The past couple of days have been very crazy at work, and have made me revisit a topic I often think about, which is the balance of information I provide to my users when explaining IT issues. There are some issues to consider, including appearing competent, maintaining the user’s trust of both myself and the technology I support, and educating the user without boring or confusing them. Of course, each of these aspects varies from user to user but I like to feel like I have an overall philosophy of how I deal with these sorts of things.
There are ways to say you don’t know without sounding dumb. This is key. I think one of my strongest IT skills is not knowing but learning quickly. I like to share my knowledge with the users. If people can understand their problems, they are more likely to be able to fix them on their own or avoid them altogether. The worst user for me is the one that wants me to come fix something and not ask me what I did or even ask why it’s broken. This person is often but not always a technophobe, and I honestly think that being a technophobe will not get you very far these days.
I don’t really understand the IT people that don’t explain things to the users, either. I have coworkers that will never email users to let them know of outages, or won’t explain what happened when a certain thing broke. On some level I realize that it is probably mostly them wanting to appear competent by not admitting something broke, but I think it’s better to lower the user’s expectations- and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
As an IT professional, I am well aware that IT is an art as much as it is a science and that nothing works 100% correctly ever. Obviously we strive for optimal uptime and the best possible user experience, but a good portion of IT is planning for disasters- backups, workarounds, and alternate methods. We have an expectation that things will fail sometimes, and I think it is unfair for us to have this expectation while convincing our users they live in a techno-utopia.
As things get busier, it’s harder for me to maintain my ideal of explaining things to users because of course it is much faster just to fix things. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to my old ways soon!