back to article 'The internet is slow'... How to keep users happy, get more work done

IT services are rubbish. It’s a fact of life – or at least it is in the eyes of the average user. Of course the nature of IT is that you get far more negative feedback than you do positive: you seldom get people calling the IT service desk to say: “Hey, my webmail is superb today”. But people wouldn’t be phoning if everything …

  1. yoganmahew

    All very well, but...

    in a large shop:

    - being informed by email means 10+ maintenance emails a week about different systems. It's impossible to keep track of them and of course the system you want is the one that's down and the email is in the big unread pile of "not what I need to do with my waking hours".

    - self-service doesn't help with cheap-ass tools. If the tools are shit, then it doesn't matter how responsive the helpdesk is.

    - cheap-ass! Big companies are run by bean counters. Everything is the cheapest possible without rebellion. If you work for a US company, it's worse as they don't complain, except anonymously, about the tools.

    - tracking - this ends up being self-service too. Everything becomes "raise a support ticket". The result is that problems don't get reported, as it just takes too long to do. So the general crapness of systems and tools is invisible.

    1. Mark 110 Silver badge

      Re: All very well, but...

      @yogan - Someone is clearly not happy with their employer :-)

      I'm currently working on some Service Management transformation stuff for a small IT shop and they really don't have much idea what they do, what they could be doing better, or why they are doing it. Pretty much the first thing I am getting in is to provide the capability to record what they are doing in a meaningful way.

      Your example of recording every password reset being a ballache is a design issue. You (or the user) should be able to generate the ticket in a single click with minimal required fields. You are correct that if its too much work it won't get done. The key is to design it to be slick.

      Anyway - great little article. I hope the Reg won't mind me pinching it for presentation content ;-)

      1. yoganmahew

        Re: All very well, but...

        @Mark 110

        "Someone is clearly not happy with their employer"

        :)

        When you work for a large organisation, you don't just have an employer, you have dozens of them, some self-styled and some complete ballaches.

        Even a one-click ticket solution is a ballache if it takes two minutes to do, and then twenty minutes to explain the issue to the next level helpdesk... Some of it is the "change is hard" thing, but a lot is that change is harder if you are constantly being abused with "you're doing it wrong" (even on the rare occasion when you are not!).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “First off, there’s no reason for the internet to be slow.”

    When you're in an industrial estate with one way in/out and your back is to the sea with major building work going on near by, you share the pipe that comes in with the entire estate and there is no phone signal, there can be reasons ranging from someone got jackhammer happy, the pipes have been flooded, the local junction has been burnt out by some kids, someone else has a big spike in data usage at the same time you have your spike etc etc.

    1. Meph

      Never forget the first law of IT

      @AC

      Don't forget rule number one, "Shit Happens".

      I used to live in a part of Australia that, due to its remote nature, suffered from a bottleneck with the long haul data infrastructure. Three data lines left the city and all passed through one key location, after which they disappeared off in different directions. Two were major pipes, the third was a redundant government link that was tiny by comparison.

      On the same day, the two major pipes failed, one due to a contractor with a JCB and a fast and free attitude to trench digging, and the second suffered a facility fire. The city I resided in at the time, a state capital no less, was without internet services for close to a week while they sorted it out.

      Having said this, be careful of connecting "slow internet" with "broken internet". The two are often very distinct and separate issues.

    2. bitmap animal

      @AC

      Spot on. On our trading estate I get 2mbps up and about 700kbps down. FTTC is not available and it's not scheduled. I could, and may well, get a second ADSL line as we're getting busier and I've almost given up waiting for FTTC. The other alternative is to get some form of leased line but we can't come close to justifying the cost.

      To compound the problem ISDN is scheduled to be turned off in a few years so we'll have to move our 10 lines over to VOIP. That'll be fun......

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Providing users with mechanisms for finding stuff out for themselves

    <p>Nice theory, but when you've got an organisation that has niche rolls to fill which are generally older people with specialist knowledge and have a fear of responsibility, everything they can get loaded off on the IT department inlcuding simple data look ups (cause then they think they can say they are not responsible if something goes wrong somewhere in the process) does. And before people start saying about how we should be educating them or leave, it's a small number of people but the organisation would find it a lot easier to replace us than replace them.</p>

    1. kryptonaut

      "...an organisation that has niche rolls to fill..."

