STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!

Friday, April 29, 2005

An Email...

EDIT: I've removed some people's surnames, as I want to respect their privacy, and be able to say bad things about them. :D

I had some time at work today, so wrote the following email. I just thought I'd share it with you all...

From: Justin Warner
Sent: Friday, 29 April 2005 1:20 PM
To: Paul (my boss's boss)
Cc: Stuart (my boss)
Subject: IT could use a PA

Hi Paul,
I thought I'd begin by explaining that this shouldn't be taken too seriously (especially not in any immediate sense), but it's just a bit of meandering that I mentioned to Stuart, and he laughed and said I'd need to speak to you about it.

Stuart said I should write to you and request that IT be given a PA to manage the constant inflow of people we have to deal with. It's not uncommon in a day to receive numerous phone calls that very politely request that we either drop what we're doing and run to their assistance, or that we solve their query by phone regardless of what we were previously engaged in. Even in the glory days of iHook, this never really stopped happening as it is just beyond the skill of a normal human being to be able to redirect someone with a desperate query who needs an answer when you most definitely have it but you just really don't have time to give it right now. They simply cannot understand why not, and refuse to leave us alone until we either unlock that mystery of the IT universe (i.e.: How is the greater good more important then MY problem???), or simply fold and resolve their query. However, in the end this is detrimental to our ongoing workload, as larger and usually more significant work is done in small interrupted chunks.

So here's what I propose. I propose that the IT department could use a personal assistant, who has no IT support skills but is simply good at using email and Word, and calming people who are about to destroy the school's IT equipment in a fit of rage. This person could field calls from both people who arrive at our door in person, and from people who call our phone, and log calls on their behalf. This would facilitate the staff member feeling like they have expressed their issue thoroughly to someone, and the call being logged completely and correctly. On top of that, it would be good to have someone make us coffee on occasions.

I'd think that once we are moved into more substantial workspace, the construction of a reception desk and separatory wall (probably made of something that could resist the force of a hurled keyboard or digital camera) would be quite simple and would allow us to place our PA on the frontline of the IT battleground, while we reside in the background - working our IT magic in secret, unperturbed by the worries of the world, silently supporting the masses. It really is a beautiful ideal.

I know Stuart would suggest that more IT personnel would solve our current state of unrest, but I really think this option would provide a cheaper and foundationally more workable solution. Staff would have to learn again the ancient art known as "waiting" on their quest for IT nirvana. It would revive order and facilitate facilitation. What a wonderful world this would be!

You should probably know, if you get to this point in this email, the reason you've got this is because Stuart said "Heheh... You should ask Paul!" when I spoke to him about this, not at all believing that I would actually do it...

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. :D

Justin Warner

Justin Warner
Systems Administrator
St. Paul's Grammar School



Tam said...

Yes someone to make me coffee...hmm how do I go about getting a PA for my job (as a dodgy kitchenhand/uni student)? No seriously that sounds like a very workable solution but do you think that your work will see your department in the same light as you do ie. will they be sympathetic or do they see you as the rest of the staff see you?

Nathan Zamprogno said...

Bravo. Wrestling with the organisational side of an information technology department is one of those things most tech just don't "do". Firstly because it sounds too much like administration and administration means "overhead" and that sounds like something that isn't tech, and tech is what we signed up for, not admin. You know, the recruitment posters: "Join I.T and see the world..."? Admin sounds like something you do between the things you do do that do what it is that you do, right?

Well, not exactly, and it's taken me a few years in my I.T role to grow into that uncomfortable fact. Someone at my work with a chip on their shoulder once called me "just an I.T geek". After I buried the body with a backhoe I cunningly rented and charged to her department as a spiteful flourish, I actually paused to reflect on what it is that I do. I realised that, when you juggle the administrative overhead of doing "the important stuff", plus the prioritisation, people management, training, forward planning and general hand-holding our staff seem to constantly need, doing the job well involves a lot more than sitting in front of a console all day.

So what does this mean for you? Well, it means you seem to be giving the organisational side of your department more thought than a lot of others are. That, my friend, makes you management material, not just a geek. Have a cigar.

If your bosses boss has an ounce of sense (or humour) he'll see your request for what it is: someone willing to tackle the organisational question with something that at least will prompt a more detailed dialog between your department and any other stakeholders. Does your school have an IT committee? We now have two. One to cover policy and governance issues and one to cover educational needs and integration of IT in the life of the School. Perhaps your IT department needs a complete re-analysis, with an external dispassionate critique of your staffing, resourcing and workflow management? Hmmmm.

By the way: it's white, two sugars.