Is IT under siege?

So why was the rest of the team so willing to kick their IT support off the island? This could be for several reasons, the least of which is the fact that many in IT/IS share contempt for those who are not.

Dan Tienes writes,

“Why does IT get a free pass to insult users? Slamming customers isn’t acceptable in any other profession; doctors don’t call their patients “meatbags” — at least, not publicly. But IT professionals think nothing of wearing their scorn on their sleeves (or at least their chests — just check out ThinkGeek). There’s more at stake here than just a few hard feelings. IT may be seriously damaging the credibility of the profession.

IT for several years is obtaining the “god-complex” attitude that has long been associated with surgeons.

“Many IS organizations preserve this ‘we’re gods’ attitude,” says Sarah Douglas, professor of computer and information sciences at the University of Oregon. “Born of the hacker culture, IS workers are often resistant to working in teams, and they often don’t give users proper training on the systems they impose on them. They just say, ‘Here, use it.'”

Having been an engineer and having some experience in IT I can certainly understand the feeling of superiority by having more knowledge than the standard user, fortunately I learned early on, belittling people would not serve me well along my career path if I wanted to branch into operations. As with every situation, however, there is more than one side of this story.

When IT was in its infancy, there were few power users to handle the various aspects and demands of the organization. Today however a majority of systems have been simplified, and become outright requirements of many job functions. Yet many users still consistently ask for what are considered menial tasks such as configuring a network printer, forgetting their portal access password and setting up Outlook. This was the topic of another commercial where Bob in IT finally get to his desk after a series of interruptions only to have someone pop their head in to say they think they just blew up the printer.

In addition there need to be further attempts by non-IT personnel to not only learn basic fundamentals of computing, but also improve communication between their respective departments. This will allow both the identification of areas needing improvement as well as targeted training. Human resources also needs to work more closely with all departments to determine the specific IT requirements for job descriptions and ensure they are adequately addressed in first round interviews. The standard assumption that candidates are knowledgeable in basic computing and MS applications is still not valid as these daily mundane requests are still being made (I am reminded of one instance where an individual who claimed to be an intermediate user of Excel asked how to cut information from one sheet and paste it into another).

In the end, there will always be IS gurus who know more about the company’s IT infrastructure than any person in operations would want to, but with improved communication and effort to improve, perhaps some of the contempt between departments can be minimized. It’s always a good philosophy to “learn everything about one thing and a little about everything else.”

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