      Subway?

      1. quxinot

        "...an organisation that has niche rolls to fill..."

        "Subway?"

        Porn.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    What a wonderful world you live in...

    ...plenty of resources and plenty of time.

    Passwords...Hmm lovely...synchronization

    except of course your ancient legacy UNIX system has no idea what AD is, the 3 cloud services all use completly different password rules, what you want to use a $ sign in your password? Sorry not allowed. You can use ! howerver, aahhh the other application doesn't allow them.

    Help guides? Give me a break. I've lost count how many times I spent day after day doing idiot guides for only people to ignore them? Why well the help desk will tell do it for them in 10 seconds, but it takes a minute to read and learn,

    Sit down and document....is that 3 or 4 hours after I should of gone home?

    Let them know?

    We send out multiple emails days, even weeks in advance, post on the intranet multiple times, let all the managers and team leaders know and you still get some asshole going "I need to get this urgent <insert work> done for <insert directors name> and you can't take the service down now.

    I have plenty of time for those that want to learn or are genuinely stuck after trying, but a huge amount of "customers" are lazy and can't be bothered to try.

    Don't believe me?

    Call yesterday.

    "I need access to do XYZ"

    I check account, they have access.

    Guess what, they haven't even tried. They presumed they couldn't, so easier to log a call than actually spend 30 seconds trying.

    Another in the queue....

    How do I do ABC.....so that guide, that shows you how to do it in 4 easy steps, with pictures, is to difficult is it?

    1. JimC Silver badge

      Re: What a wonderful world you live in...

      I greatly fear that you're painting a picture of an organisation that needs to do some rethinking.

      Why is it easier to phone the help desk than look up that guide? Could it be that no-one can find the guides when they need them?

      Why are users so convinced that they won't have the access to do their job that its not worth trying?

      Why are your communications failing? Could it be that you are burying users in too much to read, and you need to think of a single point message? My dream was a bullet point list that came up as the PC was logging in that provided click through messages. We got close to it... indeed it became so effective that senior company management hijacked it to use for every other damn thing they wanted to tell the users...

      As for the synch, this is not really rocket science, I got it there for 80% of my company's systems years ago. Yeah its work sorting out the password rules that won't break somewhere down the line, but its not that hard work, especially once you've gained the acceptance that it doesn't really matter that the rules for x system downstream are looser than would be ideal if there is no straightforward way for the users to actually set insecure passwords on that system because they won't get through the gatekeeper upstream.

    2. Jay 2

      Re: What a wonderful world you live in...

      One of the banes of my life as a sysadmin is people asking for stuff/permissions/etc without even bothering to check if they already have it or not. A plague on their houses!

  5. JimC Silver badge

    It is a strange phenomenom.

    When I worked for a large organisation I agitated that we should produce a monthly list of the top ten root causes for calls to the help desk, and allocate some resource to dealing with those problems. Everyone said it was a great idea, but somehow it never happened.

    But every call to the help desk means a significant loss of productivity. Obviously in many cases the root cause is going to be beyond the organisation's capability to fix, but some of them will be - or at least can be ameliorated by better communications, better training, something.

    I could never understand why what seemed to me such an obvious way to improve efficiency never got acted on.

    1. JerseyDaveC

      "We should produce a monthly list of the top ten root causes for calls to the help desk, and allocate some resource to dealing with those problems".

      Yup: trouble is, as I suspect you've experienced, a lot of places do the first bit but don't quite manage the second ... :-)

      1. Meph

        @JerseyDaveC

        I'll place a fiver on "organisations that claim to follow ITIL methodologies without actually including some of the most important functions".

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Lot's of AC's posting to explain why it's impossible to do anything like this.

    A fascinating article about how to move away from supporting a company like a bunch of stanalone PC's.

    Having worked helpdesk I did indeed find recording the time spent on a job a PITA. What really p**sed me off was all PC's have clocks. I wanted to do

    1)Go to job

    2) Hit start button (yes I do want the control)

    3)Hit stop button or pause (if I've been interrupted, and with a note box to remind why).

    BTW Taking the top 10 help desk call reasons and fixing the root causes is what is some times called "Capability Maturation."

    Something which seems as implausible in the UK today as it was a decade (or two) ago.

