The Disconnect

Here I go, thinking again…

Lots of changes in my job in IT these past few months. As the winds of downsizing and consultant lingo breeze through my campus, I’m prompted to think of how IT is usually handled in these situations and how we as an industry can use these opportunities for positive improvement.

I’m at the bottom of the totem pole. I’m Help Desk. I’m in the trenches, day in and day out, handling customer concerns ranging from the most simple login issue to the complex software and service issues and problems that faculty, staff, and students need resolved. I see the ebb and flow of the needs of the over ten thousand people that call on us to make University technology work for them. We’re a cornerstone of a modern University, since IT takes on a huge role in optiming the institution’s primary goal: discovering new ideas and enhancing the role of knowledge in a developed society. That’s a big responsibility. One that should be taken to heart by everyone in the organization.

No matter how intensely IT works toward that mission, the work is easily hampered by something that I’ve seen at all of the educational institutions I have worked at in my career. IT is somewhat of an afterthought to the powers that be. It’s understandable! How long did universities and school districts successfully educate the people of our nation without computers? What milestones of science and technology were crossed without the use of HPC clusters and IBM? A metric shitton! As technology combined with the educational process, it certainly helped out  the greater mission of academics as a whole, but simply as an add-on feature.

Because of this attitude towards IT, resources that are assigned to IT services are usually limited. Priorities are also shifted to where they may not need to be. Departments within an organization begin to spread out since space assigned is limited, so they take what they can get. IT services are then sprinkled all over campus.

Sure, there’s online services like Slack and whatnot to help splintered groups like this to communicate and collaborate, but there’s still the disconnect. Other groups never get to see what another group does first hand. Assumptions are made that a task can be completed in one area when it in fact needs to be sent to another. Customer service is paramount in one area when it’s unheard of in another. As the web gets more tangled, the core mission starts to fade from memory.

It’s not important for a service to simply work, but it’s also important for a service to work towards the mission. Beacuse of the changes taking place at my particular workplace, I’m starting to see improvements. Other teams are beginning to see what is done by their fellow IT teams. I’ve started to see how deeply engrained in the technical backend of our systems that our engineers are, and that appropriate, succinct, yet accurate information from my area is extremely important to working towards a accurate fix for the customer.

No matter how far apart we may be, we just gotta talk. 🙂

Sometimes we forget that we’re in a very unique position for IT workers. We’re in an environment surrounded by the learning process and a wealth of knowledge. We have to act the same way! Just like faculty members research their chosen fields of study, we have to research each other’s processes, systems, lingo, etc. in order to build our institutional knowledge. I’m looking forward to it. As we continue to look at our business in a more academic mindset, I think we could then achieve a higher level of understanding with our academic colleagues and be able to have better footing in terms of resource allocation. Sounds good in my head, at least.