Author Note: Hi PCMech readers – Timo and I go back a long ways. In fact, we were roommates way back in college. Fittingly, he helped me build my first computer and introduced me to PCMech.com. When he asked if I would be interested in writing some articles for PCMech, I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve been in the enterprise IT space in one form or another for about 10 years now, so I thought I would share some insight into that world. For my first entry in this series, I’d like to talk about what I consider a central fact about working in the enterprise vs. enjoying your own technology at home:
People Are More Important Than Technology
In my current role, we spend most of our planning time thinking about how anything we do will or might affect people – both internal users and customers or clients. At home I can experiment and troubleshoot to my heart’s content. The only result of a mistake or downtime is an inconvenience to myself, and perhaps my wife and family. At work there are hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of people on the other end of almost every decision I make.
I’ve learned over the years that anything I do will be judged far more for how it affects the people in my organization than how well the technology works. If I spend months working and planning and roll out a new project that makes the infrastructure run 10x better but adds time or frustration to a process that people do, it will largely be viewed as a failure.
Another thing I’ve learned is that good communication is often more important than the reality of a situation. People will be more upset about a 5 minute interruption that caught them by surprise than they will be about a 2 hour interruption that was well communicated in advance. Where I work we have a rule: If you’re even wondering about whether or not you should send advance notice about an upcoming change, you should. This goes double for unplanned outages. When something breaks, my first instinct is to dive right in and start fixing the problem. Even though it feels so right, this is the wrong course of action when whatever it is that is broken is affecting many people. The first thing to do is to communicate that you’re aware of the issue and working on resolving it, then start trying to fix it.
Ok, so you’ve done your best at planning, but you’ll be making a change that requires downtime. What do you do? Welcome to working in the middle of the night. Our customers and staff expect our systems to be up not just during “business hours,” but also during any “reasonable hours.” For me that means any time I do something that even has a potential of causing a service outage, I must do the work between midnight and 6 am on a weekend. Is that rough? Yes! But it’s just part of the job. This is also a situation where good planning pays off in spades. I try to do all prep work and as much thinking as I can during the hours of the day when the sun is shining and my brain is firing on all cylinders. That way when I come in during the middle of the night, I can just follow a script that a more awake version of myself wrote.
So far I’ve talked about situations where I’m the one driving the technology, but being people centric is also very helpful when I need something done for my benefit. Knowing the right one or two people to ask for help on something is approximately a million times more effective than posing your question to a huge group and just hoping someone will be able to help. Having a developed rapport with the person who will be helping you goes a long way too. If you’ve helped someone in the past, they are much more likely to want to help you out when you need it.
In conclusion, try to remember that people should always come first. Technology comes and goes and changes all the time, but it’s the people that really matter.