    1. Is It Me

      Re: Lot's of AC's posting to explain why it's impossible to do anything like this.

      One of the places I worked used ConnectWise as the helpdesk software and it had exactly that function, click start and stop and it logs the time.

  7. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Could it be that no-one can find the guides when they need them?

    Or could it be that the techie people who wrote them didn't ask a non-techie user to read and edit them.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Priorities and communications

    When I took my first job as an IT manager I wrote four objectives on a sheet of paper and taped it to the inside of my office door so that I wouldn't forget: web, email, file sharing, photocopying. Keep those four services running reliably, and everything else is icing on the cake. My users seemed okay with this state of affairs.

    That said, I _did_ implement GLPI pretty quickly to provide for ticketing (among other things) so that I could log my team's work and show the higher-ups that we were stretched pretty thin with the workload. A year after I left, my replacement had replaced it with a crufty Exchange-based system that blew up the budget and earned him a promotion.

  9. Herby Silver badge

    Basic problem...

    If you do your work well, you get rewarded with (drum roll) MORE WORK.

    This is the bane of many service industries, which Hell Help desk is just one.

    If you are doing documentation, PLEASE write it for non-IT types. Take it home and let your significant other have a look (better yet is let your mom look at it). If they can understand all the lingo (you did simplify it, didn't you) then you are a step ahead.

    In the end, we all need to deal with "other people" who aren't as blessed with knowledge of the inner workings of the giant machine we call "IT". These "other people" are both lazy and dumb (to some degree), and you need to train them on answering their own questions. Links to lmgtfy.com can get the message across.

    Yes, we all deal with it, sometimes being a BOFH is the price they pay. Now where was that roll of carpet??

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Basic problem...

      Generally speaking "other people" are no more likely than techies to be lazy or dumb. But I've read an awful lot of documentation written for ordinary users that commits two ( or rather a pair of) cardinal errors; explaining things that are trivial or else obvious to even the least technical users and omitting to explain something essential that you wouldn't know unless you have been told. As in " you need to single click the (name of device) icon in the task bar" but failing to define "task bar" or explain/show what the icon looks like.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Basic problem...

        It's bad etiquette to reply to my own post, especially a day or so after the thread has gone to sleep, but today a beautiful example. I was viewing a Bosch How-to video guide for unblocking my dish washer. It explained perfectly how to take out the filter, with clear demonstration how to take up the drain cover (you just lift up the drain cover) and take out the filter ( hint, you just take out the filter). It explained perfectly how to remove and clean the sprays ( not even relevant to this subject, which was about the drain) and then when it came to the important bit, the bit I was watching specifically- about getting access to the pump rotor- the video told (us) to "snap off the cover " of the pump without explaining how to do this, and with the demonstrator's hand right over the cover so that we couldn't even see how it was done.( It's not obvious. It's fiddly and you have to lever it at an angle, with a blade placed behind a little stem just at the top, as it happens).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too hard to measure

    For all the techies that are claiming that it takes longer to record the metric about the ticket than it does to fix the problem, how hard is it to put a tick in a (virtual) box to record the 45th occurence of problem 22?

    And at the end of the week tot them up, identify the drivers and ELIMINATE THEM FROM HAPPENING again, and so on the next week. Unless you work for an IT subcontractor where there incentive is the opposite, ie to generate as many tickets as possible :(

    BTW it's not about you, and and how quickly you can fix the issue. It's about the waste of time, and therefore cost to the business, that each individual has to wait until their problem gets resolved. It doesn't matter that you can fix it in 2 seconds, what matters is that they've been waiting for the fix for 6 hours already. Multiplied across the organisation tens, hundreds or thousands of times, this becomes a significant waste.

  11. Rockets

    Satellite

    "Internet connectivity is ridiculously cheap"

    Maybe for most locations in cities but not when you start going into regional areas. Tell that to people where their only connectivity is via satellite, people who are on a RIM (pair gain), people who only have 3G coverage or dialup (like parts of Seattle).

    I know of a location where satellite is their only connectivity and that runs at around $45k USD per month for a 8MB service.

    For a enterprise that takes security seriously every Internet ingress/egress point will need firewall's, web filtering and IDS/IPS services. All those cost money to license & maintain.

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