “sky is falling” attitude every time they hear from you.
Plan ahead – and give them a heads up at all times. I called once and didn’t get an answer so I called again, insisting I get a return call. Again, no answer, so I called a third time, indicating they needed to either be in jail or the hospital. I did get the return call – and he was in surgery….you never know. Either way, we connected. (He’s now gone on to medical school – he was in studies, not under the knife. Thanks again, Jonathan.)
How to work with IT?
Think about these things as you communicate with them:
- Respect them. They are trained (one was actually a computer scientist and did things others told us later were not possible – so there). Appreciate what they can offer you and listen to them. Speak to them as though they are smart – they are. They could be doing far more interesting things than re-setting your passwords.
2. Consider them a resource.
Not as a servant or otherwise someone who is less than you are – they are far from it. These folks do things most of us cannot imagine how to get started. Upon completion, it may seem like a simple thing they did – but they know how and what to do – AND what the resulting affects of their actions may be. All the more reason to communicate with them and let them get to know your system, your methods, softwares and processes – being able to work in your specific system is critical.
3. Learn from them.
Let them show you everything they want to and record it. Write it down, draw it, photograph it. Remember it so you don’t continually pester them with log-in resets and can later have an intelligent conversation about what your software/hardware is doing.
If they aren’t wired to share much with you then ask them to. If they aren’t willing to do so, start looking for another resource – you need to know as much about your system as you can for future reference and decision making. Be sure you work with an IT resource that knows and appreciates this.
4. Help them help you.
In addition to the above, do everything you can to help them help you. What does this mean? Any number of things can be done to assist them in helping solve a problem. Many times I capture screen shots of error messages, record screen events, even video what is going on if a screen shot won’t do it – pick up your phone and shoot video of what’s going on. Then show it to them – at their visit, in an email – or TEXT it to them with your request for assistance! This allows them to come prepared, not needing to recreate what the problem is – they will have already seen it.
5. Oh, and keep records.
Record passwords, logins, versions, everything you can. There are a variety of softwares to keep record of passwords and such – these can be life savers and the convenience and piece of mind is great. I currently have a document of some 66 pages of records regarding software and it’s nowhere near as complete as I wish it was.
The take away? Think: if you were the IT response team representative serving you,what would you want to understand from your client? Give them that and more, they can cypher through what they need. Communicate.
Learning these things over the years has helped me understand what they put up with from the rest of us.
Thank you to all the folks who have been a resource to us.
You have no idea how much you are appreciated. We need to continually work on THAT.
Love ya, mean it.